Log in
Western Wheelers Bicycle Club

  • Bike Safety Tips

    Originally Published in the Flat Tyre

    • Fri, October 01, 2021 9:00 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

      Riding bicycles will not only benefit the
      individuals doing it, but the world at large.

      ~ Udo E. Simonis

      I am writing this column to describe a dangerous behavior I have observed in other riders and have sometimes fallen into myself.

      While there are problem drivers, overall we are blessed with many courteous drivers. Often at intersections, drivers will wave cyclists through, even if the driver got there first or has the right of way. Unfortunately, this can lead to cyclists feeling privileged, assuming all motor vehicles will stop to let them through. One can get so used to drivers waving cyclists through, that when they come to a 4-way stop sign intersection that already has a car at one of the perpendicular streets, they’ll assume the car will wait for them to proceed. This is wrong and can lead to disastrous consequences.

      When you come to a 4-way stop that already has a vehicle waiting or a vehicle approaching the intersection before you, give them the opportunity to go first. If approaching at the same time, remember from your driver’s training that the vehicle on the right has the right of way. If the driver stops and waves you through, by all means go ahead, while giving a friendly wave or saying thank you to the driver. But always give the vehicle that has the right of way the opportunity to take advantage of it. Don’t assume that just because you can see that a driver notices you, you then have the right of way.

    • Wed, September 01, 2021 9:00 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

      Robin Davis recently crashed while crossing train tracks at too narrow an angle. The tracks caught her wheel and she went down hard, sustaining serious injuries. She suggested repeating the recommendation on how to cross railroad tracks. This danger is further demonstrated in this terrifying video showing over 50 cyclists crashing while crossing railroad tracks. Several of the cyclists look to be quite seriously hurt.


      Crossing a railroad track at a shallow angle runs the risk of your wheel catching on the metal rail or the gaps next to it. The danger is much greater when the tracks are wet or when breaking during the crossing. The simple key conclusion from the study associated with the video is that the crash rate is dramatically reduced when the crossing angle is greater than 30º and is eliminated at greater than 60º.

      I know of a couple of risky skewed track crossings in our riding area. One is north bound on Winchester Blvd near 85 in Los Gatos; the other is where tracks cross Cox Ave. The key is to turn away from the tracks in advance, then veer back toward the tracks to cross them at a greater angle. Of course, if either turn puts you into the lane of traffic, you’ll need to make sure it is safe to do so.

      If you know of other dangerous train track crossings, please comment on this safety tip on the web site.

    • Sun, August 01, 2021 9:00 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

      On a club ride a while back, there was a rock in the bike lane on Foothill Expressway. Most people went around it, but a cyclist near the back of the group hit it directly, getting quite a jolt. Luckily, he managed to avoid a crash, but did get a pinch flat. On a LDT ride, a large pack of riders entered onto a bike path with a pole in the middle of the entrance. One cyclist later reported “this pole suddenly came at me and knocked me down.” Unfortunately, this cyclist sustained some minor injuries that kept him off the bike for a few weeks. Both of these incidents might have been averted with proper communication.

      Communication is very important when bicycling in a group. When you see a hazard ahead or a car coming up behind (or in front on a narrow road), please communicate this to your riding partners. Usually a verbal signal is best such as "car up" or "rock" or "gravel." At other times pointing out a hazard with a hand signal is best (remember that when biking we always point at the hazard). The important thing is to COMMUNICATE!

    • Thu, July 01, 2021 9:00 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

      Here are some safety tips related to mechanical failures discussed in the Turn at the Front column.

      The second most common mechanical failure mentioned in that column is a broken cable. When that happens with externally routed cables, don’t try to ride to a bike shop while holding onto your broken cable. One slip and it may easily get all tangled up in your bike, bringing it to a screeching halt and throwing you off the bike! Find a way to safely secure the broken cable to the bike before riding to help.

      Similarly for flat tires, never try riding on them to the bike store, especially with a flat front tire. The moment you attempt a turn, the tire will tend to roll, sending you sprawling onto the pavement. You need to either fix the flat and pump up the tire, or get a car ride to the bike store to get it fixed.

    • Tue, June 01, 2021 9:00 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

      Those who wish to control their own lives
      and move beyond existence as mere clients

      and consumers - those people ride a bike.

      ~ Wolfgang Sachs

      As the day warms we often strip off our extra clothing. In the last few years we have had two riders get their jackets tangled in their back wheels. The first instance resulted in a frustrating hour of cleaning bits and pieces of clothing from the rear cassette but no crash. The second was much worse, resulting in a crash and broken leg! Make sure your gear is stowed safely with no chance of it getting into your wheel. Don’t ride with a jacket tied around your waist. And when you stuff a jacket into a back jersey pocket, make sure it is completely contained and doesn’t have a sleeve hanging down that can get caught in the rear wheel.

    • Sat, May 01, 2021 9:00 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

      Ride as much or as little, or as long     
      or as short as you feel. But ride.    

      ~ Eddy Merckx    

      In September 2019 Tom Ockenden was riding with other Western Wheelers, heading north towards the Don Burnett Bridge over 280 from Mary Avenue. Tom got tangled in the narrow gap between the right hand white pole (bollard) and the fence on the right side of the bridge. His helmet hit one of the upright fence supports and twisted his head resulting in the fracture of his second cervical vertebrae in his neck. Tom had to wear a neck brace for three months and was unable to ride for an extended period of time.

      Not content to attribute this crash to misfortune, Pete Letchworth examined whether dangerous conditions on the entrance to the bridge contributed to the crash. His first thought was that the white poles blended into the bridge backdrop, so were not sufficiently visible, a simple problem that could have been addressed with a splash of orange paint. But working with Alan Wachtel together they found a section in the CalTrans Highway Design Manual with 11 guidelines governing the use of bollards in such a situation. The bollards on the Don Burnett bridge violated 6 of these guidelines! Chief among them, bollards should be:

          •    Yielding to minimize injury to bicyclists and pedestrians who may strike them.
          •    Reflectorized for nighttime visibility and painted ... in a bright color to enhance daytime visibility.
          •    Spaced to leave a minimum of 5 feet of clearance between obstacles ...
          •    Positioned so an even number of bicycle travel lanes are created [odd number of bollards] ...

      The Don Burnett bridge had two white rigid poles at each end of the bridge, creating three lanes, each less than five feet across!

      Pete wrote letters to various Cupertino officials. He followed up with more letters when there was a lack of action related to his earlier correspondence. The issue was belatedly taken up by the Cupertino Bicycle Pedestrian Commission in mid 2020 which approved changing the configuration to a single bollard at the centerline on both sides of the bridge. The work was supposed to be completed by the end of 2020 but was finally completed in February of this year.

      Pete next to the highly visible, single bollard
      on the Don Burnett Bridge entrance

      We can all follow Pete’s lead. If you see a situation that is dangerous for cyclists such as a bridge or road design or any kind of road hazard, report it to the appropriate agency. SVBC maintains a web page with contact info for different regions and agencies that can be used to report the hazard. Persevere to get your issue resolved. The cycling community will benefit from your efforts.

      Thankfully, Tom fully recovered from his crash and his cheerful presence is again enjoyed by his fellow cyclists on club rides.

    • Thu, April 01, 2021 9:00 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

      I don’t ride a bike to add days to my life.    
      I ride a bike to add life to my days.    
      ~ Unknown    

      As we transition from the wintry wet days into the spring season optimal for long rides, it is time to make sure your bicycle is in good shape. Study your bike to determine if it is in good condition and ready to ride. If you have been putting off that tune-up or trying to stretch that worn tire just a few more miles, now is a good time to get these maintenance items done. How many miles are on those tires? When was the last time you had your shifting cables changed or checked your chain for stretch? Are your brake pads worn down? Have you cleaned off the grit on your bike acquired while riding on wet roads?

      Most rides will not stop while you fix a flat nor is the ride leader expected to change your tire for you. Many of our organized rides are in remote areas where a mechanical issue may be much more problematic, so be prepared and get your bike in top shape!

    • Mon, March 01, 2021 9:00 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

      By Mindy Steiner

      I thought of that while riding my bicycle    
      ~ Albert Einstein    

      (on the Theory of Relativity)    

      In this month’s Safety Tip, I’m piggybacking on the September 2020 tip about the importance of always paying attention while riding.  Even when the scenery is lovely, riding a bicycle safely requires constant attention to the road and all of the surroundings.

      While it’s important to keep focused all during a ride, it is especially important to beware of what I’m calling the “Stupid Hour”  This is the last part of your ride when you are tired and you may be thinking about the plans you have after the ride or later in the day.  Don’t let your mind wander and don’t take your focus off the road.   Alertness and attentiveness naturally decrease as you get tired so it is important to concentrate on staying focused on the road all the way to the end of your ride.  Don’t let the stupid hour ruin your day!

    • Mon, February 01, 2021 9:00 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

      One of the most important days of my life    
      was when I learned to ride a bicycle.    
      ~ Michael Palin
, Monty Python Member    

      Robert Neff took exception to last month’s Safety Tip about making eye contact, saying “If a driver looks in your direction, there is no guarantee that you have been seen. Humans tend to only see what they are looking for (not bicyclists), but they also see things that are unusual, especially bright colors and motion.” While I stand by my column, Robert makes an excellent point on the value of drawing driver’s attention. He has some great advice, so let me just quote him.

      “Positioning: If I am riding in traffic with no shoulder or bike lane, I ride in the middle of the lane. When there is a parked car blocking the bike lane, I move to the middle of the open lane at least 50 yards ahead of the blocker, when it is safe. Bright clothing: I am glad that our unofficial club uniform is high-visibility cycling jackets! Throw out your black jerseys and windbreakers. Motion: Wear bright socks, or bright reflective bands on your ankles, put reflective tape on your shoes, and reflective tape on your crank arms, because if something bright is moving up and down, humans are tuned to notice it. Finally, use lights, nighttime and daytime. Many of us now have blinkies on our bikes going day and night. The blinking gets more attention.

      “In the winter I go much further. You can get Monkeylectric wheel lights, wear a reflective safety vest, mount battery powered holiday lights to your bike with zip ties, or even wear them. I find that everyone (drivers, pedestrians, other cyclists) likes the Christmas lights. The first time I went to the holiday party I thought the ride was going to be about OUR lit up bicycles. The advantage of lights instead of reflectors is that you do not need to be illuminated by someone else's headlights to be visible.

      “Finally, I like having a white safety light (not TOO bright) on my helmet, so I can aim it at automobiles that might cross my path. I use that starting at dusk. It is effective at changing the behaviour of motorists who might not see me otherwise and it is also handy for seeing pedestrians on dark paths.

      “A last comment - watch the calendar. The day after the end of Daylight Savings Time, it is dark one hour earlier, and you may discover that motorists who saw you at 5:30 the week before won't see you at all. Shine a light on them! Or ring a bell, or just yell. My default exclamation is a strong Yo (one benefit of an East Coast education).

      “Let's be safe on our wonderful roads.”

      Thanks, Robert, for your good advice and for writing my safety tip this month.

    • Fri, January 01, 2021 9:00 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

      No hour of life is lost that is spent in the saddle.
      ~ Winston Churchill

      My motivation for this month’s safety tip comes from the 2019 New Year’s Day bicycling crash experienced by San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo. You can read more about it here.

      Sam was cycling toward an intersection with no stop sign in his direction. An SUV driving on the cross street with a stop sign, came to a stop, then proceeded through the intersection right in front of Sam, presumably not seeing him. Sam smashed into the SUV. Sam was completely in the right, but ended up with fractures to two of his vertebrae and his sternum, major scrapes on his body, bruises on his face and a swollen lip. The SUV had a smashed rear window (from Sam’s head). The SUV driver was issued a citation for failure to yield.

      The booklet, California Bicycling Street Smarts, which is sent to new members has a section addressing this kind of situation.


      How do you test that a driver has seen you? Here's an example. Suppose that you are on a main street, riding toward an intersection. A car is approaching from the right in the cross street, where there's a stop sign. How do you handle this situation?

      As you approach the intersection, look into the car window and make eye contact with the driver to ascertain that the driver has seen you. Watch for the car to slow down more than it would if you weren't there.

      If you look into the driver's window and the driver isn't looking at you, then be very cautious. ... Slow down, and call out to get the driver's attention [or ring your bell].

      I heartily recommend reading Street Smarts as it provides useful information for cyclists at all skill levels. It will make you a safer rider with information such as where on the road to ride (not always on the far right), how to handle standard and non-standard intersections, riding in groups, and other useful topics. The generic (not California specific) version is available online. If you want a physical copy please contact Bill Sherwin with your mailing address.
    Powered by Wild Apricot Membership Software