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Western Wheelers Bicycle Club

  • Bike Safety Tips

    Originally Published in the Flat Tyre

    • Sat, February 01, 2020 9:00 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

      This month’s safety tip comes from viewing the terrifying video Ron Dell’Aquila sent recently to WWBC. It shows 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 while 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.

      There are a couple of skewed track crossings that are in my common riding area. One is North bound on Winchester Blvd near 85 in Los Altos, the other is when the 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.

    • Wed, January 01, 2020 9:00 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

      If you are like me, you tend not to ride on days when it is raining. But with all the rain at this time of year, we often ride shortly after a day with heavy rain. During this season, there are often places with wet leaves on the ground that are SLIPPERY! In 2018, a club member broke her hip after taking a fall caused by sliding out while running over a clump of wet leaves. 2018 also saw the tragic passing of member Troy Folkner after a crash caused by an errant stick in the bike lane. After a rainy day or while riding through damp conditions, be especially careful around wet leaves or other debris on the road.

    • Sun, December 01, 2019 9:00 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

      Bicycle Lawyer Gary Brustin’s recent presentation to the Western Wheelers included a discussion of the most common bike–car accidents he sees in his practice. Many of the accidents he describes occur with the cyclist in plain sight of the driver. It’s not that the driver intentionally hits the cyclist; rather, the driver fails to notice or pay sufficient attention to cyclists properly riding on the road. 

      The number of these accidents can be reduced when cyclists use lights to be more conspicuous. A rear blinking light will make you much more conspicuous as drivers approach you from behind. A front facing light will increase your frontal visibility, reducing incidents of Left Turn Accidents. Some club members further increase their safety by adding bio-motion into the effect, putting lights on their ankles, the up and down motion making them even more conspicuous. Gary and many other sources recommend the use of lights. For example, see the WSJ video Simple Tips to Improve Cyclist Visibility, Safety. So, be safe and use lights when you ride.

    • Fri, November 01, 2019 9:00 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

      Many of the great rides we have in our area travel hills and have long descents. There are some important considerations for safely handling descents. Start at home the day before the ride by making sure your bicycle is in good condition. Make sure your tires and brakes are in good condition and tires are fully inflated. Inspect your wheels for any misalignment or looseness. During your ride when descending, move back in the saddle to prepare for emergency stops. Many experts recommend getting "in the drops", where you have full braking leverage. Take care when passing fellow cyclists, always passing to the left, and announcing yourself before you pass. But most of all, SLOW DOWN! This is not a race and our roads are not in perfect condition. You will enjoy the ride more if you are relaxed and not pushing the limits of your bike, road conditions, or your own abilities.

    • Tue, October 01, 2019 9:00 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

      Many WW routes have regroups listed on the ride sheets (e.g. LDT, FFS).  We try to place regroups where there is room to get off the roadway, but use common sense and caution as well. Remember not to block traffic or hinder cars that are turning.  It’s safer and more courteous to pull well off the road.  Even on individual rides, call out when stopping and pull as far off the road as possible so as not to block cars or other cyclists.

    • Sun, September 01, 2019 9:00 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

      One frequent safety complaint I receive is from riders being passed dangerously. Please avoid passing on a rider’s right side whenever possible! Passing on the right side often startles a rider and most riders’ first reaction when startled is to move right. Communication is the key. Let the person in front of you know when you are passing, but especially in the rare instance when you must pass on their right. 

      When riding with a group, position your bike directly beside or behind your companions. Do not partially “overlap” your wheels because a sudden change of course would cause the trailing bike (and probably others) to crash. For a vivid example of what can happen, see this short YouTube video The Danger of Overlapping Wheels.

    • Thu, August 01, 2019 9:00 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)
      Okay, I admit it; I don’t always come to a complete stop at stop signs. But there’s a dangerous behavior at stop signs I’ve observed on some group rides. A group of riders stop at a stop sign, perhaps to let another driver through, or to let pedestrians cross, or for some other reason when another rider comes from behind, passes the stopped riders and goes through the intersection without stopping, endangering him or herself, breeding ill will toward cyclists, and aggravating the stopped riders. When you see cyclists stopped at an intersection, you should always assume there is a reason and come to a full stop.

      There’s a second dangerous behavior I’d like to mention. Wheelers are typically quite good at calling “Car Back” when there is a car trying to pass a group of riders. But all too often, two or three people riding abreast fail to pull over into a single file formation to let the car pass. While there are times when taking over a lane is advisable, the default behavior should be to pause your conversation, pull to the right (of course, after checking there is room), and let the car pass.

      These behaviors may both come from the same root cause. Don’t let riding in a large group lull you into feeling cyclists own the road and can violate traffic rules or safe cycling practices. “Share the Road” works both ways, so even in a large group follow the same safe riding behavior as you would when riding by yourself or with one other person.

    • Mon, July 01, 2019 9:00 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

      Last month, the Turn at the Front column talked about common bicycle mechanical failures. Mike Khaw mentioned some safety issues related to those failures that are worth noting.

      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, don’t try to ride 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.

    • Sat, June 01, 2019 9:00 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

      A number of years ago on his way to his clarinet lesson, my son was riding his bike in the bike lane north on Mary Avenue toward the Don Burnett Bridge when the driver of a van suddenly opened her door right in front of him, causing my son to crash. He ended up going to the hospital with a broken collarbone. (The driver did not admit any fault in the crash.)

      California Vehicle Code 22517 puts the fault of a dooring crash completely on the motorist opening the door. But that can be little consolation for the cyclist getting severely injured.

      There’s been some discussion about this risk on our WWBC list. Here’s some basic advice. When there is a bike lane that goes along a row of parked cars (like on Mary Avenue), stay to the far left in the lane, or better yet, move left out of the bike lane altogether to give more room between you and the parked cars. As you ride, keep a watchful eye on the parked cars. If someone has just parked or if you see a car’s brake lights, give the car a wide berth. But more generally, scan the cars to see if there are people in them and be very cautious when you see someone in a parked car.

      For more info and tips, see the article in Road Bike Rider or see the article California ‘dooring’ Law Places Liability with Motorists for more info on the legal aspects.

    • Wed, May 01, 2019 9:00 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

      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.

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