Ian Seecof is the former Central Indiana Biking Association (CIBA) Safety & Education Chair and a League Certified Instructor with the League of American Bicyclists. He's previously held positions with the Hilly Hundred and is the author of
The Mayan World Tour, which covers his self-lead 30-day bicycling adventure through Central America. Find more of Seecof's training and safety tips at cibaride.org.
Here's Seecof on a dozen ways to share the road with cyclers. NUVO is celebrating the joys of biking all week long. Find our bike issue on stands Wednesday.
1. Wait until it is safe to pass and allow at least three-feet clearance. Keep in mind that not all streets are wide enough to allow cars to safely share the lane with a bicycle. This is the reason cyclists frequently “take the lane.”
2. Size matters when bicyclists’ smaller profile makes them invisible to motorists who are looking through them in search of larger vehicles. This explains why so many motorists claim, “I never saw them” after a crash.
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3. Common sense should not evaporate at stop signs where motorists and cyclists interact. Cyclists should never “swarm” motor vehicles or blow through stop signs, and motorists should not occupy the oncoming lane and bully their way ahead of their turn. The first rule of the road is first come, first served.
4. A “left hook,” where a motor vehicle fails to yield right of way and turns left into a cyclist’ most assuredly will deliver serious injury to the cyclist and their bicycle. Some bicycles are not worth more than $100, but don’t be surprised by a property damage claim of $5,000 to $14,000. A few seconds of patience can be worth its weight in carbon fiber.
5. A “right hook” is tough to defend against. Only a gut feeling precludes an impatient motorist’s passing, then suddenly slowing to execute an immediate right turn. This is a perfect example of not being predictable.
6. Cyclists should ride to the right as far as “practicable” so as not to obstruct the flow of traffic. However, they must avoid being squeezed into an inescapable position involving turn lanes, rough pavement, curbs and drains, roadkill and debris, as well as the ever-present danger of being doored. These are prime reasons that experienced cyclists frequently choose to position themselves in the right tire track, or about three-feet from the road edge.
7. Every road user is required by law to signal when turning or changing their position on the roadway. This includes cyclists that should first do a head-check, signal their intentions, and perform another head-check prior to changing their position just as a motorist should do. Many crashes occur when individuals are inconsiderate, too lazy to bother signaling, or preoccupied with a smoke/cup of coffee/fast food/GPS/music devices/cell phone/conversation or all of the above distractions.
8. R.E.S.P.E.C.T should exist on both sides of the handlebars. While cyclists are required by law to ride no more than two-abreast large groups of cyclists show courtesy and safety-savvy by breaking down into smaller groups that are friendlier to the flow of traffic. Experienced cyclists are skilled in the art of transitioning back and forth between double pace lines and singling-up as traffic dynamics require. Motorists help avoid crashes by allowing these dynamics to evolve into a safe-passing situation.
9. Interstate crashes involving multiple vehicles are frequently the result of operator-error due to miscalculations influenced by vehicles traveling at varying speeds. The incidence of potential hazards increases proportionally, with an increase of the speed-ratio that exists between motorized and human-powered vehicles. Motorists that do not slow down when passing cyclists, in either direction, flirt with injury/fatality statistics by ignoring factors such as response time, stopping distance, and force of impact. Vehicles passing at high speed can disrupt air-flow to the point of blowing a cyclist off the road or creating a vacuum that sucks them into the path of other motor vehicles or taking-down fellow cyclists.
10. Immature operators of diesel-powered vehicles might find it humorous to discharge large clouds of black exhaust intending to engulf unsuspecting cyclists, while unaware that most crashes occur during a moment of inattention.
11. It is almost a given that oncoming and overtaking vehicles will intersect at a point where both operators focus and fixate on a cyclist or runner. A slight change in this point of passing will avoid braking suddenly and the possibility of a chain reaction involving additional vehicles.
12. While some cyclists have traveled the world, crossed the USA, or pedal every day, other people on bikes are on a bicycle that has been hanging in their garage since last summer. Recognizing the different expectations can save lives.