Monday, September 21, 2009

Avoiding Crashes - Cars, Traffic & Infrastructure

I was pretty sure I'd get really hurt on the road when I started biking. A co-worker said to me, "If you ride most days, you need to be prepared to get hit or crash, it will most likely happen." Maybe that's a little harsh, but looking around my office - I see a few people that have been hit by opening cars doors, gotten caught in streetcar tracks or bridge grids, & been plane out clipped by a motorized vehicle. On that lovely thought, I want to give you my quick advice on staying safe while biking around Seattle.
  1. Avoid Streetcar tracks, as well as old rail tracks in South Lake Union & along Westlake Avenue. I ride the left hand side of Westlake because I have seen one too many bikers get a tire caught in the 2" track, biffing pretty hard. There are also some old tracks near Fairview & Valley that should be passed over with caution (I'd recommend getting on the Cheshiahud Lake Union Loop here).

  2. Stay off bridges, use the sidewalks especially at Montlake. Those grids will catch you, drop you & hurt you with the slightest of movements.

  3. Use the sidewalk when traffic is heavy or you feel safer there. Seattle law allows us to ride on sidewalks & I often take advantage of this; people will sometimes disagree, but stand firm it is your right. Additional comments here would be to make sure you ride at an appropriate speed & respect the pedestrians you pass.

  4. Ride on bike heavy streets to avoid your surprise element to other cars. It seems to me that riding alongside other bikers on sharrow or bike lane streets gives you a little more visibility.

  5. Stay 3 feet out from parked cars to avoid getting clipped by a car door. Streets marked with bike lanes & sharrows indicate the proper distance, but you should also be mindful on unmarked & neighborhood streets. No one wants to end up like the girl from Wayne's World.

  6. Own the road, this forces cars to slow down & think before passing you. Remember that you have a right to be in the lane, don't apologize or hug the curb to accommodate a car passing unless it is 100% safe.

  7. Have the proper gear to increase visibility. Now, the whole point of me starting this blog was to prove that we don't need to gear up to ride, but sometimes things are necessary. Don't wear head to toe grey/black/navy during a rainy day or at night - try to have some sort of color on your person, bag or bike. I also recommend (& Seattle law requires) a white headlight & red tail light (blinking is best) at night.
Image from Car Free Days.

1 comment:

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