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Sunday, May 27, 2012

How not to get hit by a car while riding a bicycle

Since we've been writing about the bike accidents in Portland and vicinity this month, a reader sends along a link to this site, which points out ways to avoid being hit by a motor vehicle while riding a bicycle. She thinks it's worth promoting. So do we.

Comments (22)

Better yet a written exam for a bike license to ride on a public street.

If the bike exam is administered like the safe (and now required) boating exam it won't do much good.

Car drivers commit all sorts of moving violations despite having insurance, registration and a written/road test to get a license. Why would cyclists be any different?

I say this as a 99 percent driver/1 percent recreational cyclist. Do I ever speed? Yes. Roll through a "California" stop when no one's there? Yes. Gun it through a yellow if I'm running late? Sometimes.

The bottom line is that cars and bikes cannot safely share an urban environment. Someone's gonna get hurt. And physics says it will be the person wearing the bike helmet, not the one behind the wheel.

What well thought out and researched advise. It will never work in Portland.

That is a great site -- thanks for passing it on.

Yeah, cars are dangerous:

Several thousands of pound of metal,
50 to 300 horsepower drive motors; Sound like some of the big scary machines I'm involved with on a day-to-day basis in factories.

If cars were machines in an industrial facility you would need training and authorization before being allowed to approach, much less interact with one. Any cavalier or reckless behavior near such machines is grounds for instant dismissal at any facility I've been involved with.

But we all -- car and bike operator alike -- treat them with far less respect and attention than they demand. Out on the road there are no company safety officers watching your every move to prevent an accident, no co-workers to come over and instruct you saying, "We don't do that here" in an attempt to save your life.

Realizing that Critical Mass neither speaks for nor represents all bikers, any company that allowed flagrant disregard of safety procedures would be shut by OSHA in a heartbeat and the management fired by the shareholders.

...thus ends my catechist.

Great general advice, but the rules can't be applied across the board.

I was pacing a very slow truck on Hiway 99 that I worried would turn right. I was in his blind spot. So I adjusted my speed and got in front of him so he could see me. Unfortunately being so concerned about the truck for just seconds I did not realize it put me in the blind spot of the driver in front of him who DID turn right without a signal. I was splashed on to Hiway 99. Lucky for me I wasn't hurt worse.

Defensive riding and situational awareness is hard work, but will save you time and time again.

I'm just amazed at how many careless riders are out there clueless at the risks they are taking. They put a lot of trust in drivers, and drivers for the most part take that very seriously (who wants to kill someone?). But it helps when drivers see cyclists doing their part, too.

Excellent and useful information. Thanks for posting it.

Cyclist are no more or less observant of traffic rules then auto drivers. Cyclist are VERY aware of the cost of accidents. Most cyclist are very observant of others on the road for this very reason.

If you could point to one absolute in auto/bicycle accidents it would be the drivers lack of comprehension of the speed/distance that bicycles covers at an average speed of 15-20mph. Driver passes cyclist and then "forgets" the cyclist is maybe going 5-10 miles an hour slower then the car/truck, driver turns or pulls out in front of cyclist who is "there"; ACCIDENT.

This last death was caused by a truck who just passed a cyclist. At best he forgot she was there, at worst he was trying to "beat" her to the turn, again speed distance. His negligent decision caused a death and he should be prosecuted.

You were an eyewitness?

You were an eyewitness?

Don't forget judge, jury and executioner.

I start from the position that car and truck drivers are too cavalier about the risk they pose to cyclists, even at low speeds. Anything that raises awareness about the inherent danger of cyclists and autos/trucks sharing the same urban pavement is helpful. This article points out some very good common sense tips for cyclists. In my book the second most important safety accessory for cyclists, after the helmet (which the article points out does no more to prevent an accident than a seat belt does in a car), is a rear view mirror. Along with helmets and lights they should be mandatory for urban road cycling. Who in their right mind would drive a car around without rear view mirrors. It should be no different for cyclists. Indeed the danger of not having one is exponentially greater. On a bicycle there is not a thousand pounds of steel between you and an approaching car. And each time a cyclist turns his or her head to look behind a double danger results. First, except for the most experienced riders, the bike will tend to drift in the direction of your eye movement. Look over your left shoulder and the bike will begin to drift out into the oncoming lane of traffic. Second, while turning your head, you lose track of threats and obstacles in you forward path. This latter reason is why rear view mirrors are mandatory on all roadworthy motor vehicles. And how about getting serious about requiring standard and regulated lighting. With LED's, the cost and weight are negligible in comparison to the risk of serious injury injury.
The other overriding theme of the article is that on a bicycle in a city, you need to always expect the unexpected, assume drivers do not see you, and adjust your speed and course accordingly. The fact of the matter is there is a reason we have sidewalks for pedestrians. We generally do not walk on the road in the city because cars and slow moving vulnerable pedestrians do not mix well. Cyclists are really no more than pedestrians on the street, going ten to fifteen miles an hour faster, making them harder for drivers to see and react to. These are the facts. Jack is right. Urban cycling on shared roadways is inherently dangerous. And the evidence is clear that the problem is getting worse not better. Cycling fatalities more than doubled in 2011 over 2010 numbers, according to ODOT, while traffic fatalities overall declined.
People are not going to stop riding bikes in the city. Nor would we want them to. They have a legal right to share the road, unless and until we create dedicated cycling streets or separate roadways for them. Not something likely to occur under current budgetary conditions. So we ought to all stop blaming each other and instead try to be better at sharing the road. And, as a cyclist myself, I would like to see greater regulation of lighting, mirrors and helmets for those of us choosing two wheels in the city.

Drewbob's last sentence points up the biggest fear I had when driving in Portland: Not seeing a cyclist wearing dark clothes with no lighting or reflective strips on one of Portland's many dark rainy nights.

And in the area I lived in, it was an every night occurrence.

Even worse, most of those cyclists didn't seem to be paying much attention. I passed more than one carrying a cup of coffee or yakking on a cellphone. In the dark.

When laws get written which make it legal for cyclists to pass on the right at an intersection, it sends a message to cyclists with uncritical habits of mind that the safety of this maneuver becomes other people's problem. So wrong for so many reasons! It is a recipe for disaster. No PE would stamp a plan that called for motor vehicles to do this maneuver, because it is so obviously unsafe. That they do for bikes should be a scandal.

Nobody on the road should ever assume that ether the legality of a given maneuver or the paint on the pavement has any bearing whatsoever on the safety of that maneuver. The insurance companies and courts will care, but only after a 100% safety failure and all of its ugly consequences. It isn't about being legally right, it is about being safe.

Although I'm past retirement age I still ride a bike sometimes (like when it's not raining.) And I'm here to say this is a very good--and mostly fair--site. I'm here to write because I've followed most of this advice for a long, long time, in this country, and in big like Berlin and Paris. Especially at night a bike is difficult to see so I give the drivers the benefit of any doubt and slow down or wait for them or get where they can't miss seeing me.

Just wait, CoP will require all cars and trucks to be fitted with padding around the vehicle for safety so bike riders will not be injured. They are installing pole pads on light poles in the UK to keep pedestrians from injuring themselves when walking into a pole while texting.,8599,1724522,00.html

So many of those things are so simple. Sheesh. I almost tagged a bicylist with a death wish near Fremont and Vancouver Ave. Poor college educated tattoo girl was biking the wrong way on the sidewalk.

Kinda reminds me of this chestnut of common sense from Chris Rock:

Biking the wrong way on a sidewalk? They are not one way devices.

I agree with the premise that cars are inherently lethal to other transportation modes. People should be required to have much higher insurance amounts and they should be reeducated on how to operate on roads where they must share with other road users.

Jaywalking should be repealed and the local level streets should return to all public users.

Good link. Much of this was put together and taught as a program called "Effective Cycling" by John Forester way back in the 70's. Some things have inproved for cyclists since then:

reflective/bright clothing
bicycle breaks
bicycle tires

Then again, some things have gotten worse:

larger/heavier cars (SUV's and more trucks)
distractions (both drivers and cyclists) on cell phones

And, some things have stayed the same, not for the better:

parents teach their children to ride on the wrong side of the street
parents teach their children to ride on the sidewalk (statistically very dangerous)
parents don't teach their children the basics of breaking/handling a bicycle (because they don't know themselves)
hipsters on bicycles choose to wear black at night and ride w/o a helmet
there are too many impaired drivers
law enforcement when bicycles are involved is spotty

Be safe out there!

The foundation of bicycle safety is for the bicyclists themselves to adhere to all traffic laws. This includes stopping all stop signs and following the basic rule of the road by not riding faster than the existing conditions warrent. The example of the latter is not whizzing past slower moving or stopped motor vehicle traffic, and then not being able to stop if and when the bicycling path is crossed. Additionally, bicyclists should not enter into a right-of-way competition with motor vehicles, and not switch between acting like a vehicle one moment, and a pedestrian the nexr. The "walk" in crosswalk means just that!

This seems a good place to vent my frustration with a bicyclist I encountered this past Saturday morning. I was driving on Capitol Highway at the Jewish Community Center going toward Hillsdale. There are good bike lanes on both sides of Capital Hwy.

A woman cyclist was riding her bike on my right -- not in the ample bike lane -- but on the white line that separates the car lane from the bike lane.

I couldn't pass her because I was afraid of hitting her. I honked. She moved over to where she was supposed to be. I lowered the window and yelled at her that the white line was not the bike lane. When we got near each other at the stop sign, she said, "Excuse me, I was nowhere near you." I thought, yeah, because I stayed well behind you so that I wouldn't hit you.

I have lots of sympathy for bike riders and the many deaths that have been caused by the collision of motorized vehicles and bicycles in this most "bicycle friendly" city. But, I have seen bicyclists doing incredibly stupid things like this many times, and my sympathy wears thin.

Recently started driving in Portland again after a few years away. I'd forgotten what a nightmare it is. I'm surprised more of those little death machines are crushed under the tires of cars.

Bikes are unpredictable, hard to see and squishy. Not good man. Blame the drivers if you want, you're still freakin' dead.

I'm pro cycling, but the dangers are very high.

Seth your idea is unrealistic on a number of levels and will do nothing to help bikers be safer.


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