Archive for the ‘Safety’ Category

Drivers VS. Cyclists

Sunday, January 17th, 2010

Silly? I think so.

The tension between drivers and cyclists seems to be heating up. Some jackass even started a Facebook Fan Page called “There’s a Perfectly Good Path Right Next to the Road You Stupid Cyclist” that is currently getting a bit of notoriety. If you read through some of the comments, you’ll see a lot of drivers who talk about wanting to kill cyclists — or at least about how much they enjoy honking their horns at us or flipping us off. Of course, drivers aren’t the only ones saying stupid stuff on the page. One cyclist took it so far as to let people know she carries a gun while she rides and how she is looking to shoot at aggressive drivers.

Yesterday I was contacted by someone from asking if I wanted to share links with them on this blog (which, I guess, I’m doing in a way right here). These guys are selling riding jerseys saying things like “Share the Damn Road” or “Don’t Honk at Me.” Frankly, I think this is a flawed approach and these jerseys are more likely to inspire honking and other bad behavior than discourage it. I’m going to assume that most cyclists realize this and that these guys won’t be around for very long.

Let’s face facts — there are a lot of stupid people in the world, and many of them drive cars. Plenty also ride bikes and some are even serious riders. I hate to say it, but I’ve seen several cyclists — ESPECIALLY ON ORGANIZED RIDES — whose behavior justifies anger on the part of drivers. It is as if all of the sudden, riding 6 abreast or riding down the middle of the lane is just fine. I do realize that endorphins seem to have a negative impact on mental acuity, but there’s more to it than that. These cyclists put themselves and the rest of us at risk.

This poses a problem. While I’m confident that I could hold my own in a physical altercation with an angry driver who decided to stop his car and get out to try and demonstrate how tough he is, chances are that’s not going to happen. They are much more likely to choose the more cowardly tactic of yelling, throwing or using their car as a weapon. I have no doubt about who is more likely to prevail then and it isn’t the person wearing Lycra.

If you are a cyclist on a group ride and see a fellow rider acting like a fool, let them know in no uncertain terms what you think about the fact that they are putting YOU in danger. Finally, if you are a cyclist who actually carries a firearm while riding, do yourself (and the rest of the pro-gun community) a favor. Keep that fact to yourself or, at the very least, don’t go online and write about how you plan to shoot at aggressive drivers. Part of being a responsible gun owner is knowing when you can/can’t should/shouldn’t use lethal force. If you’ve received proper training, you’ll understand why going online and telling the world how you want to cap people is not too swift. If you haven’t received this type of training, you shouldn’t be carrying a gun in the first place.

At any rate, this season I’m expecting the very real potential that more drivers will feel OK about acting like jerks around cyclists (after all, now they have a place on Facebook where they can tell all their friends how much fun they had running a cyclist off the road). It might be valuable to think in advance of how you will respond. After a few years of trial and error, I’ve come up with my own theory on how to treat a rude motorist — ignore them completely. If they honk, yell or whatever, don’t give them a response. Even flipping them off shows that they’ve gotten to you, and that’s what they want. If they do something that endangers you or your fellow riders, get a license plate and call it in. It’s that simple. If they stop and threaten you, that’s a different story — then it is time to defend yourself in whatever way the situation demands.

Beyond that, act as an ambassador for cycling. If there is a car behind you, get over to the side of the road and wave them past. If a driver shows you a courtesy, be sure to signal your appreciation. Respect the rights of other drivers, but also make sure they respect your rights to be safe. If there’s a bike lane, use it, but if the bike lane is full of debris, don’t. If you need to take a lane, do so. For example, if you are going to make a left turn, own the turning lane. Don’t allow yourself to get pushed off to the left-hand section of that lane.

Bike Safety — A Racer’s Perspective

Friday, August 14th, 2009

This video was shot via helmet cam during the Portland Twilight Criterium. The insight below comes from Robert Burney, a seasoned Portland rider and racer. This gives you a good idea of what it is like to ride — as well as crash — in this type of race.



This video was filmed with a camera attached to the racer’s helmet and shows where is face is looking. The racer has peripheral vision although this camera does not. I am sending this out to everyone to reinforce several ideas we have discussed on our rides:

1.  Ride a straight line, even if you might bump over an obstacle. It is safer for you (and the people near you) if you verbally tell them of the obstacle. We should all pay attention to the road in front of us and steer around obstacles, but we must do so in a controlled manner. Abrupt motions create additional hazards.

You can see what can happen at about 1:20 into the video. At that point someone throws a tennis ball into the pack as they round a right hand corner. Several riders try to dodge the ball and cause a crash on the left side of the road. Had they ignored the ball and ridden a straight line, the crash probably would not have happened.  that crash.

2.  Watch what is happening ahead of you on the road and try to leave an escape route for unforeseen emergencies. At about 3:19 in the video a racer crashes on the left of the screen, ahead of the camera. The rider with the camera does not see it happening in time and has no place to go when a bike flips out into his path. Although the rider crashes (and it may look scary through the camera), he is able to continue the race after a ‘free lap’.  Most of the other riders were also able to continue.

3.  Riders who have crashed should be watched. Note how dazed this rider is for the next few minutes of the video. He even inserts an editorial comment making fun of himself.

4.  Check all equipment after a crash. It is best to have a rider who has not crashed do this for you. This rider forgot to check his rear wheel and it was rubbing the brakes for the rest of the race.

5.  Always wear a helmet. Check to see if the helmet broke in the crash. If the helmet is broken (as was this rider’s helmet), it may be wise to stop the ride and get a lift home.  If there was enough road shock to break the helmet, your brain may have suffered shock causing slowed thinking for a time. Buy a new helmet if yours has taken an impact — helmets are designed to withstand only one crash. Destroy and discard the old helmet.

6.  Look where you are going, not where you are or where you have been. Early in the race the rider is watching where he is riding, but late in the race, when he is very tired (and after he has crashed), he starts to look down at his front wheel. We have all done this sort of thing when we get tired in a pace line or on a climb. When we get tired, our reaction time is worse as well.

Remember that when you look down, you can’t see what is happening ahead of you and it is much harder to react to circumstances you do not see coming.

This is a great video despite the rider crashing.  It gives a great feeling for riding at 28 miles per hour in a pack of riders, plus we get to learn from another person’s mistakes instead of making our own. Mike Sheppard, Darroll Batke, Shari Shanks and I have made all of these mistakes (and more) when we were racing. When we suggest things in our coaching rides it is with the hope that riders will be able to learn better skills (without checking to see for yourself if pavement is still tougher than human skin. Note to self: pavement is still tougher than skin).

Robert, feel free to send stuff like this any time.

Rules of the Road

Thursday, July 9th, 2009

More helpful tips from our friends at STRADA

PelotonBicyclists may travel on any public road in the State of Oregon, except urban freeways or where non-motorized travel is otherwise prohibited. When riding your bicycle on the street, you are part of the traffic system with similar rights and responsibilities as motorists. Laws governing bicycle use can be found in the Oregon Vehicle Code. Bicyclists are required to obey all rules of the road insofar as they apply.

1. Obey all regulatory signs and traffic lights- Bicycles must be driven like other vehicles.
2. Never ride against traffic- Motorists are not looking for bicyclists riding on the wrong side of the road. Ride with traffic at all times.
3. Use hand signals- Hand signals tell motorists what you intend to do.
4. Follow land markings- Do not turn left from the right lane. Do not continue straight in a lane marked RIGHT TURN ONLY.
5. Do not pass on the right- Motorists do not expect a bicyclist to pass on the right, and they may not see you. Pass on the left side of vehicles.
6. Choose the best way to turn left- There are two ways to make a left turn: 1) as an auto: look back, signal, move into the left lane, and turn left. 2) As a pedestrian: ride straight to
the far-side crosswalk, then walk your bike across.
7. Watch for cars pulling out- Make eye contact with drivers. Assume they do not see you until you are sure they do.
8. Scan the road behind- Learn to look back over your shoulder without losing your balance or swerving left. Some riders use rear-view mirrors.
9. Avoid road hazards- Watch out for sewer grates, slippery manhole covers, oily pavement, gravel and ice. Cross railroad tracks at right angles.
10. Ride a well-equipped bike- Always use a strong headlight and taillight when visibility is poor.
11. Dress Appropriately- Wear a hard-shell helmet whenever you ride and wear light-colored clothes at night.

Pre-ride Bike Check

Thursday, July 9th, 2009

882checklist (Small)One of the advantages of riding with others is that, should a problem arise, you can count on your riding partners for assistance. Problems on the road are inevitable and expected. That said, a lot of hassles on the road can be avoided if every rider shows up prepared with equipment in good working order.


Before The Ride

Please check your bike and gear to ensure that you are properly prepared for
the days ride. The following is a quick bike checklist.

1. Check tires – Inflate tires to recommended pressure (printed on the
side of the tire) before each ride. Inspect tires for possible cuts and
items that may have become embedded.
2. Lube – Chain and derailleurs.
3. Quick Release Lever – Check to assure that it is tightened
4. Brakes – Pads should be aligned with the rims and not in contact with
the tire.
5. Shifting – Move through all of the gears to assure smooth shifting. If
they don’t shift smoothly, cable tension may need to be adjusted.

Carry On Your Bike

1. Tube and Patch Kit
2. Tire Irons
3. Pump or CO2 cartridge
4. Multi-tool
5. Water and Food
6. Identification and Money

Checklist courtesy of our friends at STRADA