Thursday, May 10, 2007

Surviving on the Street

Rule 2 - BE SEEN

(Previously we discussed "SEE." To review click HERE.)

FACT: A person on a bicycle is not as readily-visible as a person in a car. If you don't get noticed by other roadway users, you are much more vulnerable than if you are highly visible.

Frequently, following a car/motorcycle accident, the person driving the car will say, "I just didn't see him!" Pathetic! And that is probably even more true of bicyclists.

Wearing brightly-colored clothing is better than dressing in "Johnny Cash Black," at least when you're bicycling. No brainer. Lately, I've been seeing a lot of cyclists wearing "hi-viz" fluorescent-green attire. GOOD MOVE! That color is visible from a distance, and in a variety of light conditions. (I'm "old school" - my Gore-tex jacket is bright yellow. But that hi-viz is probably even better.) I used to have a bright-yellow helmet, too. When I replaced it, the only color available was dark "carbon fiber replica" gray... but it's covered with bright yellow stick-on reflectors. (Does it look dorky? Most likely. Who cares? Not me!)

But your choice of attire is just one consideration.

Some others:

- BE WHERE YOU SHOULD BE. You will be most noticeable to motorists if you are on the right (correct) side of the road, traveling in the same direction as traffic. If you choose another strategy - riding against traffic, or riding on sidewalks, etc. - you will indeed need to ride like you are invisible, because fewer road-sharers will notice you. (It's not a bad strategy to assume others don't see you. But if you can do that while simultaneously riding where you will most likely be noticed, it's a win-win... no?)

- BE PREDICTABLE. You see kids all the time on the greenbelt, swerving from one edge to the other, yappin' over their shoulder to a friend, no-hands, oblivious to the world. You see 'em on the roads, too... but not as frequently. Because they'll get eliminated. "Squirrely" is the best way to describe it... and observe what happens to street-squirrels this time of year.

- Don't "hide" between parked cars. If you're riding down a stretch of road with parking on the side... ride a straight path, rather than darting over to the curb between cars. You're much less likely to take somebody by surprise.

- Make noise when necessary. Cars have a horn to warn other motorists. Do you? I don't hesitate to shout when somebody's attention needs getting. (And it doesn't need to be laced with profanity - hahaha. I usually just holler "HEY!!" at the top of my lungs.)

- Night riding? Most jurisdictions require lighting and/or reflectors. (Idaho - light on the front, reflector on the back. That is bare minimum.) It amazes me - if you go look at a bike in a department store, it'll have a permanently-affixed decal with something like this: "This bicycle is not designed to be operated at night without optional lighting." DUH! You can thank an attorney for that one, I'm sure. If you can't figure that out on your own, maybe you don't belong in the gene pool anyway.

There's almost a ZERO-PERCENT chance that you'll get deliberately run into by a motorist who sees you beforehand. (You might get honked at or hollered at... that's okay. It rarely happens to me... but it happens. You can ride on home afterwards.) But don't do less than everything possible to get noticed.


db said...

Yup, yup, and yup. Being seen is critical out there. I don't call my bike attire and lighting system my "clown car" for nothing.

Whole topics in various bike commuting forums are devoted to lights (LED vs. halogen, blinking vs. static, etc.), and some riders advocate using them even in daylight.

So yeah, make your presence known.

Apertome said...

I think most of that can fit under the "BE PREDICTABLE" title. That's the #1 thing I try to remember, and it includes being visible, riding in the right place, etc.

I see a lot of people "hiding" between cars like you mentioned, or being afraid to leave the right side of the lane, even if they are going to turn left. I routinely see it coming because I look for it, but cars don't expect anyone on the right to make a left turn. Watching that results in some tense moments.

Anonymous said...

I saw 2 unpredictable bikers yesterday and they affected me and the cars traveling. One was fairly lucky as he almost caused an accident.

My Johnny Cash jacket is my favorite for cycling.