October 5, 2010

Top 5 Ways Cyclists Can Earn the Road.

It’s pretty damn easy.

Boulder, Colorado—my hometown while I’m at college—has to be one of the friendliest places to cyclists in the world, as a colleague of mine has said. High altitude, aware drivers, an okay amount of bike lanes, and a commitment to seeing cycling as a real alternative to using cars to commute or run errands.

This Top Five List is inspired by a near accident I had last year. I blew through a stop sign—and almost got hit. After being honked at, I realized I was in the wrong…and vowed to make amends for that potential tragedy.

So in order to make things right for myself and to stop a potentially fatal accident, I wanted to make and share this list, so all cyclists can be safer while sharing our roads.

I see far too many reckless cyclists out on the road putting their lives in danger. We are also ruining the reputation of the cyclists who work so hard for the respect that being a responsible road sharer cultivates.

Plus, whenever there is an accident, a person is of course no match for a car. That said, I’m not necessarily defending automobile drivers, as I’ve almost been hit several times.

The first thing that cyclists can keep in mind is that they are automobile drivers in the eyes of the law.

  1. Obey all traffic rules: This may seem like a no-brainer, but this is arguably the most important.  That means stopping at every stop sign (I know a pain for the clip ins), stop before making a right hand turn, stopping for pedestrians at crosswalks.
  2. Light up: This one scares me the most. When cyclists do not have some sort of light and reflector on their bikes or persons alerting drivers of their presence. Not only is is against the law, but it’s just stupid. It is one of the easiest things a cyclist can do to earn the road. I’m not saying it will prevent every accident, but it will help when tickets are being handed out, and it’ll save some real suffering and medical bills.
  3. Use hand signals when turning: You know the ones you learned in drivers ed, just in case your blinkers went out? Well now you can really get some use out of them by alerting drivers and even other cyclists of your intentions for turning.  Look, most drivers are no Sylvia Browns and cannot read minds. It’s vital that cyclists make it clear to drivers when and where they plan to turn.
  4. Don’t listen to music while riding: Now this is a tough one I’ll admit, but I have managed to ditch the habit. This is vital because it allows the cyclist to be aware of our surroundings. This could be as simple as hearing another cyclist ride up with intent to pass, or to hear the horn of the person who is about to hit you.  Not only that, but it will keep your focus on one thing, staying safe.  I can hear it already, I believe that you can multi-task and be effective—but just like listening to music and driving, there is simply a distraction there whether it makes a difference or not.
  5. Check out cars: Try to make eye contact with the drivers who might be turning across traffic, or turning right.  This is just so safeguard against drivers who may be slightly distracted or focused on making the turn or the light.  I know this has saved me from an accident many times.

That’s it. Nothing too crazy. As one cyclist says, “it’s a two way street”.

If you have any other suggestions, comment!  I’d love to hear them.

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