Watch out! With more traffic on the road, be careful riding across the valley on a bike
The Right Cross. The Door Prize. The Red Light of Death. The Cross-Walk Slam. The Wrong-Way Wallop. The Left Cross.
These are a few of the most common ways to get hit by a vehicle while you’re pedaling through the Grand Valley on one of these drop-dead gorgeous spring days.
Two of us rode from the east entrance of the Colorado National Monument to the west entrance, then into Fruita and down the River Road back to town the other day. What a great ride!
Like most pedal trips through this valley, it featured long straight stretches, gently rolling hills, and more traffic than I remembered from last fall.
We pedaled for about an hour and 10 minutes and got a great workout. I enjoyed my time in the sun. However, I also know that with increased traffic, wearing a helmet may save my life, but it will do absolutely nothing to prevent me from getting hit by a car.
According to the Web site Bicyclesafe.com, about 33,000 people die in car crashes each year. About one in 41 is a cyclist. Is it always the vehicle driver’s fault? No way. It’s often the cyclists’ fault.
As the Web site points out, everyone knows that “following the law” is the smart thing to do. Don’t race through red lights at rush hour and ride as far to the right hand side of the road as possible. That’s a no-brainer on Monument Road. In town, it’s different.
“If you ride too far to the right,” the experts at bicyclesafe.com say, “someone exiting a parked car could open their door right in front of you, you’ll be less visible to motorists pulling out of driveways and parking lots, and motorists coming from behind may pass you way too closely in the same lane because you didn’t make them change lanes. In each of these cases, you could have been following the law, but could still have been hit.”
Someone opening the car door right in front of you? That’s called the Door Prize.
Ever hear of the Crosswalk Slam? That’s when “you’re riding on the sidewalk and cross the street at a crosswalk, and a car makes a right turn, right into you. Cars aren’t expecting bikes in the crosswalk, so you have to be VERY careful to avoid this one,” the Web site suggests.
Here are some other things to think about from Bicyclesafe.com:
If you ride in such a way that a car has to see you to take action to avoid hitting you (e.g., by their slowing down or changing lanes), then that means they will definitely hit you if they don’t see you. But if you stay out of their way, then you won’t get hit even if they didn’t notice you were there.
On very fast roads, cars have less time to see you because they’re approaching so fast. Of course, you should avoid fast roads in the first place if at all possible, unless there’s plenty of room for a car and a bike side by side. And if there IS such room, then on fast roadways, you can practice invisibility by riding to the extreme right. If you’re far enough right that you’re not in the part of the lane the cars are in, then they’ll zoom by and won’t hit you, even if they never saw you.
Never make a car have to slow down to avoid hitting you. Remember, the more you rely on cars to see you to avoid hitting you, the more chances they’ll have to actually do so.
Re-think your use of the iPod. It’s more important to hear what’s around you when you’re biking than when you’re driving. Whether you ride with headphones is your choice, but doing so increases your risk.
You’re not trying to BE invisible, you’re just riding with the assumption that cars can’t see you. Of course, you certainly want them to see you, and you should help them with that. That’s why you’ll wave to motorists whom you think might be about to pull out in front of you, and why you’ll be lit up like a Christmas tree at night (front and rear lights).
Road bicycling is nothing like it was in my youth. These new bicycles can really fly. The materials and mechanics are pretty sophisticated from the days of my old Schwinn 10-speed.
Some things remain the same, though. If you ride real fast, you can stay real cool and cycling is still a great way to get around, just as it was centuries ago.
Today, however, there’s more traffic. Way more traffic. Be careful! You don’t want to get the Door Prize and you don’t want to run through the Red Light of Death.