Posts tagged ‘rules’

October 28, 2011

That Was No Accident

Did anyone promise you driving would be 100% problem-free when you were going through driver’s ed? Nope. They told you that the skills they were teaching you would help make you a safer driver, that’s all. Life, slippery streets, and inattentive people with cellphones abound whether you or they are moving around on two wheels, four wheels, or feet.

You drive anyway despite all the well-documented risks, don’t you? (Probably walk, too, and pedestrian injury/incident rates are nothing to sneeze at.)

(Side note: My darling Second Daughter finished driver’s ed this summer and we now have to rack up all those hours in the car before she can take the driver’s test so I have to look for excuses to drive–ugh. She biked to driver’s ed class. House Irony, that’s us.)

Those driver’s ed instructors might have added that we can’t completely get rid of the idiots on the streets so that’s why we all need to stay alert and follow the rules.

Looking at statistics on bike-related injuries, it’s quite clear that a critical piece of equipment is the major cause in many collisions: The nut that connects the handlebars to the seat.

Before you go look at your bike and try to figure out where that is, take a long hard look in the mirror. You’re the nut.

Operator error creates problems for new bike commuters the same way it does for new drivers. That’s why you need to do some homework, take some practice rides, and know the rules of the road.

Much of what you worry about can be prevented if you ride predictably and visibly and follow rules of the road so drivers know where you are and what to expect. 

The League of American Bicyclists provides a good page on the basics of riding safely. A brief recap:
  • Follow the rules of the road! You are a vehicle. Ride in the same direction as traffic, not against it; obey traffic signs and lights; and signal your intentions.
  • Be visible. Your riding behavior is key here–ride where drivers can see you. Have adequate lighting (white on front, red in back), especially important now that dusk falls earlier and the sun seems to be oversleeping a bit in the morning.
  • Be predictable. Ride in a straight line; don’t duck in and out of “safer” spaces adjacent to the street like empty curbside parking spots and sidewalks.
  • Anticipate conflicts. Be mindful of your surroundings and choose positions that reduce conflicts. I watched my friend Rider #1 tuck himself between a car and the curb at an intersection where that driver may have been planning to turn right–the perfect recipe for a right-hook collision that would have been created by the rider, not the driver.
  • Wear a helmet. No, it doesn’t prevent collisions. What it prevents is a higher rate of head injuries if you’re involved in a collision. You only have one brain. And in the city of Spokane, it’s the law. Check your local ordinances.

The good news: Both cyclist and pedestrian injury and death rates have been falling, according to data tracked by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Stay safe out there!

Related Reading

Your Turn
  • Do you follow these recommendations when you ride?
  • If you have kids, have you taught them bicycle safety rules and do you model good behavior when you ride with them?
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October 14, 2011

Don’t Do This! A Post in which I Complain about People on Bikes

A short post to describe the behavior of a guy on a bike in downtown Spokane the other day. That is, to complain in just the manner I said I’m tired of hearing from people who don’t bike.

Could have been any city, really.

Map showing route from Spokane City Hall onto West Riverside Avenue via MonroeHe exhibited the kind of behavior that non-bike people tell me about when they want to make me somehow personally accountable for all the bad biking behavior they witness. (My mama done raised me right–I don’t in turn hold them personally accountable for the occasional scary driver I encounter.)

If you’re familiar with downtown Spokane you can visualize this route.

Me: Westbound on  Spokane Falls Boulevard past City Hall and the downtown library, then south through the funny intersection with Monroe just a couple of blocks to turn left/east on Riverside.

This stretch has three traffic lights in quick success: Spokane Falls Boulevard/River Park Square parking garage exit, Spokane Falls Boulevard/Monroe/Main, and Monroe/Riverside.

It’s a weird configuration, and I generally advise you to avoid those. I could have switched to pedestrian mode and saved a couple of blocks of riding, but walking is slower and less efficient and I bike because I’m lazy. I was headed to destinations on the south side of Riverside and this was the easiest way.

That is, unless you were the guy in the ball cap (no helmet–violation #1 of a Spokane city ordinance) riding ahead of me.

Ahead of me on Spokane Falls Boulevard, that is, until he hopped onto the sidewalk (violation #2 of a Spokane city ordinance) at Monroe/Main. He hung a left on Riverside, still on the sidewalk. I hung a left on Riverside in the lane.

He rode one block east to Lincoln, where I sat at the stoplight. From there he rode his bike south (against the oncoming one-way traffic) in the crosswalk. This is not illegal under state law, but it’s less predictable for a driver expecting people at a walking pace and it freaks me out to ride straight toward oncoming traffic so I never do this. He passed right in front of me to the southwest corner of the intersection and went up onto the sidewalk again.

The light turned green. I rode east in the street. He rode east in the crosswalk and back up onto the sidewalk.

One of us was visible at all times to drivers, behaving predictably and consistently.

One of us was not.

One of us wasn’t potentially threatening pedestrians.

One of us was.

Who do you think has a bigger chance of being hit–the rider on the sidewalk, or the rider in the street? Who’s really running a risk, and who would you trust?

Related Reading

Your Turn

  • Do you think about whether your riding behavior keeps you visible and predictable for drivers?
  • Do you think about how your riding affects pedestrians?
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