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Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Cycling and Traffic

I had put my bike aside for a while.  In fact, I had wanted to post a rant about how much I was really hating cycling...

But, I can't do that.  I knew I couldn't do that.  I was frustrated because the last time I tried to go on the bike, I gave myself a flat.  I knew I needed to get back out there, and on Friday I finally did.

It was a great ride.  I posted in my Facebook status that I was planning to go out for a ride on the trail after work.  I had two good friends respond back that they wanted to meet me out there, so at 5pm I met Dannielle and Theresa out on the trail.  We rode for 11 miles, talking and having a great time along the way.  I was still afraid of the gates -- I haven't gotten over crashing into them in April.  But, being out with Dannielle and Theresa, I felt like I needed to be a big girl and act like it wasn't a big deal at all.  And, I did fine!  Hooray!

Then, Monday, Todd and I went out around our neighborhood for a short ride (only 3 miles / 25 minutes).  Since my neighborhood is all hills, this was a serious challenge.  We even went up "Devil's Fork," which is this big hill hear us that I use for extreme hill training.  It was tough and my legs were burning after.

I've had a lot of trouble finding places to ride.  The trail isn't always convenient and my neighborhood is ultra-hilly.  Where else can I go?  I wanted to ride out on the street (I have a real desire to ride on the Hampstead Bypass near my house), but every time I get up the nerve to try riding around cars, I see another article about another dead cyclist.

Some Examples:

  • Yesterday, a cyclist was killed in Union Bridge, Maryland (close to my house), when a tractor trailer made a turn into him.  Charges are pending.
  • A cyclist was killed in Tampa when he was struck by an SUV on his morning ride.  No charges were filed.
  • August 13, a German cyclist was hit by a drunk driver while cycling in San Francisco on vacation.  The driver is currently free on bail.
  • In Oklahoma on August 15, a cyclist riding on the shoulder was killed when a truck driver who wasn't paying attention drifted off of the road.
  • Boston, August 9, a cyclist (this one was not wearing a helmet) was struck by a car and killed.
The list goes on and on.  These are five incidents, all within the last month, and I didn't even list hundreds of others that have occurred this year. 

So, my question for my readers is this:  Are you worried about cycling in traffic?  What precautions do you take to ensure that you will not be struck or killed by a vehicle?  

I'm waiting for some insight as I try to reason with how dangerous this sport is.


Kitzzy said...

I ride in traffic all the time. It is a little uncomfortable at times, but it is really safe if you are assertive. I suggest getting familiar with your local bike laws. In Florida, we can use the full lane if the lane is not wide enough to share, which is 14ft or wider and it makes a world of a difference when you are with the flow of traffic instead of shoved to the side where they can't really see you.

We have a great course here to help us gain the confidence to do this properly, but if you do not have one available to you check out these site for some info on the basics:

Lacey Nicole said...

i hate when people cycle in the road and don't seem to notice the cars. i mean of course the cars need to be careful of the bikers, but the reverse is ALSO true!!!! and i see SO many bikers not wearing helmets!!!!!!!!!! it makes me cringe. and this is coming from someone who actually got HIT by a car while i wasn't wearing a helmet so that might make me a hypocrite, but it also makes me hypersensitive to it. i made a mistake and was lucky nothing worse came of it. our lives are always in danger when there are bikers + drivers on the same roads, and it's so easy for things to go wrong..

Kitzzy said...

@Lacey, I think the key is to drive your bike like a vehicle, because that is what it is, and follow all the same courtesies and laws as people driving cars. We have plenty of cyclists here that give others a bad name by not being predictable, darting in and out of traffic, running red lights and stop signs, etc. That's not us. We follow all traffic laws, we signal where we are going and when we are stopping, etc and usually ride on multi-lane roads so cars can change lanes to pass us. If we are on a 2-lane road, we are even more mindful, assisting cars to safely pass us and may even pull over to let cars pass if a back up of cars have formed, but that doesn't happen as often as you might think.

Marlene said...

Ack, this is a big reason I am afraid of my bike!!

Good for you braving the gates and getting in a nice ride with the girls. I'd stick to the trail!

marathonmaiden said...

stay safe if you do go out on the roads. drivers are crazy! please be a good cycler too and don't annoy drivers like me ;)

Laura B. Jog for Joubert Syndrome said...

i did my first road riding last weekend...i was super nervous since this was my first time really on the bike period. there were two cyclists killed here locally recently and it scares me to death too. i live out in the country and we have the most perfect roads to ride on, but there are lots of blind curves and hills and some are pretty busy country roads. i tried my best to stay as close to the white line when i heard a car come up on me, but i still felt like i was in the middle of the road and going to get hit. my dad is one of those "cyclist haters" and threatens to run them off the road. there are so many people out there like that, its scary.

@kitzzy~do you think it makes it any safer to ride with a group as opposed to solo or with just one other person?

Kovas Palubinskas said...

Wear a helmet and visible clothing and act like you belong. Be obvious about what you are doing and what you are going to do (turn, stop, etc.). 99% of people just don't know how to drive around cyclists. The 1% who are drunk/distracted/angry at cyclists - you can't worry about because there is nothing you can do. It's a combination of confidence and ignorance to ride the roads.

Jen said...

Very timely article. An online running friend was hit by a car a couple of days ago while out on her bike. Other than road rash and some neck issues, she's fortunately OK. Bike is totaled. She was hit by a teenage girl who "thought she could beat her."

I admit I am afraid to ride mine on the street. Part of that is fear of idiot drivers, but also just my general nerves of still being comfortable out on my bike.

onelittletrigirl said...

There are two types of people: people who have been hit. and people who will be hit.

That is the sad reality. Drivers, who are not bike riders, have no paitence for us. I have been in heated debates over this with other but unless you ride, I don't think you understand.

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