A friend sent me a video of a crash between bicycles and a minivan in California. It was in my Facebook feed when I woke up and fired up the computer this morning. Ouch. Thankfully, everyone’s okay. Next time they might not be so lucky. I realize that it might be difficult to watch, but I think if you cycle regularly on the road you should watch it all the same. It contains a teachable moment. Here’s the link.
What I’m about to say is probably not going to be very popular among hard core cyclists, but I’m going to say it anyway. As a League of American Bicyclists Certified Cycling Instructor (LCI #4661), my job is to help people learn the techniques necessary to ride safely on the road in a variety of situations. Sometimes that means riding defensively. This is especially important when conditions suggest that what happened in this video might actually happen.
Here’s what I saw when I watched the video.
- The road is narrow with no shoulders.
- There are limited “escape routes” as lots of trees line the road.
- Markings dividing the opposing lanes of traffic are washed out and substandard.
- Line of sight is limited. It’s somewhat twisty and hilly.
Maybe you saw more, but the four items I saw were enough. The cyclists were properly positioned in the lane…no problem there. The teachable moment? If I ride this road, I need to slow down. I need to exercise extra caution. Why? Because I’ve ridden enough to know that motorists do what this particular motorist did, and if I come across him or her at speed what happened here is likely going to happen to me, too. If, on the other hand, I slow down I greatly increase the odds of avoiding the crash altogether and surviving it if I can’t.
I know all the arguments as to why we shouldn’t have to slow down. I know the cyclists were in their lane. I know the motorist crossed the barely visible line. But I also know that at the end of the day, job one is to get home in one piece and how we ride has a lot to do with that. We are responsible for our personal safety. Each of us has to decide how badly we want to live to ride another day. Every time we get on the road, our head has to be in the game. We have to be focused not on the ideal behavior to expect from other road users, but rather the “most likely” behavior. Once we do that, we then have to adjust our riding style to accommodate it.
So that’s why I posted this clip. I’ve ridden 30,000 miles over the last three years. Most of them have been on the road and many have been in traffic scenarios I couldn’t imagine when I started this magical mystery tour back in 2013. I seldom feel unsafe, but that’s because I seldom put myself in unsafe situations. I practice what I preach.
If you’d like to learn how to ride safely in traffic, I can’t stress enough how important it is to take Smart Cycling from a Bike League Certified Cycling Instructor. If you find yourself in Central Iowa or nearby, I can help. If you live elsewhere and don’t know how to jumpstart this process, please let me know and I’ll connect you with a local LCI.
Be safe. Have fun.