Thursday, December 3, 2009

Accident's Will Happen (Part 1)

I'd like to end today's sermon with a cautionary tale for boys and girls who like to pedal the streets of the city. Even though I rely heavily on the work of others for this series, I do have (unfortunately) quite a bit of experience in this area. I've had unpleasant rendezvous with vehicles on several occasions, many of which sent me to my friendly neighborhood E.R.

But the point here is not to share war stories, but rather to help you avoid having war stories of your own. So let's begin the series with the type of accident that account for a full 60.5%1 of bike/car collions: The dreaded 'Right Cross'2.

This is where a car entering the roadway from a perpendicular street makes a right into the lane that you happen to occupy at the moment and either sends you aloft (been there), or if you're clipped to your pedals (been there too), slams your skull and all that it contains onto the hood with a resounding thud.

Thankfully, idiocy is culpable for the majority of causation in this instance -- riding against the flow of traffic. Drivers look left, not right when maneuvering onto the roadway. The remedy is simple: Don't be an idiot. Always ride with the flow of traffic.

Another leading cause in the run-up to this event can also be written off as idiocy: Going the wrong way down a one-way street. In cases of the driver being careless or inattentive (thankfully only a small number of the accidents are in this category) you can do things like: Use a light when riding at night (duh), honk or ring your bell, and ride further left.

I myself prefer to rely on awareness. With enough experience and focus you can get into the zone, and almost feel the flow and know what is going to happen before it ever does. Until then, you should slow down, and always be aware of what is happening around you. Assume that cars are unpredictable and that their pilots are erratic, because both things are true. It's no consolation to be in the right when you are dead, so be aware and assume nothing.

As is per usual, and addition to the references below, Robert Hurst has some good words on this and all subjects apropos to urban cyclists in his book "The Art of Cycling."

1Fort Collins Bicycle Accident Report (PDF)
2Bicycle Safety: How Not to Get Hit by Cars

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