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Rated: E · Article · Sports · #1783385
Old article on cycling safety.
Are bicycles supposed to ride with traffic or against it? Which is safer? For the experienced cyclist this is a no brainer. Bicycles are supposed to ride with traffic. It never ceases to amaze me how many people I happen across who want to argue the point. They constantly argue that by facing traffic they can see everything that is happening around them and therefore they are safer. They are wrong. Of all bicycle-motor vehicles accidents being struck from behind, while frightening is in fact very rare. By saying that I am not trying to minimise the issue to get my point across. There just are other factors that need to be considered so please bear with me for a few paragraphs.

What are the most likely places for bicycle-motor vehicle accidents to happen? The answer is intersections and places where traffic merges like intersections, for example the ends of driveways or the exits for parking lots. I’ve got a lot of miles under my belt and am familiar with a number of accidents. All but one happened in intersections. I had a mini van pull out in front of me and sent me flying. My oldest brother was struck by a pickup coming out of a side street and put into the hospital with a badly broken leg. One of my friends in Toronto was hit twice in the same summer. Both times at intersections. I take pains to try to make eye contact with drivers in these situations because I really don’t want to get run over. They often look but because you are not a car or a truck they simply tune out your existence. They are even less likely to see you if you are riding on the wrong side of the road. Riding safely means being visible. Being visible is more than wearing bright clothing. It is also being where you are supposed to be.

This danger of not being seen at intersections gets even worse when traffic gets heavier or in cities especially at traffic lights. I’ve included a diagram to help illustrate this to make it easier to understand. If you are riding on the wrong side of the road facing traffic, people making a left hand turn from the street you are on cannot see you approach the intersection. They cannot make their turn until there is a break in traffic from the other direction. These same vehicles that the driver waiting to turn is waiting for are blocking his view of you approaching the intersection. This is an extremely dangerous situation that all cyclists need to be aware of.

What about dooring? As far as people popping doors out in front of you, it really doesn’t matter which direction you are going. Drivers who fail to check to see if anything is coming up from behind them are only slightly more likely to see someone approaching on the wrong side of the road.

If you regularly cycle facing traffic you will quickly discover that there are a percentage of motorists out there that will play chicken with you and force you off the pavement. They know you can see them and they will make a point of finding out just how brave you are. 

Worried about being struck from behind? Don’t ride on the wrong side of the road. Get a mirror preferably one that attaches to your helmet. Those same idiots who play chicken with you when you ride facing traffic are likely to do the same thing if they notice you have a big mirror on your handlebars. I had one for awhile and switched to a little one, which attached to my sunglasses. No more of that garbage plus I could keep an eye on what was going on behind me. Only problem with them was they made my sunglasses hang a little cockeyed on my head. Focusing on that little mirror takes a bit of getting used to but it is worth it.

Ride safely.
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