More advice on dealing with traffic hazards
The Lead Out
Following on from my last post about riding in the rain and not becoming traffic accident statistic, I thought I would cast the net wider and consider what other scenarios, you as a cyclist and a road user should be aware of.
As a cyclist, the math of car/truck/bus tram vs you should be bleeding obvious to you. Thus the burden of keeping you alive to cycle another day is on…you. Be alert to traffic hazards and road-smart when riding.
Here’s the reduced ‘Letterman’ list of cycling situations that can be hazardous to your health. You should hum the Bee Gee’s 1977 classic “Staying Alive” while reading this.
|Beware the Setting Sun
||Scenario: Most crashes involving cyclists occur on weekdays, in the 2 hours before sunset. At this time of day, your average motorist’s vision can be impaired by setting sun, heavy traffic flow and fatigue.
Strategy: Wear high visibility clothing and switch on your front and rear lights. Furthermore, keep a buffer zone between you and the traffic. Pay attention what is happening around you and attempt to predict the actions of motorists.
|Argy-Bargy at intersections
||Scenario: Drivers often claim not to have seen bicycle riders coming through intersections as an explanation for a crash.
Strategy: Try to make eye contact with drivers at intersections to ensure that you are noticed. Scan the approach to intersections and assess what’s happening in the traffic flow at the intersection.
|Dismounting from the footpath
||Scenario: You are moving from the foot/bike path to join the traffic.
Strategy: Two words -> STOP, LOOK. Stop at a point where can see a few hundred metres of traffic movement. Importantly don’t leave the path between parked vehicles. Drivers will not be able to see you.
|Vehicles turning in front of you
||Scenario: Be alert to vehicles that cross in front of you. This could be a vehicle turning left or right into a street or driveway.
Strategy: Pay particular attention to vehicles when you are travelling on the left hand side of a queue. Frequently, impatient drivers will turn across your path if there is a gap in the queue.
||Scenario: Avoid crashes caused by opening doors.
Strategy: My pet hate…. always look through car rear windows to determine whether or not someone is about to leave the car. Parked cars may pull out from the kerb. Look for clues such as a flash of the brake or reversing lights, right hand indicator or a sign that the car is about to move such as front wheels moving.
||Scenario: Even in this day of rear vision cameras in vehicle, cyclists can be crunched when a car unexpectedly reverses out of a driveway or parking bay.
Strategy: Kids are very vulnerable to this kind of incident. As a rule, if you can see the driver, seek to establish eye contact before riding behind the parked vehicle. Also be on the lookout for reversing lights or alarms.
Advice for Chris Froome 🙂 and Team Sky
I wrote this a few weeks before the Tour de France but its seems appropriate.
The Lead Out
Here’s a few pointers for riding around in the rain in Melbourne. Clearly the smartest thing you can do as a cyclist in Melbourne is plan your route. Pick the a route that provides the safest road conditions. Maximise your use of off-road and on road bicycle lanes, and roads that have low traffic volumes and speeds. Melbourne City council has a pretty good map that you can download from here:
I’ll say it again, look at http://www.bom.gov.au/vic/forecasts/melbourne.shtml, before planning your ride. Its free and may save your life. If you find yourself riding in poor conditions, play it safe, try to stay off the road and make yourself as visible as possible.
- Clip on and switch on some decent front and rear lights. Anything above 200 lumens that has a ‘strobe’ mode is ideal for the front. Similarly 90-120 lumens, with strobe is ideal for the your rear
- Stay on commuter paths. Typically be less congested and greatly reduce the risk of you becoming a hood ornament eg Chris Froome 😉
- Try to stay upright and steer with your arms rather than leaning into corners with your hips.
- Take corners slower – wet riding surfaces reduce traction between the tyres and the surface.
- Avoid hazards such as potholes and storm water grates. Watch out for doors on parked cars. The chances are the driver has been thinking more about the rain, than a cyclist approaching from behind.
- Wear bright waterproof clothing – I have bright yellow gortex jacket with reflective patches that is highly visible and breathable. Something like this is ideal for daily commuting if you have a few spare dollars.
- Carry a spare tube, instead of a patching kit. I’ve found trying to patch a wet inner tube almost impossible on rainy days.
- If you are on your road bike, decrease the pressure in your tires, say 5 to 10 psi lower than your usual setting, to improve traction.
- Try to avoid slick spots – pay attention to painted street surfaces, metal drain covers,
- Try to cross tram and rail lines at 90 degrees or close to, to minimise contact. This is a particularly nasty hazard on wet Melbourne days.
- Double the amount of time you use to brake to stop. Locking up will lead to you either spinning out or going over the handle bars. Do a few test ‘brakes’ at the start of your ride to feel out what your new threshold should be.
Cycling hand signals – a few basics
The Lead Out
Using hand signal isn’t just good manners its also the law. As a cyclist , it’s a necessary survival skill on Melbourne’s busy roads. Giving a hand signal does not guarantee a cyclist’s safety. Its critical that you assess the actions of the other cyclists and road users around you to make sure it is safe, particularly before turning or changing lanes.
Using hand signal isn’t just good manners, it’s a necessary survival skill on Melbourne’s busy roads. Once you start riding in groups they become essential.
Hand signals help to tell other cyclists and road users where you intend to go and what you intend to do. Cyclists are required by law to give a hand signal when turning right or merging to the right lane. Typically a cyclist should Indicate about 30 metres before turning or changing lane position.
The obvious ones are left, right and brake needed for navigating roads and traffic. These are good for English speaking countries but be warned there are some interesting variations in other places.
||Extend your left arm out parallel to the road with your palm sideways to the ground. If you are by yourself exaggerate the gesture so nearby or following cars can see it. If you are in a peloton, a smaller but still noticeable gesture is still good manners.
||As above but with your right. Ditto on the advice for traffic and pelotons.
||Having seen my wife get run up the back by an extremely inobservant and grumpy MAMIL near St.Kilda Sea Baths, I can vouch for the necessity of signalling that you are breaking.There are two variations; the arm is placed in a 90 degree angle to the shoulder with palm either extended skywards or towards the road.
There are a few others that conscientious road cyclist should know.
||To alert riders behind that there’s an obstruction ahead such as a parked car, pedestrian or skip/pot hole, indicate the way they should move by pointing in that direction with your hand behind your back.
||Point down at any hazard on the road, such as a pothole or road kill to warn riders behind.
||keep your palm down to indicate that there is a surface hazard to be avoided on that side such as broken glass, loose gravel , mud or water.
||If the rider in front whose wheel you’ve been riding for a while, lifts their right elbow out to the side, they are asking you to come through and do a turn on the front. Time to go to work !!