New Bike Commuter? Three Tips for Safer Riding
If you head to work on your bike this month, you may notice a few more cyclists on the road. Wait, make that a few thousand more. Cycling proponents estimate that more than 20,000 people will give the two-wheeled commute a try in May, a number that goes up significantly every year and has increased 152 percent since 2000, according to the Cascade Bicycle Club.
People just trying it might heed the lessons of Chris Cameron, former bicycle commuting instructor.
“Learn how to ride differently,” he told me, citing three key ways: become traffic, don’t get hooked by a turn and keep your head up.
“Instead of being sort of a side-show or an accessory to traffic, now I become traffic,” advised Cameron, who taught commuting to 3,500 people between 2009 and 2011. “I used to ride next to cars, or ride on the white line on the shoulder.” He thought doing that would keep him out of the way of cars. But, he says, drivers don’t have a very good idea of how close they are to cyclists, which means riders need to act more like a car and actually take up more of the road.
“What I do now is ride in the first third of the lane, where the passenger car wheel is in the lane.” Doing so will force the vehicle to go around you.
Avoid the hook
Second tip: avoid the hook.
“The most common crash is the right-hand or left-hand hook,” he said.
“What I do to negate that completely is I go up to the intersection in the middle of the lane. People aren’t going to go around me because they can’t.”
Ignore the occasional horn and get over the idea that you’re holding up traffic. It’s a small price to pay to avoid the most predictable injury situation.
He also advised scanning the road farther ahead than you’d think.
“Look 50 to 100 feet down the road, depending on how fast you’re going,” he said. “Most people, our gaze will go down, 20 or 10 feet in front of us at times, and you can’t see potholes until it’s too late, or detritus, and certainly not traffic turning in front of you. Fifty to 100 feet away, you have time to decide and you can pull yourself out of danger.”
These tips will help even veteran bike commuters, who’ve told Cameron that using his advice “makes a big difference.”