Preston's Rules To Be Safe While Biking
I follow three simple rules that help me avoid the most common biking accidents and stay safe!
1. Never ride within range of doors
2. Never ride through an intersection next to a car (always accelerate or brake before the intersection to position yourself where they HAVE to see you)
3. Always cross train tracks at AT LEAST a 45 degree angle (never parallel)
Why Are These Rules Important?
1) People getting out of cars are much less likely to be paying attention to the road than peopel who are driving on the road. So riding in the traffic lane decreases your risk of an accident, since the people driving cars are more likely paying attention to the road than people getting out of cars.
More importantly though, getting doored is MUCH more dangerous than getting hit by a moving car. In the unlikely chance that you do get hit by a moving car, you get to tumble and roll and dissipate the force of the impact over a long period of time. Ever watched a motorcycle race and seen them wipe out at 100+ miles an hour, tumble and roll for hundreds of feet, and then pop right back up angry that they can’t continue the race because their bike is way more broken than their body? Yep, same idea on a bicycle- spreading the force of impact out over a long period of time means your body’s not absorbing much of that energy.
In contrast, do you remember back to those drunk driving videos you saw back in high school, and particularly the images of cars hitting trees or other immovable objects? Those were always the worst, because the force all had to be absorbed instantly, rather than spread out over a longer time period. Those were normally the accidents you had to look away from. Getting doored is similar- you hit the door and all that energy of your movement is stopped immediately. Avoid this at all costs.
It is much safer to ride squarely in the middle of a lane of traffic than try to sneak by next to car doors. It is extremely unlikely that somebody will hit you in this case, while it is much more likely (and more dangerous if it happens) for an unthinking driver to get out of a car without looking for bikers first.
2) Cars do stupid things in intersections. You can name me any setup of intersection you’d like (“but there’s a one-way street, there’s no way a car would turn through me to go down a one-way street”), and I will tell you a situation I’ve seen where a driver has done something stupid there. I live on an obvious, 3-lane one-way street, and see a driver going the wrong way down it at least once a day. Or a car will be turning left, and a car will swerve right to go around them to continue straight (they never look when swerving around cars turning left). There are so many stupid things cars do (in addition to the obvious, like turning without signalling), that you can avoid a HUGE class of accidents by just never being next to a car during an intersection. Ever.
To avoid this, simply brake or accelerate a little bit before the intersection, so that the cars going through HAVE to see you. It takes some practice, but quickly enough it will become second nature, and you’ll get deeply uncomfortable seeing people ride through intersections next to cars.
3) Your tires will fall into the train tracks and immediately stop your bike. They will not immediately stop your body, so you will go hurtling over your handlebars and either onto the train tracks themselves, or potentially even into oncoming traffic. Both of these are incredibly dangerous. If you fall onto the train tracks themselves, they are oftentimes sharpened enough on the corners that they will slice large gashes into your skin and muscle.
This is a type of accident that many experienced cyclists tend to have, out of pure laziness. They tend to carry large scars from that mistake. It’s simple to avoid. And yes, I’ve even seen this happen to my friends with large, knobby mountain bike tires. Don’t mess with it.
If you simply follow these three rules, you will avoid the major types of biking accidents that I’ve seen throughout this city. There are a number of more nuanced tips you’ll pick up as you ride more, but if you follow these three rules, you will increase your safety dramatically.
Just to recap one more time:
1) Never ride within range of doors
2) Never ride through an intersection next to a car
3) Always cross train tracks at a 45 degree angle (not parallel)
If you have any other safety measures you take, please leave them in a comment below!