Tips for a Better Cycling Experience

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Earlier this week Governor Quinn passed a law that basically states, begining Jan. 1st, there will be stricter penalties for drivers who get too close to, or intimidate, cyclists.  If they are "caught" doing this motorists could face a year in prison and be fined $2,500. 

Car on bike bike violence is never acceptable or a fair fight.  Just yesterday (Wednesday) as my wife and I were walking down Clark Street, we saw a woman in a Jetta (of course) try to turn left and cut off a guy on a bike (sweet Trek, Postal edition), the sound and aftermath was something that I hope none of you hear or experience.  Brakes screeching, a horrible crashing sound, a cyclist flipping through the air, then bone on pavement.  Horrifying.

There has been a lot of push back from drivers and a few bloggers on Chicagonow saying that people on bikes need to be more responsible.  Which is a good point, I am just as guilty as the rest of you for rolling through a few stop signs and red lights, when "the coast is clear."

In an effort to start a more peaceful existence, we reached out to Bicycle Illinois ride director Rob Layton.  Rob is in charge of getting riders safely from Cairo, Illinois to Kenosha, Wisconsin in 7 short days, knowing the cycling do and don't are a part of his every day.  Here are Rob's Tips for a Better Cycling Experience.

  • You really need to watch out for pedestrians, dog walkers, runners and rollerbladers more than cars. Cars are generally predictable and don't immediately stop or turn on a dime but these types of people do, especially on bike paths.
  • Bikes are vehicles.  Yield to people, animals, runners, anything slower than you.  People are injured and killed by being hit by bikes, be safe and responsible.
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    Cars don't want to hit you as much as you don't want to hit them so don't be afraid to ride in the middle of the road to make yourself seen - getting honked at is good because it means the car sees you. If you meet a car at a 90 degree angle aim your ride at the back bumper of the car. That way you won't possibly get hit by the front. But always play it safe and when in doubt wait it out and let the car pass.

  • Get Loud! A loud horn and use it whenever you see a car approaching (or waiting) ahead of you and to the right. If you don't have a horn, then yell "Hey!" You may feel awkward honking or yelling, but it's better to be embarrassed than to get hit. Incidentally, many countries require bells on bicycles, but the U.S. doesn't.
  • Slow down. If you can't make eye contact with the driver (especially at night), slow down so much that you're able to completely stop if you have to. Sure, it's inconvenient, but it beats getting hit. Doing this has saved my life on too many occasions to count.
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    A driver opens his door right in front of you. You run right into
    it if you can't stop in time. If you're lucky, the motorist will exit
    the car before you hit the door, so you'll at least have the pleasure
    of smashing them too when you crash, and their soft flesh will cushion
    your impact. This kind of crash is more common than you might think,
    and in fact cyclists crashing into parked cars is the #1 kind of
    car-bike collision in Santa Barbara, California. 

  • Ride to the left. Ride far enough to the left that you won't run
    into any door that's opened unexpectedly. You may be wary about riding
    so far into the lane that cars can't pass you easily, but you're more
    likely to get doored by a parked car if you ride too close to it than
    you are to get hit from behind by a car which can clearly see you.
  • Don't stop in the blind spot. Simply stop BEHIND a car, instead
    of to the right of it, as per the diagram below. This makes you very
    visible to traffic on all sides. It's impossible for the car behind you
    to avoid seeing you when you're right in front of it.
  • Brake Away-Make sure your brakes are always in top-notch
    condition. Be aware of how weather and road conditions can effect your
    ability to brake.
  • The Road Straightly Traveled-Try to ride consistently and
    predictably. For instance, at an intersection, do not veer into the
    crosswalk and then suddenly reappear on the road again. Don't thread
    through parked cars. With such erratic behavior, motorists will not be
    aware of your presence when you try to re-emerge into traffic.
    (Inconsistent conduct increases your chances of being squeezed out of
    traffic or, worse, getting hit.)
  • Share the road.  It's great to ride two, even three wide, save
    that for empty country roads.  When you are in congested areas make
    sure to stay single file, so cars can pass you safely.

Finally, helmet, helmet, helmet.  Be safe, have fun and enjoy the ride.

To learn more about Bicycle Illinois and their events, click here.

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  • Good stuff David. Thanks for sharing.

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