I know some of you are concerned about getting to work safely on your bike. There are risks, and like everything in life you have to manage the risks, to keep the probabilities extremely low. Overall, as you engage with traffic your best defense is to assume the other traffic does not see you, and you need to yield if you do not see them recognizing you. What specific risks are out there?
Crossing intersection on right side of road:
You are coming up to an intersection and are trying to get through the intersection. As you pass through look both ways and concentrate on oncoming traffic. Make eye contact with the drivers, and if you do not make eye contact, then slow down and yield the way. Assume they do not see you, unless you make eye contact or see that they have come to a stop, slow and yield to the cars.
Avoid getting Doored:
This is when you are riding along the road next to parked cars and someone in the car opens the door and you slam into it. In order to avoid this, stay further to the left in order to avoid opening car doors. Here assume that there are people in the parked cars and so stay far enough to the left to avoid interacting suddenly with their car doors.
Doing this is not something the traffic expects, so you are bound to have some unhappy events. You are traveling in a way that cars do not expect. You might as well put a target on you.
Red light corner crush:
This is when you come up to a red light and stop right next to the car on the right hand side. What you do not realize, is the car has decided to turn right and you both start out and end up T-boning the car. If it is a semi, then it can be much, much worse.
The best way to handle yourself here is to move in behind the next car stopped at the light and take up as much space as a car would. Doing this ensures everyone sees you.
At Intersection and car turning left into you:
Here a car is turning left and does not see you going straight through and you T-bone him or he side swipes you. The best way to avoid this is again to assume that they do not see you and slow down unless you make eye contact with the oncoming car before passing through the intersection.
While riding a car comes upon you and does not see you and rear ends you. This is difficult for you as a bike rider to compensate for, and there are still things you can do to minimize the risk.
- Choose wide streets, where there is a lot of room for both of you.
- Ensure you have a red light, blinking is preferable
- Mount a rearview mirror off your helmet
- Ensure that you are listening for traffic coming from behind
- Use reflective clothing to make yourself stand out
- Do not hug the curb. You actually want to make yourself noticeable here, so by taking up a bit of the road you make yourself more noticeable.
In closing, follow the rules of the road, make yourself predictable and assume pessimistically that the others do not see you unless you can really tell.
Good luck all!