I have been riding a lot over the past few years and seen some good and bad behavior on the part of both bike riders and car/truck drivers. With more people riding bikes we as bike riders have to show better awareness and safety habits or more of us are going to get hurt or die. We can’t rely on car drivers to change their habits overnight. It will be a long process.
For those of you who ride in groups there are lots of things to consider, especially if you do not have that much experience riding in groups. First do not ride close to the rear wheel of the person in front and never ever overlap wheels. A little touch of the wheels can send several people down. Know how long it takes your bike to stop and if possible check out the rider’s bike in front of you. If he/she has disc brakes they can stop a lot quicker than bikes with regular caliper brakes. Listen to the ride leader at the beginning of the ride for any last minute safety briefing such as road construction, busy intersections, rest stops and rally points. Also if there are no cue sheets some groups will use human arrows. This technique means that the rider behind the ride leader will peel off from the group at a turn and point his or her bike in direction of the turn so the rest of the riders can see which way to turn. This rider waits until the sweep (designated at the beginning of the ride) comes along and tells this rider it’s okay to go on. The arrow can then feel free to catch up with the rest of the riders or stay with the sweep, but should not fall behind the sweep. When riding in a group it is important not to ride more than two abreast, unless you are overtaking two other riders abreast and there is no car or truck traffic around and you can safely pass. If you see a car coming from the back, call out “CAR BACK!” and if on a narrow road and a car is coming towards you yell “CAR UP!” When other riders hear this they should get over in single file so the traffic can pass. Another thing to consider when riding with a group or even by yourself: Take the lane when making a left turn. Check behind you, put your left hand out and get as far over to your left, in the lane, to make your turn. If you are in the group and see the group leader or the person in front of your group get ready to make a left and you are in the back it is incumbent on YOU to take the lane for the rest of the group. This will make it safe for you, the other riders, and let the car/truck drivers know what you are doing.
There are different type of drivers out there that scare me: !.) The distracted soccer mom driving her min-van and talking on the cell phone at the same time. 2.) The Prius drivers, not that they are jerks or unsafe but you just can’t hear a Prius come up behind you on a slow winding road. 3.) The redneck pickup truck driver who makes a point of making sure you get a full dose of their exhaust as they pass you by. There are also some variations in between; we all have seen them.
There are just as bad bicycle riders too. Most of them think they are professional bicycle racers wannabes, thinking that if things would have fallen right they would have spent some Julys riding in Le Tour De France. These riders have no regard for anyone else on the road, including other bicyclists. They wear replica professional team jerseys, local racing or bike shop racing team. They pass other bicyclists very close, sometimes they blow through red lights and stop signs. What is even worse is when you get a bunch of these riders together usually from the same racing club. They give the rest of us bicyclists a bad name. They will ride 3 or 4 abreast and they think it is beyond them to get over to single file when a car or cars that need to pass. This leaves a bad memory in a driver’s mind and he or she (probably a he) will take it out on the next bicyclist, who is out riding alone.
As a cyclist, I had encounter where a driver in his late 50’s early 60’s and his friend stopped their pick-up truck after I did not get up on the sidewalk when they laid on their horn from about 1/10 of a mile back. They swore at me and I thought I was going to get doored. It was not a pleasant experience. Now I keep my phone handy in case something like that happens again. This was about two years ago and now I just usually get a mouth full of exhaust fumes.
So we just need to get along and realize each other’s rights. One, no matter how right you are you are not going win in a collision with a car. Just be nice don’t cause a confrontation and let them go. Drivers need to be educated that bicycles have the same right to the road as they do. Bicycle riders do need to stay to the right as safely possible. But bicyclists have a different view of the road. A bicyclist has a better view of the potholes that may be small to cars but, could cause a serious crash for a bicycle or at the least give the bicycle rider a flat tire. So the next time you see a bicyclist out a little further from the right than you think they should, remember this they are trying to avoid pot-holes that could put them down right in front of your car.
So share the road, be nice and bicyclists remember to wave or say thank you when a car driver lets you into traffic. Who knows, you may make that car driver into a future cyclist.