Pretend you're invisible!
by Michael Scott
(St. Catharines, ON, Canada)
The first thing I say to any new bike rider is, if you want to stay alive in traffic, try to imagine you're invisible...because to most car drivers, you ARE.
As bright and shiny as your new bike is, and as fine a picture as you think you make, sitting on it, just remember that to most car drivers you are about the width of a tree or a lamp post in terms of being detectable in their field of vision.
So, here are SOME of the things you can do to prevent being creamed by that non-seeing driver of the car that MAY put you on (or in) the ground. (Hate to sound morbid, but the accident statistics for new bike riders are scary.) You may not agree with some of these tips and tricks, but, trust me, I've been riding for 45 years.....and had only one accident...cause I was drunk. Here they are, in descending order of difficulty:
1. Never drive drunk (you know your limit...stay WELL under it. Better yet, avoid booze altogether when riding. For G1 drivers, of couse, it's the law.)
2. Keep your headlight(s) on highbeam all day long...and for as long into the night as oncoming drivers allow. (High beams are way easier to see from a distance; try it with a friend down the block.)
3. Assume every car coming toward
you at an intersection is going to turn left in front of you. (Enough of them will cut you off, without seeing you and without signalling, that you'll soon swear by this rule!)
4. As you approach a light-controlled intersection and your light is green, assume the cars coming from left and right are going to go THROUGH their red lights. Judge your speed accordingly, and "cover" your front brake. (keep your fingers over the lever and ready!)
5. Assume every upcoming corner has wet leaves or loose gravel on it....(and slow down!) until you get there and see otherwise. (If you come in 'hot' and THEN see the bad surface, you're screwed!)
6. Wear the most colourful jacket and helmet your fashion sense will permit. Guys with black everything look cool.......but....invisible to cars. Guys with white helmets and orange traffic vests live forever!
7. Never tailgate. This sounds like a rule for everybody, even cars. It is. But cars can tail end each other at low speeds without the driver being hurled out of their vehicles. They have seatbelts, airbags and a ton of upfront steel protecting them. You don't.
8. Be smart; pay attention to traffic, the road surface and the weather; don't be sight-seeing until you've been riding for about five years!
Biking is fun, and can be safe if you just "keep your wits about you."