Gas prices are crazy, and as minds turn to two-wheeled transport as an alternative, those minds wonder if it's possible to ride a bicycle in urban traffic without injury or vexation.
Yes. Drivers don't want to kill you. Most drivers are as indifferent to you and your bicycle as they are to everything else on the road. Over the roughly 280,000 miles accumulated over a 26-year (and counting) cycling history, I have been knocked off my bike by cars three times:
¢ Hit by a stop-sign runner.
¢ Brushed by a turning taxicab.
¢ Bumped by a cabbie who didn't like my offer to merge proctology and podiatry.
No serious injuries, just some common sense gained. In every instance my Eight Rules of Butt Preservation would have saved the day. So read, heed and happy pedaling.
1. Establish best practices. Do everything in a safe, defensive manner. Obey traffic laws - period. Signal your intentions with hand gestures, and never be the first one into the intersection (cars run red lights too).
2. Never be where you aren't expected. No zipping between cars, scooting by on the wrong side of turning traffic or riding on the sidewalk, which is illegal for anyone past the age of 12, by the by. Wrong way down a one-way street? You know better.
3. Be smooth and predictable. Ride as straight a line as possible, no weaving, no swerving. Most drivers are as freaked out about you as you are about them. Predictability helps everyone.
4. Be a politician. Make contact, from saying "good morning" or nodding if you make eye contact to looking at drivers as you maneuver in traffic. Stump for votes and bonhomie as politicians do. No, cyclists shouldn't have to. So suck it up.
5. It isn't you. Motorists don't hate you. They want to get from Point A to B as quickly as possible, and hate any impediment to that progress, which is everything else on the road, including you. Not taking it personally will make the following tip easier to manage.
6. Never, ever engage. If an angry driver does something dumb, chill. Let that person find someone else to fight. If the problem escalates, you could lose - ugly. Being right won't console you as you're lying on the pavement.
7. Manage your space. Place yourself in the road in a way that defines your space. This includes things such as riding on the left edge of the bike lane to leave space for car doors, and moving a foot or so to your left when approaching an intersection to prevent the right turn across your front.
8. Be vivid. Unnatural colors are highly visible. Use head and tail lights from dusk on; go supernova if you must.