This week's BWL column provides tips for cycling with traffic.
Some cyclists wouldn’t ride in regular traffic if you paid them money. Others wouldn’t ride anywhere else. Why such a disparity of disposition?
As you may expect, it comes down to what you as a rider are comfortable with. Those who have mastered the mechanics of sharing the road feel safer acting like a vehicle, while those who find on-road cycling too nerve-wracking avoid the traffic lanes whenever possible.
That’s not at all inappropriate – in fact, it’s downright prudent. Because if you don’t feel confident on the road, you won’t ride confidently – and that’s when things can go wrong, either because you don’t know what to do when things go wrong or motorists don’t know what to do with you when you don’t act like another vehicle.
How do you build that confidence? Practice, practice, practice – in a venue that you find challenging without being terrifying, such as a road with light traffic and wide lanes. You also build confidence by being comfortable on your bicycle under a variety of circumstances and conditions, either by doing lots of riding or taking a skills class to show you the tricks and limits of your riding skills.
As expected, there are some simple steps you can take to help you stay safe. They range from being visible and predictable to signaling your intentions and being aware of your surroundings (and the tendencies of drivers to engage in behaviors that could put you at risk). But the big three things to remember when operating on the road are:
- Your bike is a legal vehicle – operate it that way: Stay to the right (but not in the gutter), pass on the left, go with traffic, hold your position in the lane (or take it altogether if you see the need to control the situation) and generally “drive” your bike.
- Obey the law: Yield and stop as required by law (and common sense); don’t ride erratically or dart into traffic; know how to signal to other vehicles correctly; and know how to ride with other cyclists (and in the vicinity of pedestrians and others).
- Always ride defensively: See (mirrors) and be seen (bright colors and lights). Pick your routes wisely (wider streets with moderate traffic). Stay aware of your surroundings with no distractions like music or cell phones.
If you plan to ride a lot, plan on dealing with traffic – and remember, if you play by the rules and feel comfortable with the conditions, everyone can share the road in safety.
Ready to ride or run?
Run: How about an evening run for a change? Still can be a challenge this time of year, between heat and thunderstorms. Nonetheless, there’s a new 5K Glow Run set for Cape Coral on Saturday, Sept. 12 – details at 3dracinginc.com.
Ride: Sept. 4 is the first Friday of the month, which means SW Florida Critical mass will be massing at the field next to the downtown Publix at 7:30 p.m. for its monthly ride. Bring your lights and helmet and join the fun.
Both: While the Sept. 12-13 Galloway Captiva Tri is sold out, if you’re willing to drive north a little there are two choices: The Venice YMCA Triathlon (sprint) is a traditional tri on Sunday, Sept. 5 (www.swflymca.org/programs/venice-triathlon), while the Life’s A Beach Triathlon on Lido Key is a more easy-going tri on Saturday, Sept. 12 (www.lifesabeachtriathlon.com). Check them out online to make sure you can still register.
Help improve safety
- Want to support the "6ft Flag" Safety Movement - Bike Lights Campaign, a grassroots movement to help improve the safety of cyclists in Southwest Florida? Go to http://www.gofundme.com/SWFL6ftflag_lights for details and to donate.