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Should I fear riding on the roads?(39 posts)

Should I fear riding on the roads?Dutchy
Dec 5, 2001 4:10 PM
Regarding the below post about road rage. (I'm not bringing up that case specifically,
we have already had that discussion)

Hearing of these type of accidents makes me start to fear my own mortality. I have been
road riding for ~8 years and this year I finally had an accident with a car, no major damage but
I couldn't walk properly for a week as I was pretty beaten up. Lately I have been getting yelled at,
beeped at, buzzed by cars etc. I ride the same way I always have, always follow the road rules
and I stop for all traffic lights. So why am I now getting abuse after years of abuse free riding.

Last night while riding through the hills it was wet, so I was going slow around some of the
tight corners, and twice I had a car sitting < 2 metre's from my rear. Cars sitting close isn't
anything new but they were too close for the conditions and the tightness of the corners.
As usual I turned my head and told them what I thought (not a good idea) but it is getting frustrating
having to deal with idiot drivers who have no idea where or when I am going to brake,
sitting on my tail.

I have had my best year for riding ever, but I sometimes wonder wether I should quit while I'm
ahead and find another sport or go back to MTB riding. I am 31 married and we are building our house
so our future should be good, I don't want some as#hole ruining the rest of my life.

Do you guys think about this sometimes?

re: we're not guaranteed the next few moments...Akirasho
Dec 5, 2001 4:58 PM
... and I try to live life accordingly... but I'd be lying if I said my own mortality doesn't pop in and out every once in a while.

Ironically, a few nights ago while driving, I ran outta gas... I was much more ill at ease "walking" along the roadside than riding on it (four lane divided highway that I oftimes ride on)!

All's you can do is try to limit your exposure while enjoying our sport... in many cases, while you can do everything right... it only takes that one arse to ruin your day... or take your life.

I'd rather embrace my mortality and live life to it's fullest...

We abide.

Remain In Light.
re: Should I fear riding on the roads?surf
Dec 5, 2001 5:02 PM
I ride mostly on river trails and beach paths where there are no cars. There are some regular hills with traffic but there are alot of bikers so i think the drivers are more aware. I never ride on a street without a bike path or at night (what are your riding conditions). Next month though, i will start biking to work so that might change. I do think about safety though, just try to stay away from cars. I live in one of the most populated areas in the country and there are always areas that are more open and thus safer.
Don't leave the house!mr_spin
Dec 5, 2001 5:04 PM
I think more about getting pounced on by a mountain lion on my mountain bike than getting hit by a car.

I have been hit by a car, so I have an idea of what that feels like. Lucky for me, I didn't get hurt. What I learned from that was to avoid traffic, particularly in San Jose on Cinco de Mayo. (If you don't have a Mexican community where you live, that's their big holiday. Nothing against Mexicans--it's just that I was hit because of an idiot, race unimportant, who made an illegal turn because of a traffic jam going to the celebration).

Anyway, you can live in fear, or you can go out and ride. It's a simple choice. Lower your risk by staying aware of what's going on around you, obeying traffic laws, and riding in low traffic areas.

But guess what? You can still get hit by a car. But you can also get killed by an airplane falling from the sky. Or a meteorite. Or a mudslide. Or a bear. A sheet of ice. A dam breaking. A sinkhole. Or by alien insects from outer space from that sickeningly bad movie Starship Troopers.

The moral? Eat, drink, be merry. Love your wife. Ride your bike. Be good to your fellow man. For tomorrow, you may die. That's how I like to live my life. Except for the part about loving your wife.
Farewell; death by alien insects from outer spaceCrankist
Dec 6, 2001 11:25 AM
As I write these my final words, my legs legs are folded backwards beneath me covered in bugs, and the bugs never stop biting and ouch! - they bite my liver too! Thay are sucking the last bits of life from me but before I go I wish to tell...all: ride like...the....wind, son.....ride like the......................
re: Should I fear riding on the roads?cyclaholic
Dec 5, 2001 6:13 PM
You've got to ride the bike and you've got to ride it like it's a vehicle.

A combination of good riding skills, courage, and thick skin will carry you through to your destination safely. Just use good common sense. If you can avoid the really busy roads, avoid them for the roads less traveled - even if it costs you a mile or two. Ride defensively and make yourself seen. If the drivers know you are serious and you aren't out there to get in their way they will almost always show respect and courtesy.

That doesn't mean there aren't problems, though. I was riding downtown yesterday, stopped at a stoplight, when a car pulled up next to me and informed that "for (my) own safety", I should be riding AGAINST the traffic. I didn't get mad. I simply told them that riding against the traffic is asking to die.

Having good riders like you out on the roads is a plus for us all. We've given up too many streets as it is. You may not get any awards, but you're doing everyone - cyclists and non-cyclists alike - a great service by riding your bicycle. We are all in this together.

And don't get too hung up on mortality. You are 31 years old. You are already old. How many millions of human beings never made it to that age? Statistically, you are already winning the game.

That doesn't mean you shouldn't be smart. Stay alert and ride cautiously but courageously. And if you do have an accident, sue the hell out of the bad driver.

And it also would be helpful to get active in advocacy. Call your elected representatives and tell them of your plight. Join a club. Go to some meetings. Be a hero.
cyclaholic sed: "We've given up too many streets as it is."Ahimsa
Dec 5, 2001 7:34 PM
I'd say you've about nailed it right there. I ride in downtown traffic every day. I will not let myself become intimidated by the carelessness with which people operate their cars. I ride defensively and take my lane. I use hand signals. I wear a helmet. I stop for lights and signs. Just because I don't have a wasteful steel cage around me is no reason to stop. Part of that is WHY I ride.

F*ck SUV's. F*ck driving a car to the grocery store that is less than three miles away. F*ck car centric society and f*ck using cars for every unecessary trip out of the house.

The bottom line is that cars are over used and folks are lazy. Period.

I ride in traffic because it is my choice to live the way I feel is responsible and proper. I do not want praise. I do not want special priveleges. I do not want "bike trails and lanes". I do not want a condescending pat on the head like I'm a silly tree hugger. What I want is respect and consideration, which is something modern society has seemingly given up on.

A gigantic four wheel drive gas hog with seating for eight yet only one passenger is undeniably stupid and should be a shameful singularity. Not a norm.

Add to that a driver who is gabbing on a cell phone instead of paying attention and I can see MORE reasons to ride instead of drive. Why be part of the problem?

It has been said that today's people are more concerned with their rights instead of their responsibilities. F*ckin' A right.

Death by auto? Maybe. Death by lightning bolt? Maybe. Probability? Who cares. Life is too short to live in fear (or drink cheap beer).


A. (Respect yourselves roadies, they are your lanes too.)
"like I'm a silly tree hugger" should read your post againkenyee
Dec 5, 2001 8:43 PM
"gigantic four wheel drive gas hog"
"F*ck SUV's"
"F*ck car centric society"

Condeming wasteful practices does not equate...Ahimsa
Dec 6, 2001 6:02 PM being an "enviro-nut".

I call 'em like I see 'em.

Conspicuous consumption is moronic no matter how many forests are felled.

Seems a shame that insatiable western petroleum consumption should lead to so many worldwide social ills.....

....but never mind, eh? I'm just a crazy hippy.

Happy to fit your neat category. I'd hate to disrupt anyones tidy worldview.

Cheers nonetheless!

A. (Not interested in saving the world, just calling out the hypocrisy...even my own on occasion.)
Getting worse, not better...Largo
Dec 6, 2001 7:44 PM
Since our city planners across North America seem hell bent on the growth of "the burbs", traffic is going to get worse and worse on our once country roads, as stressed out commuters, on their daily 1 hour or more commute to or from their house in the suburbs, roar down the roads in their SUVs, trying to multi-task at the same time.
Whoah, that was a mouth full.
NA is an automobile oriented society.
Look at public transit in the citys, its a joke.
But burning fossil fuels is good for the economy, so off we go.
I just love walking to school in the morning looking at all the happy commuters stuck in traffic.
Let's say you come closer than I dokenyee
Dec 7, 2001 7:11 AM
No one fits perfectly into a category. If you picture a spectrum from point A to point B, you're a lot closer. If you walked down the street saying the phrases I quoted, you would be branded by most folks the same way.

Plus the aggressiveness of your post pushes you a lot closer. Take your post and delete your name and show it to a few coworkers and ask them what kind of person they think wrote it.

Just food for thought...
Do not hug trees! Trees are dangerous!Elefantino
Dec 6, 2001 9:22 PM
I know. I lost the last round I had with that f*ckin (sorry, but after that last post I just had to) tree branch.

Save yourself! Bring an ax on your next ride!

Oh. And don't ride with any Druids.
Heh heh heh..."Should I fear riding in the woods?"Ahimsa
Dec 6, 2001 10:56 PM
Druids, eh?

Did'ya say Druids? I f*cking hate druids!

Blimey, now I'm back doin' it again!

F*ck F*ck F*ck!

There now...all better....need to stay on my meds.



Cheers 'fantino! Glad to hear the wifey let you off easy.

re: Should I fear riding on the roads?cogsworth
Dec 5, 2001 6:48 PM
I believe the best approach is to take every precaution possible (making yourself visible, choose your route carefully, stay as far to the right as practical, etc.), but to ride with conviction and determination. Claim your piece of the road and ride like it is yours. I think drivers can sense that you know what you are doing, and they also are more comfortable because THEY know what you are doing. I hope you don't take this the wrong way, but maybe since your accident you are actually being more timid and unsure when you encounter traffic. If you feel out of place, then the drivers think of you as being out of place, and you are fair game.

My interactons with traffic have just become 100% smoother, because the 5 mile section of heavy traffic that I have to ride wherever I go has just been designated as part of a Pennsylvania Bicycle touring route. These routes crisscross the state, and the are litttle signs with bicycles every mile or two telling everybody that bikes are going to be using these roads alot. As soon as the signs went up I noticed a huge difference in the way cars reacted to me on the road. Our former governor, Tom Ridge is supposed to be a big cyclist, and I think he initiated the program.
Dec 5, 2001 7:01 PM
You gotta have a lot of respect for something that can flatten you in an instant. I put my road bike in storage and didn't ride it for several years for this very reason. I figured I had better odds with the trees on my MTB. Used to ride a motorcycle, but haven't owned one in ten years. I don't mind taking calculated risks - it's the totally wild ones that I don't like.

My preference for riding is well away from urban environments where absolutely anything can happen - not that it can't happen in the sticks, but there are fewer "rolls of the dice". Commuting on a bike is a rather risky thing to do especially at night. You've got a lot of drivers wizzing by with many things on their minds, in a hurry and some of them could be under the influence of something. Then there's the whole aspect of the driver doing nothing wrong but you, the rider, makes the mistake. Mistakes on a bike tend to be painful at the very least and the driver of the car never seems to get as hurt. It's sort of like playing Russian Roulette only when it's the other guy's turn you stand in for him.
I agreeKurtVF
Dec 5, 2001 7:27 PM
Ride in the boonies away from the noise and confusion. Ride defensively. Don't ride at night or in bad weather. I was a trauma surgeon for 2 years at a major center and NEVER saw a serious injury from cycling, so in my limited experience it is pretty safe. (in that same time period I admitted 3 patients for injuries that occurred on the golf course, 2 needed to be seen by a neurosurgeon!)
Where are the boonies?cyclaholic
Dec 5, 2001 7:59 PM
While I understand the idea, I don't think that "riding in the boonies" is a real solution. The problem is that "the boonies" are quickly disappearing due to urban sprawl.

One of the more troubling problems that road riders are finding is that routes that were once very favorable for cycling are becoming more crowded. As development sprawls outward, more and more motor vehicles are out in the boonies. And as the suburban planners (always a few steps behind) pave more roads to accomodate the vehicles, they are beseiged by yet more development and more traffic. And the planners rarely account for bicycles.

We have to ride in the cities. And we have to ride in the suburbs. We have to work to get elected officials and urban planners who understand that bicycles are a progressive and positive part of the transportation puzzle.

Bailing out is not an option.
Yeah, what he said. Good talk Cap'n. Like minds on this. [nm]Ahimsa
Dec 5, 2001 8:03 PM
You are correct!Dutchy
Dec 5, 2001 8:16 PM
The suburb I live in has seen a huge increase in the number of people living in the area in the last 6 years.
There is a new estate with 500 houses being built, and not a single thing has been done to ease the
congestion or access for cars/bikes getting from the hills down to the flat where the city is.

I never made the connection as to why this suburb has gotten so busy recently, it isn't helping cyclists at all.

I am blessed to be near the boonies!Buzzy
Dec 6, 2001 5:40 AM
I have lived 60 miles south of DC for 8 years, commuting and work my butt off, not knowing what was so close by. When I blew away my achilles tendon this summer, I finally got back into biking as an exercise that was relative far less painful than even walking at that point in my recovery.

Slowly, I began to venture out away from normal paths to slowly discovered I was a mere mile from a path thru suburbia to a country road that lead to many others. Now I can venture out, go 19 miles to nearby Bowling Green, and possibly see a mere 5-10 cars during the entire trip. I also get to see fox, Blue heron, Bald Eagle, and just commune with God in His creation.
I never knew the boonies were there before I began to look for them.

Now I scour over county maps looking for road systems. Sometimes I just go out for a drive to both eliminate roads as choices, and to add new ones.

The reality TV shows that release video of cars hitting other cars and even state troopers, confirms again that some drivers just don't look, they only seem to see the road, they seem to be driving on auto-pilot. Even in my relative short time of return, some 600 miles, I have had enough close calls. One of my last ones, was minding my own business going south at the edge of nearby Hwy 2. I looked up and here comes a huge Pick-up (a local favorite vehicle choice) headed north while hell-bent to pass another vehicle. He was wide on his pass, and never saw me. I went for the ditch.

I know many of you do not have the access I have, and I am not gloating, just wanted to say it was here all of the time, and I never knew it.
Bowling Green/Milford areacyclaholic
Dec 6, 2001 6:19 AM
I am familiar with that area (a good friend lives in the Bowling Green area) and when I visit there, I always take my bike. You are fortunate in that this is a beautiful area and the road biking in and around there is superior. Virginia is a great state for bicyclists!

But the developments are sprawling your way. They're coming and they almost always come in very large motor vehicles!

It is getting harder and harder to find truly rural rides. I found a cuesheet website (I won't plug it) that offered a cue sheet in a midwestern state. When I found myself passing close to that area, my curiosity was too much and I had to ride that route. It was without a doubt the most rural route I had ridden all year, even though it was within 50 miles of a major metropolitan area.

Unfortunately, unless planners in these areas take steps to curtail sprawl now, it is only a matter of time until the cycle of sprawl starts to pick up steam. I know that sprawl has already occurred in your area and I hope that planners are taking steps to keep things in hand.

Enjoy the boonies while you have them!
Dec 6, 2001 9:16 AM
Your point is well taken. However, the poster wanted to know what steps he could take now to reduce the risk today. Change comes very slowly once you involve the government - you can get killed in the mean time - and most of the solutions are just watered down compromises.

In fact there are lots and lots and lots of boonies to ride through and finding them is half the fun. Ultimately you want roads that are so twisted and crappy that only the locals use them to go to and from home - not some short cut for the commuting crowd. Of course the number of vehicles in the boonies are increasing as people move further out, but it's still a small number compared to a typical day on a busy street in suburbia and a drunk driver is still a drunk driver.

You really don't have to ride in the cities or suburbia or even ride at all - no one is forcing you to do this. Would you still get up and ride if you new for certain that you were going to get hit today? No. you can't tell me that a 60 mile ride in most areas (not LA) doesn't get you out of a city and into the sticks. Why not start your ride at the outer edge of suburbia and head outwards? Getting across Silicon Valley to get to the hills can be very risky so we just meet at outer edge where the roads get smaller, steeper and twisty.

I guess the real crux is that we're talking about things on two different levels: one is the personal level what can I do today so I don't get hurt and what can we as a group/society do to reduce the problem across the board in the long run. Would you still go swimming if you knew there were sharks in the water knowing that we humans are almost doing our best to wipe them out? It only takes one to ruin your day. Last time I checked the job of "victim" didn't pay very well. So, yes, ride smart and support change.
Should I fear the reaper?look271
Dec 5, 2001 7:07 PM
C'mon. If you think about what could happen to you at any given time on any given day, you wouldn't leave your house-but wait! What if it collapses on you? What then?! Life is meant to be lived. Sure, don't take foolish risks, be responsible, but live life. You only get one shot.
Thanks for your support.Dutchy
Dec 5, 2001 7:44 PM
Where I currently live, Adelaide, South Australia, the actual city (on the flat) has a great number of roads with
bike lanes and generally is very good for cyclists. We have an Olympic quality velodrome and
a Pro level stage race, so cycling is well accepted. The problem is I live in the hills and the roads
are very narrow, no shoulder, no bike lanes and very twisty, lots of blind corners, and heavy traffic. I guess after living
in the hills for 6 years I'm getting tired of the constant "close calls" with cars. I think I just needed to vent
to people that would understand the situation. I will be moving in April 02, and even though the
speed limit there is 100kph/62mph, the roads aren't very busy or as twisty.

As someone mentioned I might still be feeling a little "scared" after my crash, but I have ridden over
1500miles since, so I should be over it by now. Anyhow, thanks for the responses.

Night ridingKEN2
Dec 5, 2001 7:45 PM
What's all this about not riding at night? If you are properly lighted and reflectorized you are _more_ visible at night to motorists, not less. I commute to work about 30 miles round trip, 3-4 times a week in San Antonio and I prefer those evenings when I stay late enough at work to avoid rush hour and ride home in the dark. Much more peaceful riding, few enough cars that I can generally have the lane, etc. Never had a problem with not being seen, in fact motorists tend to give me wider berth at night.

Unless there is a wide outside lane (over 14 feet), I strongly recommend riding approx. where the right car tires track, i.e. not on the far right side. That just invites motorists to try and squeeze by you when they should be changing lanes to pass.
Dec 5, 2001 8:01 PM
I commute home at midnight and I find that cars tend to give you more room at night than in the day.
You are so rightmr_spin
Dec 6, 2001 8:45 AM
It seems wrong, but you can definitely be safer at night.

I like to go night riding with a group of friends. We stick together, and with all the front lights (bar lamps, head lamps, etc.), blinking tail lights, and reflective gear, most cars can't figure out what the hell we are! It really is a sight to see. As a result, most cars will stop, yield, or go extra wide around us. Few would do that in the daytime.

Even without a group, it is very hard for motorists to ignore you at night if you have the proper clothing and equipment. And the darker it is, the better off you are. I feel slightly less safe in well-lighted neighborhoods at night, especially when sodium streetlights are in use.
One word: drunks. (nm)grzy
Dec 6, 2001 3:09 PM
Dec 5, 2001 8:09 PM
I think a certain amount of fear is healthy, as long as it doesn't keep you from riding. I am truly afraid of getting run over by an SUV or car, so it keeps me more vigilant. I always wear a helmet and brightly colored clothes when I ride, I keep a reflector on the back of my bike that I can turn on when the light gets bad, I have a mirror on my bike, and anything else I can do to improve my chances. I also try to always stay aware of what going on while riding, checking my mirror regularly and watching the road ahead for gravel, potholes and other obstacles. Anyway, I've been cycling for nearly 30 years now and I haven't had an accident yet, so maybe it's a good thing to be afraid.
Dec 6, 2001 6:22 AM
I get (almost) paralyzed with fear - sometimes during a commute/ride - it's almost like a panic attack

but I wear a helmet, keep riding (smart) and won't let my life be stolen from me
Aren't we statistically safer?morrison
Dec 6, 2001 7:46 AM
Maybe this is nothing more than self serving rationalization; however, I believe the benefits of consistent cardio-vascular exercise outweigh the risks associated with road casualty. In other words, the individual risks we face on the road notwithstanding, from a populational stand point, we stand a better chance of living longer, healthier lives.

I do not have any statistics to back this up. I would be interested in seeing if there have been any studies (public health) that address this issue. (I doubt it b/c it would be extremely difficult to conduct such a study without long-term (e.g., 40 years) observation).

Regardless whether I'm right, at least we know that we'll die healthy . . . now it's just a question of how.
We sure are!guido
Dec 6, 2001 12:53 PM
I have an uncle who rode around Kansas City, Mo., lighting streetlamps. He did it about 6 years as a teenager and young adult. He's never had cancer or heart problems, and has stayed physically and mentally active all his life. He's now 94, still going strong, and he attributes it to habits he learned while making the rounds on his cruiser lighting lamps. The evidence is everywhere: use it or lose it. God made man to MOVE.
Aren't we statistically safer?grzy
Dec 6, 2001 3:39 PM
In addition to just basic statistics you have to incorporate the concept of a utility function. In a nut shell it expalins why people play the lottery, gamble and take risks.

If you give one dollar to a homless person they will place much higher value on it than say a multi millionaire - or even one of us. Sure we all value a buck, but it differs by your situation. Back to bikes - sure you're better off riding than not, but is it worth getting killed. Well, many would say it isn't, but some of us will - it comes down to how much you value riding. Also, realize that statistics are all well and good unless you end up on the short end of the stick - all it takes is one car to change your life.

Sure the odds are that "it" is not going to happen to them, but if it does.... this helps explain why people gamble (in a positive sense), but if you invert it (winning jackpot = hit by car) it will also expalin why people people are willing to take chances on bikes. What if you got hit every single time you went riding?

In your terms it's more important to be healthy now than to live long - why not try for both? Each has to decide the ballance between immediate rewards and living a long life. There is no right or wrong answer, but it can change with time.

So maybe this explains why I continue to surf and wave sail in Great White infested waters even after witnessing the guy next to me get attacked 9/29/95, but do things to put more odds in my favor.
No, I don't think about it. nmdavidl
Dec 6, 2001 8:04 AM
re: Should I fear riding on the roads?mackgoo
Dec 6, 2001 1:21 PM
Can't fear it or wouldn't ride. I just go about my bussiness and ignore it.
re: Fear cars but ride anyway!dzrider
Dec 6, 2001 1:37 PM
Cars can hurt you so fearing them is entirely reasonable. It does not appear reasonable to me to let that fear stop me from riding the roads. I plan my routes to avoid as much as I can busy streets with lots of side streets and driveways for businesses. When in doubt I defer to cars regardless of who has the right of way. Being right is little consolation for getting hit - I've been there. I try to be predictable and decisive.

Having no fear is foolhardy. Being paralyzed by fear is very sad.
Its better to burn out than fade away! (nm)Empirion75
Dec 6, 2001 3:01 PM
Yeah, but what about street pizza?grzy
Dec 6, 2001 3:07 PM
You certainly shouldHunter b
Dec 7, 2001 2:43 AM
Assume that every @sshole is going to drive accordingly, and, if you are lucky enough, you will be wary enough to not get hit by the 30% and growing viscious/incompetent/stupid/testosterone fulled drivers out there.