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these accident reports are scaring me(19 posts)

these accident reports are scaring menamir in SoCal
Jun 12, 2002 2:04 PM
how do i (a newbie, very enthusiastic) incorporate these accident reports into my understanding of cycling and cycling safety? I find these incidents (like many others) extremely disturbing and frightening. How am I (are we) supposed to take this seriously and still ride on busy roads? I live in southern california (san diego) during the summer but go to school in santa fe, new mexico during the academic year. santa fe is notorious for bad drivers, by the way. I hate to sound so helpless, but what do i do? my bike is silver (bright 'n shiny), my shoes are silver/red/yellow. I'm pretty visible, but that apparently is not the issue. Do I turn my tailight on all the time and leave it blinking? Do I put reflective tape on my jersey and shorts and helmet? How do i feel safe when I go for a ride? Argh! This is just awful. --namir
re: these accident reports are scaring meNo_sprint
Jun 12, 2002 2:19 PM
I'm in SoCal and here's what I do to limit potential. I limit my road time to select times and places. No cruises down Sunset Blvd. at rush hour. In fact, the only times I'm truly out on the road and truly exposed is with groups, large group rides. These typically take place on some weekday mornings EARLY and Saturdays. My other riding time consists of crit practices with 200 others and races (almost always closed). I don't head out after work alone on busy streets rather take very quiet ones to crit practice. Other than that I'm in the gym and on the Spinner. Best of luck.
several thoughtsDougSloan
Jun 12, 2002 2:20 PM
First, many of these accidents might well have killed or injured people in cars, too. Drivers cross centerlines and have fatal head-on collisions with other cars every day. So, being on a bike may not make it much more risky in many situations. To some extent, it's purely a matter of chance.

Second, we tend to hear about them, but there may not be all that many bad accidents compared to the number of rider/miles taking place. So, we shouldn't blow the risk out of proportion.

Third, pretty much use common sense, and I think most of us can reduce the odds of being hit to an acceptable level. Be seen. Keep your eyes open. Maybe avoid certain roads at certain times. Use a mirror. Wear a helmet. All that stuff. Oh, and obey the law. Sometimes it's actually the cyclist's fault.

I don't think a blinking light or reflective tape in the daytime will do much good. If a driver doesn't see an object 6 feet tall, I doubt a little blinkie will do it.

Ride predictably. Ride like everyone is out to kill you. Don't assume other riders will watch out for you. Pray.

If you're gonna go, at least go doing something you like.

That's all I've got to say about that.

Pretend they do not see you...rwbadley
Jun 12, 2002 2:36 PM
I assume that nobody sees me, and it is all up to my actions to prevent injury.

I've had drivers looking directly at me pull out right in front.
Been almost smeared a few times at night. I bought a powerful headlamp, put it on the helmet. When I see cross traffic or whatever threatens my safety, I will shine that beam into their eyes until I am sure they are so blind they won't be moving for a moment or two. Wicked I know, but I don't care.

Still, at any given moment...

obey the lawslaffeaux
Jun 12, 2002 2:40 PM
I think this is key. If you expect drivers to treat you with respect, you need to do the same for them.

On my commute this morning there was a guy on a bike that blew through several red lights. I would overtake him between lights, and when I would stop for the next red light, he'd pass me as I sat waiting for a green. As I biker I shook my head and called him an ass. I can only imagine what the cars that had the right of way were thinking. At the final light (I turned and he went straght), he'd managed to strand himself in the median of a fairly busy intersection. He was lucky he wasn't run over.

Ride like you were a slow car, and pay attention to the cars around you and you should be pretty safe.
good points. I'll add one more.grandemamou
Jun 12, 2002 4:33 PM
Be a responsible driver yourself. I'm sure we have all had moments of inattention while driving. These incidents underscore the importance of paying attention when you are driving a 2 ton weapon.

We had a local Tri-athlete die two years ago when he was run over by a boat on what was supposed to be a closed, roped off beach. They never caught the guy but I know there is a special place in hell for him. My take. There is a certain amount of risk just getting out of bed in the morning. If you take reasonable precautions chances are you will be alright.

I drive about 50k a year. I don't have the stats but I'm sure I'm much more likely to buy it in an auto accident.
main precaution: avoid high speed traffic.colker
Jun 12, 2002 4:46 PM
on slow traffic, if you are hit you are bruised. high speeds and you are dead. on high speed lanes the risk is too high. morons. evil people (i've heard lots of stories of cyclists being intentionally hit) and most of all incompetent drivers.
in the end, cars are too dangerous. it should be an elite (not economical elite but psychological, fit elite) machine. anyone can have a car!any almost blind, psycho, drunk citizen can ride a car. it's like everybody flying f14's around town.
I'm a chicken butt, too, namirrideslikeagirl
Jun 12, 2002 2:32 PM
I try not to read the threads relating to cycling fatalities/injuries. They just bum me out and scare the dickens outta me.

I betcha if we belonged to an 'auto-driver forum' and read about all the bad car wrecks, we'd be running to the nearest lbs to hook us up!

I try very hard to keep it in perspective. There's a ton of us out there all the time. Many cyclists have been riding for decades and have never had a problem. Let's hope we're as lucky!

(hey, btw, I'll be in SD in two weeks! I can't wait!! How's the weather been?) :)
weather? pretty darn goodnamir in SoCal
Jun 12, 2002 3:13 PM
well, the weather has been lovely. i work downtown in the Hall of Justice, and so i'm indoors from 7:45 am 'til 5:00pm with the exception of lunch. because of the dress code, i can't exactly wear cycling clothes, and i can't ride during lunch, so i see the noontime weather for about 15 minutes on my way to work. but it's been cloudy on and off, nice when it clears. great riding weather with the cloud cover, actually, because i don't get as hot in the sun. --namir
bringing your bike??? nmnamir in SoCal
Jun 12, 2002 3:23 PM
bringing your bike??? nmrideslikeagirl
Jun 12, 2002 3:36 PM
We haven't decided yet.

We'll be in Huntington Beach for two nights (family obligations) and then two nights in San Diego for our wedding anniversary.

It's kind of a pain to drag them all over, not to mention all the necessary gear - but then again, I can't imagine NOT riding for five days!

I'm also very interested to do our old Torrey Pines ride, now that I'm so much more fit than back then.

Have you had any luck with the bike shop/club search?
shop/club stuff. possible faux-pas?namir in SoCal
Jun 12, 2002 4:45 PM
I have had the guys at the UCSD bike shop do some work for me, and they've been great. Is it a faux-pas to crash a group ride that is published on the web but that is specifically for a group? There's a Tuesday night training crit at fiesta island i may go to just to get some experience, and the UCSD cycling team rides from UCSD to the ride. They also have some weekend rides I may try and crash, but I don't know if it's a bad thing to do. I think I may just do a lot of riding alone. I think training by myself might just be the best way to go. I got a heart monitor and i'm buying some rollers, and i think i'll just rock it on my own for a bit. thanks for checking!
Actually, if you were in a car forum...kenyee
Jun 12, 2002 7:48 PM
You'd learn that some cars (MB/Volvo) are a lot safer than others because those companies put a lot more research into crash testing...lots more than simple IIHS tests. Technology has advanced a lot (crumple zones, air bags, ESP, etc.) to give drivers a much better chance of surviving. Not much safety technology has been added to biking...just helmets (MTBers have full helmets and body armor though). Motorcycles now have ABS brakes.

What's interesting about the last few biker crashes posted was that you couldn't do anything about it. It was just a day when lady luck didn't smile on you...
re: these accident reports are scaring mehammer_cycle
Jun 12, 2002 2:38 PM
A couple of years ago, a very good friend of mine was struck by a car which ended his cycling career and will cause him pain for the rest of his life. It shook me up so much I gave upon the sport.

I am back into riding now and I have realized that we can't live in a box. Its important to do the things one likes and if something bad heppens, then it happens. We all drive cars everyday and many more people die via car accidents every day vs cycling accidents.

Obviously, the trick is to do the basics: ride predictably, try to follow the rules of the road, use signals, and ride with reflective tape and lights as needed. If something happens, then it happens. But don't live in a box and avoid to ride because other people have been injured.
some clarificationnamir in SoCal
Jun 12, 2002 3:22 PM
I didn't mean to give the impression that I was so scared that I was staying indoors. I've been out, I've been riding, and I've been loving every minute of it.

But these two incident reports have really hit home for some reason, I think because the cyclists were doing everything right. The Ross Dillon story is profoundly frightening, because his ride sounds much like ones I do. The Pacific Coast Highway is often wide, well marked, with clear bike lanes. And it sounds like Mr. Dillon was riding well within the lines and obeying the rules. So that's the scary part.

But I think Doug/rideslikeagirl's points are really quite good- the majority of cyclists are not being crushed by cars. These have the same emotional impact of plane crashes or something similiar-- they ARE rare, and cycling (and flying) are fundamentally safe activities, but it's still scary because of the "what if it turns out to be me?" factor. I've flown often since 9-11, and I'm not staying off my bike.

I'm probably more likely to die in a car accident than I am being hit on my bike-- I think the number of deaths per driver-miles in cars is far higher than flying (or, I assume, cycling).

on that note, i'm going to leave work and go for a ride when I get home. =).

That's the spirit! Me too!! :) nmrideslikeagirl
Jun 12, 2002 3:38 PM
It's the morons coming from behind who worry me...cory
Jun 12, 2002 3:33 PM
I'll take my chances in traffic--you can go a long way toward keeping yourself safe with some of the suggestions already posted here, including riding as though you're invisible. The people who worry me are the ones coming up from behind, changing CDs or looking under the seat for something. You never even know they're there until they smack you.
A driver killed a cyclist here a couple of years ago because (he admitted) he wasn't paying attention and drifted off the road. Hit two riders, killed one (the other may have died later, I don't remember). The resolution was that it was "an accident" and he pretty much walked. THAT'S scary.
maybe this helpscyclopathic
Jun 12, 2002 5:02 PM
here's the link which covers RUSA/ACP rules for lights, take a look

basically you can never reduce risk to zero, but if you take steps, you'd be safer. Try to avoid rush hour, avoid busy roads, increase visibility, ride in groups, etc.
re: these accident reports are scaring meKEN2
Jun 12, 2002 6:28 PM
One reason you hear about these accidents is because they are newsworthy, i.e. they don't happen that often. Imagine if you got a news feed, or the evening news featured, every fatal car accident in the country every day... right, it'd be a couple hour show of carnage. But only local accidents make the news shows ("if it bleeds, it leads") because car accidents are in general so commonplace.

Secondly, while I think there are many good comments here about obeying traffic laws and riding predictably, I don't agree with the idea "ride like they're out to get you." This attitude breeds a furtive, dodging style that can paradoxically cause you to not be seen as well. I recommend riding in the lane in most cases (unless its wide enough to share, i.e. around 14 feet or more), roughly where the right car tire tracks. One reason that some riders aren't seen is because they ride so close to the right, or even on the other side of the line, and drivers aren't looking for traffic there. It's like bank robber Willy Sutton's famous comment when asked, why do you rob banks? He said, "because that's where the money is!" Ride where the cars are and you're safer than hugging the curb. A mirror can help sooth the nerves and keep track of what's going on behind you, but do know that these kind of hitting-cyclist-from-the-rear accidents are extremely rare, with reported statistics ranging from 1-3 % of all car/bike accidents. By far the most common accidents are the right hook (car overtaking, then turning in front of bike) and the left hook (car turning left from facing traffic in front of bike going the other way).