Tag Archive for defensive riding

Chances are, riding a bike is a lot safer than you think — and just as fun

Let’s talk safety for a moment.

Or rather, the risk you face riding your bike on the mean streets of Los Angeles. Or wherever you happen to ride.

Because chances are, it’s a lot less dangerous than you might think.

Granted, it can look bad at times — especially if you read this blog on an irregular basis; I’ve long noticed that readership spikes whenever a bike rider gets killed or seriously injured.

That’s perfectly understandable. But that means you might miss the stories in between that talk about bike advocacy and improving infrastructure, as well as lists of links and the simple joys of just riding your bike.

Which I freely admit I don’t write about nearly enough.

So let’s make one thing perfectly clear. Riding a bike is fun.

Really fun.

Even a bad day on a bike is better than just about anything else I might do with that time; after a few hours — or sometimes, a few days — I forget about the few moments when something went wrong and remember just how good the rest of the ride felt.

Even when I have an encounter with an angry or dangerous driver, I try to forget the one or two jerks I had a problem with. And focus on the countless others who shared the road safely and, often, courteously.

Yes, bad things can happen on a bike.

Unlike drivers, we don’t have glass and steel plating to protect us. Or seat belts, air bags and crumple zones, for that matter.

Our crumple zones are our own bodies.

And we have nothing more than a helmet to protect us, if that.

On the other hand, we also have much greater maneuverability than those lumbering metal behemoths we share the road with. And can often avoid collisions that would be inevitable if we were behind the wheel.

It may seem counterintuitive, but you actually have a much lower risk of dying on a bike than you do in a car. In fact, you’re 15 times more likely to die in a car collision over the course of your lifetime than you are on a bike.

Even accounting for relative time in the saddle and behind the wheel, your risk of dying in a car is nearly twice as much as on a bike.

And neither one begins to approach the risks of sitting on your couch and doing nothing.

Surprisingly enough, Los Angeles is a pretty safe place to ride, as well. The city has seen five bicycling fatalities in each of the last two years, while the county averages 24 bike deaths per year.

That may sound like a lot, but it works out to just one cycling death per 750,000 and 400,000 residents, respectively. Which makes the area significantly safer than Orange and San Diego Counties, with one death per every 230,000 and 250,000 residents, respectively.

Granted, even one death is one too many.

But given that the city cites over 400,000 regular riders in Los Angeles — and climbing rapidly — your odds of surviving your next ride, and every ride after that, are pretty damn good.

Looking at it another way, I once read a study which said regular cyclists — that’s regular as in frequent, not ordinary or non-constipated — could expect an injury serious enough to require medical attention once every 8.3 years.

Which puts me right on course, with four trips to the ER in 32 years of adult riding.

And only one of those involved an automobile. Which is exactly the same number involving freak encounters with massive swarms of bees.

Better yet, you can dramatically reduce your risk of serious injury just by taking a few simple precautions.

  • Always ride within your own abilities. Yes, it’s fun to push your limits, but riding on the edge is where most injuries happen.
  • Avoid the door zone. Ride at least three feet from parked cars and watch for people inside, open doors or brake lights that could indicate trouble.
  • Ride defensively. Assume that anyone you see on the road will do exactly the wrong thing at the wrong time, and mentally prepare for it. If they do, you’re ready; if not, you’re no worse off.
  • Always ride with traffic. Drivers aren’t looking for you coming at them, and salmon cycling reduces reaction times and increases the force of any impact.
  • Signal your turns. Even though many, if not most, drivers don’t these days, they expect you to; predictability of movement is key to safe riding in any situation.
  • Use other hand gestures, as well. No, not that one. Point slightly to your left if you’re coming into the traffic lane, or point straight ahead if you’re going through an intersection to keep cars from turning. And if there’s any confusion, waive drivers through ahead of you — it’s a lot better than getting hit.
  • Always observe the right of way. The first vehicle at an intersection goes first, those going straight go before any turning left, and in the event of a tie, the one on the right goes first. It may mean stopping to let a driver go ahead of you, but isn’t your safety worth a few extra seconds?
  • Stop for stop signs and red lights. Yes, it’s inconvenient and requires more effort. But riders blowing through signals is one of the primary causes of preventable collisions. And just about all collisions are preventable.
  • If you use hand brakes, practice braking with your back brakes a fraction of a second before you squeeze the front one, until it becomes second nature. That will keep you from going over your handlebars, which I’ve done too many times.
  • Learn to turn by shifting your body weight instead of using the handlebars. Once you get the hang of it, it’s much easier, natural and more responsive, especially at speed, and allows you to swerve quickly to avoid dangerous situations.
  • Practice sprinting at a higher cadence. Even if you’ll never race, sprinting skills can help you get out of a dangerous situation before it sucks you in. I’ve probably avoided as many collisions by sprinting out of the way as I have by braking.
  • Wear a helmet. Yes, I know all the arguments against helmet use, as well as their limitations. And in 32 years of riding, I’ve only needed mine once. But that one time could have made my wife a widow if I’d been without it.
  • Use lights and reflectors after dark. The law requires a headlight and rear reflector, along with reflectors on both wheels. I use a flashing light up front, two blinkers in back and reflective strips on my wrists and ankles. Drivers can’t avoid you if they don’t know you’re there.
  • Wear clothes that contrast with your surroundings. Hi-viz isn’t necessary; bright colors, deep blacks and whites stand out from the surrounding environment on during the day, while light colors stand out at night. Avoid dull blacks, blues and grays, especially on cloudy days, since they blend in too easily.
  • If you don’t feel safe or confident on the streets, consider taking a Confident City Cycling or Savvy Cycling course. It doesn’t mean you have to turn into a rabid vehicular cyclist, but it helps to have the skills to ride in any situation.

Unfortunately, bad things can happen on a bike.

And I’m going to keep writing about the bad things that happen on bikes, and to bike riders, until there aren’t any more to write about.

But until then, don’t let that scare you off your bike.

Because those bad things happen a lot less often than it might seem.

And with a little effort and skill, they probably won’t happen to you.

It’s not what you wear, it’s how you ride

On her blog Let’s Go Ride a Bike, Dottie writes about the Mary Poppins Effect, saying she failed to experience it on her latest ride after wearing a pantsuit.

For those just catching up, the Mary Poppins Effect is the idea that motorists drive more carefully and politely around women riding in skirts.

Something I have never experienced, needless to say. Though I do have a blue jersey that I’ve learned not to wear without a vest, since it seems to act as a cloak of invisibility to the drivers around me.

If it’s any consolation to Dottie, though, I nearly got run over a few times on Tuesday, and I’m sure it had nothing to do with my attire. More likely, it was due to drivers who weren’t paying attention, or exercising the care required of someone operating such a dangerous vehicle.

Take the blue Mercedes than nearly hit me in Brentwood.

I was riding on a side street, and found myself passing a large panel truck that blocked the view of anything that might be on its other side. As usual in such situations, I moved a little further out into the lane to give myself more room to maneuver in case something unexpected happened.

And sure enough, just as I came around the front of the truck, I glanced to the right and saw a car lurching out at me from a hidden driveway. Fortunately, the extra distance I had added gave me time to swerve out of the way, and gave the driver time to jam on his brakes to avoid me.

I shook it off and just kept riding, grateful that a little extra caution gave me the safety cushion I needed.

So I was surprised when the same car passed me a few minutes later, with the driver pointing his finger at me and shaking his head.

Clearly, he blamed me for what had just happened. Though how I could be responsible for his failure to exit his driveway cautiously when he had no view of oncoming traffic is beyond me.

In fact, the only fault I could have possible born in the situation was simply exercising my right to be on the street. But I’ve long ago learned that doing everything right doesn’t keep those who don’t from assessing blame.

Then there was the woman on Ocean in Santa Monica who right hooked me, cutting over to make her turn without checking to see if there was anyone else there.

So I quickly turned along with her, making an unplanned right to avoid smashing into the side of her car.

I was tempted to say something. But when I looked in her car, I saw two young women pouring over maps and searching out landmarks while they drove, and it quickly became clear that they were a couple of tourists, and would just say they never saw me.

And anything I might add after that would be wasted breath.

Here’s the thing, though.

It would be easy to look at close calls like that as confirmation of the common perception that cycling is just too dangerous.

But the truth is, in both cases, it only took a modicum of caution on my part to keep me safe. Because I was prepared for something unexpected, I was able to respond to both instances — and a handful of others that took place before I got home — making them nothing more than minor irritations on an otherwise pleasant ride.

In fact, none were enough to stir my anger for more than a few passing moments. And as Richard Masoner of Cyclelicious points out, those were just a handful of negative incidents, compared to the tens of thousands of interactions with motorists in which nothing bad happened.

Whether cycling is safe or dangerous doesn’t depend on what you wear, or whether drivers are distracted, or the position of the sun and moon in your astrological charts.

It all depends on the cyclist, and the skills you bring to your ride.

If you ride carelessly or obliviously to the risks, or take chances that push the limits of safety, then yes, bicycling can be a very dangerous activity. And you can easily fall victim to the first texting, arguing, sight-seeing distracted driver who comes along.

But if you ride carefully and defensively, chances are, you’ll avoid the dangers. And enjoy a safe, healthy and happy ride — and years of safe riding to come.

Yes, that does mean stopping for red lights, signaling and observing the right-of way.

It’s true that some things can’t be avoided. But you can say that about anything in life whether you’re riding a bike, driving your car or sitting on your couch.

As proof, I can only offer my own experience.

In 30-some odd years of riding, the only time I’ve felt the painful bite of a car was when I forgot the cardinal rule of never flipping off the driver behind you. And in response, the woman behind me gladly plowed her car into the back of my bike.

Yes, I have had a lot of close calls over the years.

But a little care, a little caution — and a little discretion with words and gestures — is usually all it takes to stay safe.

.………

The League of American Bicyclists offers stats comparing Federal spending for bikes compared with bike-related sales data on a district level; not surprisingly, retail revenue matches or exceeds Federal investment in almost every case.

.………

The Northridge South Neighborhood Council unanimously votes to support completion of the Reseda Blvd bike lanes — the same lanes that nearly were written off for peak hour traffic lanes in a blindside attack two years ago. The Times chooses one of Mikey Wally’s typical exceptional bike photos as their Southern California Moment of the Day. LADOT Bike Blog points out several important upcoming meetings and bike events; Bikeside urges all to join them at the BPIT meeting April 5th. LACBC says the citywide Safe Routes to School plan needs your help on Friday. Travelin’ Local offers stats showing that L.A. bike collisions are on the rise. Burbank’s Magnolia Avenue shopping district plans a bike themed evening this Saturday. Santa Monica Spoke reminds you about this weekend’s Sunday Funday ride; I’ll be there myself, so come join the fun. Highway 1 in Big Sur is sort of reopen for bike and pedestrian traffic following a recent landslide. San Francisco’s Market Street gets its first green bike boxes. The makers of Clif Bars have opened Vino Velo Napa Valley, a bike-themed wine tasting room; cabernet and pinot Clif Bars are sure to follow.

Lovely Bicycle is giving away a free Superba bike to a woman in need; maybe even you? Commute by Bike calls the Brompton the Sex Pistols of folding bikes; Long Beach’s biking expats seem to like theirs. Crate and Barrel’s CB2 stores now sell Dutch Bikes. Bicycling asks if Livestrong can live on without Lance. Tim Blumenthal of Bikes Belong and People for Bikes shares 12 trends that will help biking grow in the coming years. A writer calls on bike-friendly Boulder CO to maintain a ban on mountain bikes in one area. The Purdue chapter of my old fraternity is staging a 72-hour bike-a-thon to raise funds for a member suffering from cancer. New York finally fights back against misinformation about the city’s bike lanes. Zeke designs his own bike cap; you can order yours for $20.

Next year could see an 18,000 mile around the world bike race. A UK man faces manslaughter charges in the death of a former 100-mile time trial champion. A Brit engineering apprentice will be coming to L.A. in May to compete with 1,600 other students thanks to a bike helmet she developed to help cyclists make their presence and intentions known. The UK proposes longer trailers on trucks in order to kill more cyclists cut carbon emissions. The organizer of the Tour de France is staging an amateur version of the famed Paris – Roubaix race next month. Not only is a 91-year old New Zealand man one of the world’s oldest active two-wheel riders, he also has a sponsor.

Finally, cyclists don’t need traffic calming devices, we are traffic calming devices.

Watch out for drivers today, because they probably won’t be watching for you

Let’s be careful out there.

The closer we get to the holidays, the more drivers are focused on finding that elusive parking space and their frenzied search for those last minute gifts. And many may have started their Christmas drinking long before they’d consider tippling any other time of the year, and may be in no condition to drive — yet think they can do it anyway.

And the last thing most drivers are likely to be looking for on the road is a bike. Let alone anyone on one.

We’ve already had one rider killed in Orange County this week, and word came of another bad bike wreck at 7th and Spring in Downtown L.A. on Thursday.

And that’s two too many in just the last two days.

So if you’re riding today or over the weekend, use extra caution. Especially Christmas Eve, as people make their way home after imbibing in a little too much holiday cheer at lunch or office parties.

No, you shouldn’t have to assume responsibility for others on the road; and yes, it’s their obligation to operate their vehicles safely and soberly.

But this time of year, a lot of them don’t. And won’t.

And drives like that usually aren’t the ones who end up paying the price for their mistakes.

So ride defensively. Assume you’re invisible, and that everyone you encounter on the road is driving distracted. Or worse.

And light yourself up like a Christmas tree on your way home tonight.

And not just in honor of the holiday.

.………

Opponents to NYC’s Prospect Park West break out the Unfrozen Caveman Lawyer argument, claiming they just can’t understand those darn statistics. And Traffic meister Tom Vanderbilt joins in the debate as well, pointing out that a study of 24 California cities showed that the cities with higher bike usage also had a better safety rate — and not just for bikes.

.………

Looks like Glendale’s Safe & Healthy Streets program has had a successful year, too. Playing Santa by bike in the South Bay. A cyclist is rescued after she was swept into flood waters in Palm Springs. The DMV points out that a helmet is required for all riders of motorized bikes; I had no idea. Look out for cars parked in bike lanes, which, despite all logic, remains legal in California unless banned by local ordinance.

Bikes are becoming so fashionable, one day, they may even be used for transportation. A typographic look at the anatomy of a bicycle. A Harford cyclist is threatened with bike confiscation after parking it in front of the hotel where he’s attending a conference. Fayetteville NC’s Bicycle Man fixes up and gives away 1,100 bikes to children in poor communities; yes, 1,100 bikes from a single, huge-hearted man.

Unbelievably, a Brit driver who ran down and killed a cyclist participating in a time trial walks, subject only to a one-year driving ban, community service and £110 in court costs; evidently, a cyclist’s life is cheap in Great Britain these days. Winnie the Pooh and Christopher Robin try to make sense of the UK’s blustery bike program days. The many joys of winter cycling. Dutch in Dublin looks at biking Irish fashion stylist Aisling Farinella. Pro cyclist Robbie McEwen is credited with saving his fellow yacht passengers from carbon monoxide poisoning. An 18-year old Aussie cyclist receives a five month driving ban for drunk driving.

Finally, Velonews looks at the good doctor, a very forgiving lawyer and whether Vail is responsible for their jerk of a DA.

.………

My best wishes to you and yours for a very safe, healthy and happy holiday season.

Merry Christmas!

 

How to play in the street — Part 3: when not to ride

One more quick thought before we call it a day. Or a week.

Tomorrow marks the one year anniversary of the infamous Mandeville Canyon brake check, in which the good doctor sent two cyclists to the emergency room — a crime for which the accused has yet to be tried.

And it marks a full week after the L.A. Wheelman’s Grand Tour, in which Rod and Christian Armas were struck by an allegedly intoxicated hit-and-run driver, resulting in the death of the father and severe injuries to the 14-year old son.

Holidays offer a great opportunity to ride, but the risk on the roads remains, and often increases as more people hit the streets. Other people are likely to be focused on things besides the road and who they’re sharing it with — and just as likely to be frustrated by the traffic and crowds, and ready to take it out on the first innocent person who gets in their way.

Which could very well be you.

Add alcohol to the mix, and you’ve got a recipe for disaster.

My rule of thumb is to ride early in the day on holidays, especially ones that traditionally involve drinking — Christmas Eve, New Year’s Eve, St. Patrick’s Day, Memorial Day, Labor Day. And yes, the 4th of July.

Get out, ride, enjoy yourself. Just get back home before the crowds and traffic get out of control, and the people who’ve spent the day drinking decide to get behind the wheel.

And while riding a bike is a great way to glide past the inevitable traffic jams before and after the fireworks, be extra careful as you make your way through the streets tomorrow night. Wear bright clothing. Use every light, flasher and reflector you can find. And watch out for drivers who may not be watching out for you.

Because it only takes one mistake to ruin the celebration.

And I need all the readers I’ve got.

……….

Brayj takes the mayor to task for not putting his environmental money where his mouth is. Bob Mionske questions what good is a bicycle safety law if the police won’t enforce it. UCI releases confusing new equipment rules for the racing community. Evidently, the Twilight heartthrob knows his way around a bike, at least when it comes to walking it. San Francisco offers the 2009 bicycle plan — one that actually works, unlike some cities we could name. Idaho adds an entire section on cycling to the new driver’s education manual, while Boise creates a bike safety response team in reaction to a recent rash of deaths. A Colorado letter writer argues that bikes should pay a registration fee or be banned from narrow roadways. Finally, this year’s Le Tour kicks off Saturday, and for once, Lance isn’t a favorite.

How to play in the street — Part 2: riding defensively

Defensive riding means a lot more than just learning where — and where not — to ride.

The key is accepting that you can’t control what anyone else on the road is going to do. But there simple steps you can take to influence the situation and be prepared for whatever might happen. And help ensure that every ride is fun, safe and enjoyable.

Be bright

These days, bike shops are full of throw-back style jerseys in muted blacks and earth tones. But you will never, ever see me wearing one, no matter how stylish it may be, because what you wear on top makes a big difference in whether drivers actually notice you. Bold patterns and brilliant colors get more attention, and fire truck colors — bright reds, yellows and whites — work best. And oddly, my blue jersey seems to make me invisible.

Be seen

Always be aware of your position on the road — especially near intersections — to ensure that everyone on the road can see you. For instance, riding behind a large vehicle makes you invisible to oncoming traffic, and dramatically increases the risk of a car turning into your path without knowing you’re there. So either speed up to pass it, or slow down to increase the gap and make yourself seen. Always stop at the front of an intersection if you can do it safely. Never, ever ride in a driver’s blind spot. And follow this rule of thumb: if you can’t see the driver, assume the driver can’t see you.

Be obvious — especially after dark

Last fall, I found myself working onsite at a client’s office and driving home after dark every day. One evening, I saw a cyclist up ahead wearing a reflectorized orange safety vest and lit up like a Christmas tree with lights, reflectors and flashers. I thought he looked ridiculous. But the key is, I thought so from nearly three blocks away. And as I passed — safely, I might add — I realized it wasn’t about how he looked; it was getting home in one piece.

Be predictable

One of the biggest complaints drivers have is that they’re never sure what a cyclist is going to do — which is pretty much the same complaint we have about them. But while can’t change them,  we can try to be more predictable ourselves. Ride in a straight line. Signal for turns. Stop for red lights and stops signs if there’s anyone else at the intersection. Observe the right of way. (First one at the intersection goes first, in a tie, the one on the right has right of way; through traffic goes before turning traffic — unless traffic signals indicate otherwise or some jackass insists on going anyway.) And always, always, always look over your shoulder and signal before moving into the traffic lane.

Be human

It’s human nature to distinguish between ourselves and others, and to use those differences as justification to blame them for whatever problems we may perceive. Which is exactly how many drivers respond to cyclists (and vice versa, unfortunately). The way around that is to treat drivers like human beings, and encourage them to see us the same way. So smile. Make eye contact. Nod or wave to indicate they can go, or thank them for letting you go first. It may not seem like much, but the rewards can be enormous — for you and for the next few riders they meet.

Watch out for squeeze plays

The other day, I was riding through San Vicente in Brentwood, where the bike lane stops and it becomes a Class 3 bike route. As usual, I rode at the edge of the right lane, just outside the dooring zone. When traffic backed up, I glided past the slower cars, but as I passed one car, it seemed to inch almost imperceptibly towards the parked cars — and me. So I watched closely, and sure enough, he drifted right as he prepared to turn at the next corner. I squeezed my brakes and dropped behind him, unsure if he even knew I was there. If I hadn’t seen it, I would have been a car sandwich. And I only saw it because I was watching for it.

Turn signals lie

My junior high football career lasted one season before I blew out my knee, but one thing I learned has stuck with me ever since. If you want to know where your opponent is going, don’t watch his body, because bodies lie. Watch his feet instead; he’ll go wherever they do. The same holds true for cars. Don’t be fooled by a turn signal — or the lack thereof. Many drivers don’t signal until the last minute, if at all. Or they may signal one way, then swerve the other. So watch their wheels, because the car will go wherever the wheels point. Just watch closely, because they sometimes change their minds.

Always expect the unexpected

The single biggest problem with cycling is that virtually everyone else you encounter on the road will be human. And humans do stupid things. So as you ride, keep an eye on the traffic and parked cars around you, and imagine the dumbest possible thing the other driver, dog, pedestrian or, yes, cyclist could do. Then mentally anticipate and prepare for it. Nine times out of ten, it won’t happen. But that tenth time, when they do it — or something just as dumb — you’ll be ready. And that just might make the difference between getting home safely, and not getting home at all.

………..

Flying Pigeon notes L.A. has discovered Cycle Chic, while the NY Times questions whether fashion keeps women from riding (as my sister likes to point out, spandex is a privilege, not a right). Alex tries to get the Westside dancing. Mickey Wally continues his cross country ride somewhere in Pennsylvania. Manhattan Beach installs a new bike sculpture. Streetsblog discovers higher bike funding in the Metro budget. LAist reports on the new bike hitching posts sprouting around town. L.A. Creek Freak covers ground breaking for the L.A. River bikeway extension. I ran into bees on the beach; an Austin rider flips over a bunny. The WSJ notes cyclists are demanding respect from our government, while the LAB keeps tabs on who’s talking trash. A Florida cop responds to insults by slashing a homeless riders tires. A Fresno rider is murdered for his bike. And finally, a driver in Iowa knocks a rider off his bike, then rushes him to…an auto parts store?

How to play in the street — Part 1: learn where to ride

My school had a good driver’s education program when I learned to drive, with emphasis on defensive driving techniques. And my father was recruited by the local community college to teach a defensive driving course after he retired from his job as a rural letter carrier.

So from an early age, traffic safety was drilled into my head. Along with the fact that no one can control what other people do behind the wheel, so you have to anticipate their actions and be prepared for anything.

When I took up cycling, I quickly learned that beginning riders weren’t exactly welcome on busy streets. And that my survival depended on learning how to apply those defensive driving techniques to two wheels instead of four.

Evidently, it worked, since I’m still here after 29 years of mostly urban riding — including 19 right here in Los Angeles. Over the coming days, I’m going to share some of the lessons I’ve learned along the way.

Starting with where to ride. And where not to.

Choose your battles

California law gives you the right to ride on any street, with exception of most freeways. But that doesn’t mean it’s a good idea to casually cruise Wilshire Boulevard at rush hour. Yes, you have every right to be there, and drivers are required to share the road. But having that right doesn’t mean that drivers fighting their way through heavy traffic will be looking for you, or be willing to share the lane if they do — regardless of the law. If you’re a strong rider, you can usually pull it off; if not, you may want to look for alternate routes.

Try a little something on the side

Maybe you already know how to get where you’re going. But roads that might be fine behind the wheel aren’t always the best ones to take when you’re in the saddle (see above). Usually though, there’s a perfectly fine alternate route within a few blocks of the main road — one with little traffic and lots of room for riding that goes exactly where you want to go. For instance, I frequently see unskilled cyclists plodding along Wilshire Blvd in Santa Monica on their way to the beach or the Promenade. Yet if they went just one block in either direction, they’d find a quiet street with a marked bike lane most of their way. Sure, you might have to deal with more stop signs. But that beats the hell out of dealing with an impatient bus driver running up your ass.

Consider your skill level

Sometimes though, the main streets may seem like the best choice, for whatever reason — despite the heavy and often unforgiving traffic. So look for streets that offer a marked bike lane, a wide smooth shoulder or a wide parking lane with room to avoid being doored. And consider your skill level before you decide where to ride. If you’re a beginning rider, or someone who only rides to the beach or the bookstore every now and then, you’re probably better off avoiding busy streets where you’ll have to ride in the traffic lane.

Practice the rule of 10 – 15

Over the years, I’ve found that relative speed is one of the most important factors in traffic safety. If you can ride reasonably close to the speed of traffic when you take the lane, drivers will usually accept you as part of traffic, willingly or not. But if you ride too slow for traffic, you become an obstacle, and the risk of danger increases dramatically. (Again, I’m not talking about what’s legal or right; I’m talking about what’s safe, given the realities of today’s over-crowded roadways.)

My rule of thumb is that I’ll consider roads where I have to take the lane if I can ride within 15 mph of the speed of traffic. With a cruising speed of 20 mph, that means I’m comfortable taking a lane for long stretches on streets where traffic flows at up to 35. But remember — that’s the speed of traffic, not the speed limit. On Olympic Blvd near my home, traffic frequently flows at 50 – 60 mph, even though the speed limit is just 35. If you’re not skilled or comfortable in traffic, use the 10 mph limit instead.

Learn to turn

If you’re still using your handlebars to turn, you don’t belong on busy streets. Your handlebars are great for going straight, but slow and inefficient method for turning — making you a hazard to yourself and those around you if you need to move quickly. So learn to turn by shifting your weight slightly in the direction you want to go. Shifting to the right will move your bike right, and vice versa, slight shift in the opposite direction will put you back on course. Find a quiet street or parking lot to practice until you feel comfortable. And before you hit the streets.

………

Stephen Box picks up the story of fellow Wheelman Rod Armas’ tragic death on PCH this past weekend, filling in the details and arguing that something has to be done. The best named bike shop in town gets new racers in stock. In case you missed it, a New York cyclist is intentionally doored by an SUV driver, then charged with causing damage to his vehicle. A Florida driver hits a cyclist, and drives off laughing. Korea plans bike-only subway cars. A 68 year-old cyclist says he’ll quit when it isn’t fun anymore. And finally, a Missouri writer argues that shared lanes should be painted red to hide the blood.

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