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Author Topic: Bikes and Traffic
Starsnuffer
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So I'm now going to the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, and I ride my bike to the few places I go a lot, and I feel rather confident most of the time that as I'm riding my bike on sidewalks and occasionally crossing streets I'm not about to be killed by an angry car.

I've heard, or rather, read, reportsthat show riding bikes on roads is safer. That study is really the only one I've seen and it is staggering.

While for my normal campus commuting it's not practical for me to ride in the street, and I only have to cross at one major cross-walk, which I usually do in a clump of many pedestrians, it is definitely daunting for me to consider riding on the road.

The main purpose I have in this thread is to ask people if they do, indeed, look for bikes when they turn, or at least try to, and if any bike commuters/people who bike on the road have any suggestions besides things like "wear bright clothes and have front and rear lights" which are rather obvious, though I must admit I do not follow them as faithfully as I should (aka I need to get myself lights for when i ride at night)

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ketchupqueen
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Always very aware of bikes around here, especially where we have bike lanes.

You'd get a ticket for riding on the sidewalk here.

Some people are rude to bikers, try to run them off the road and such. If you encounter one, I advise you simply turn a corner or something and wait until they pass.

I've seen it get messy, these people who would do this are nasty and stupid. Not a good mix...

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TomDavidson
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Here in Madison, we have bike lanes most of the way through town. And there are enough bikes that we're definitely aware of them. Honestly, bikes are more of a danger to pedestrians in crosswalks than cars are to bikes, around here.
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Slim
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In many states, it is illegal to bike on the sidewalk. Bikes have the same rights as a car, and therefore need to follow the same laws.

I typically ride my bike on the street, although there are places where the road is narrow and busy that I bike on the sidewalk, where I feel safer.

Why is it "not practical" for you to ride in the road? Narrow roads? Cars darting all over the place? Tire shredders at the shoulders?

When I drive, I typically do not look out for cyclists, even though I should know better because I am one. When you bike, you should be looking out to make sure people are noticing you.

Wear a helmet.

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Starsnuffer
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Most of my classes are in the "Diag" which is basically a city block filled with university buildings which are all interconnected with sidewalks, patios. It is not at all unusual or risky to ride my bike in that area as long as I don't try to go top speed the whole time or something. Going on the road would just be unnecessary. yup..
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Glenn Arnold
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Accidents between bikes and cars happen most often because drivers are unable to anticipate bicycle behavior. The diagrams in the site you linked show how certain behaviors can be difficult to anticipate, such as riding across a street in a crosswalk, or crossing a driveway on the sidewalk.

In my experience, the more you ride your bike like a car drives on the road, the easier it is for drivers to anticipate your behavior, even if it ticks them off sometimes. Remember, you have just as much right to be on the road as they do, and in most states you have the right to take a lane of traffic if there is not room to ride on the right side of the road, or if it's necessary to negotiate an intersection.

This last one is particularly important, because a lot of accidents occur because bicyclists often move toward the right when they cross an intersection because there is no curb alongside them and they instinctively move toward the right to "give cars more room." Unfortunately, this behavior can cause a driver to think it's ok to make a right turn because as the bike moves to the right, it looks like the bicyclist is turning right rather than going straight. The result can be pretty messy.

On the other hand, if you take the lane and cross the intersection, the cars might be ticked that you're slowing their progress, but there isn't any chance of them misunderstanding your intentions. Be sure to catch a glance over your left shoulder and signal a "lane change" before you take the lane. This same approach is also necessary if you're planning on making a left turn, since you shouldn't make a left turn from the right side of the road.

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mr_porteiro_head
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quote:
Honestly, bikes are more of a danger to pedestrians in crosswalks than cars are to bikes, around here.
I've never heard of a pedestrian dying because he got hit by a bike.
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SenojRetep
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I bike through fairly heavy traffic in my brief daily commute. I feel that as long as I use proper hand signals and am unafraid to occasionally force a car to wait for me to go through an intersection ahead of them in their lane (see Glenn's comment above) that I have no problems.

The only accident I've had was riding on a bike path, crossing over a driveway to a gardening shop. The approaching vehicle didn't know there was a bike path, and the foliage prevented him from seeing me until it was too late. If I'd been cautious, it wouldn't have happened (and there were adequate signs on the bike path warning of a dangerous intersection and to stop and check for traffic before proceeding, so I count it as my own fault). I was very glad for my helmet that day.

BYU had a "walk your bike on campus" rule, and campus police gave out citations to people caught riding. It was meant to prevent bike/pedestrian accidents when crossing the busy quad. If you're classes are mostly confined to the space of one city block you might consider just locking it up for the day and walking; it seems that might be safer for you and the pedestrians, and I can't imagine it'd cost you any time over such a short distance.

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rivka
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quote:
Originally posted by Slim:
Bikes have the same rights as a car, and therefore need to follow the same laws.

Which is why what irritates me are the cyclists who alternate taking a lane of traffic (which, as Glenn notes, is their right and usually the safest thing when there isn't a bike lane) and darting in and out of cars, especially at stop lights.

Choose. Either act like a car -- I'll stay behind you without complaint, or pass you if traffic allows -- or like a bike. Don't make me pass you six times in 10 blocks because you want to have it both ways.

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Megan
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What rivka said. Also, don't blow through stop signs/red lights like they don't apply to you, if you're riding on the road. I've seen many near accidents because of that. I'll gladly go slower behind a cyclist who is following the traffic laws.
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rivka
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quote:
Originally posted by Megan:
Also, don't blow through stop signs/red lights like they don't apply to you, if you're riding on the road. I've seen many near accidents because of that. I'll gladly go slower behind a cyclist who is following the traffic laws.

Amen.
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luthe
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Don't ride your bike on the sidewalk. The sidewalk is for pedestrians. You splash muddy water on people, force them to get out of your way, having bicyclists on the sidewalk make it a miserable place to walk. The only things worse than a bicycle on the sidewalk are short people with large umbrellas and excessively speedy motorized wheelchairs.
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The Rabbit
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The study you linked to is absolutely spot on. For adult riders, or really any riders who are skilled enough to keep their bike traveling in a straight line, riding on the side walk is dangerous.

The biggest danger to cyclist is not from over talking cars. It is from cars that are entering the road from side streets, parking lots and driveways. These cars are much less likely to see you if you are on the side walk than if you are in the regular traffic lane. People simply don't expect a fast moving vehicle to be coming down the side walk. What's more, hedges, fences and such frequently block a drivers view of the sidewalk. It is routine for drivers to pull out of a drive way across the side walk and then look for traffic. This generally isn't a big problem for pedestrians who are moving relatively slowly and can stop on a dime. If they aren't in the drivers narrow field of view as he pulls through the fence, they are unlikely to be in front of the car before the car driver has stopped to check traffic. This isn't true for bicycles.

My best recommendations for cycling in traffic are as follows.

1. Be courteous to drivers and follow all traffic laws.
2. Don't ride too close to the right. Right far enough from the curve that you can don't have to swerve in and out to avoid parked cars, car doors, storm drains and other hazards. You are less likely to be hit by an over taking car if you are following a straight path. You are also more likely to be seen by cars entering the road way if you aren't too far to the right. I recommend riding in approximately the place where a cars right wheel would be normally unless there is a clearly marked bike lane.
3. Use hand signals and be very deliberate when you change your path. No arbitrary weaving around.
4. If for some reason you need to use a crosswalk or a sidewalk, get off and push your bike.

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BannaOj
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Here's an article ya'll might find interesting. It's written by a lawyer.
Bikes vs. Cars

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Slim
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So, basically you're saying that to ride on the roads on your campus, you'd have to go out to the edge and bike all the way around to ride on the roads? And you want to know if it's okay to just cut across on your bike?

As SenojRetep implied, many college campuses have laws against biking across campus sidewalks. You should check to see what the rules are at your college.

That being said, my campus didn't enforce it too strictly. I biked past the campus police, and they didn't stop me. But I'm sure they would have if I was a problem.

rivka-- That's scary. I can't even imagine someone darting in and out of cars. Maybe if they were parked across the crosswalk or something....

What with gas prices like they are, I have noticed a lot more people riding bikes. Maybe they should spend more time in Driver's Ed teaching about "Biker's Ed." or something.

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luthe
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Most municipalities have laws about riding on the sidewalk too.
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The Rabbit
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quote:
Originally posted by BannaOj:
Here's an article ya'll might find interesting. It's written by a lawyer.
Bikes vs. Cars

That article made me wonder why there is so much pent up anger in the US. The article attributes it solely to there being more bikes on the road, But in many European countries there are a whole lot more bikes on the road and a whole lot less anger about it. During the exact same time that these road rage incidents were happening in Oregon and Washington (two areas which have historically been among the most cyclist friendly parts of the country), I was bicycle touring in Spain and France. On several occasions, we were riding along narrow roads with fairly heavy traffic. In France there are signs up on the roads saying you must give bikes 1.5 m when you pass. If people couldn't give us that much room, they simply followed behind patiently until they could pass safely. We didn't have a single incident of anyone honking at us, yelling or cursing us or any other signs of anger or rage.

In contrast, when we did our bicycle tour from Bozeman Montana up to Glacier and Waterton, we started out on a busy frontage road that is the only route west out of Bozeman except the freeway. In the 10 miles along that road we suffered near constant cursing from passing cars -- and they could easily pass us without waiting. We weren't riding two abreast, we were following every traffic law and we weren't significantly impeding traffic. At least none of them tried to hit us or run us off the road. Maybe that was because gas prices were still around $1/gallon back then.

So why do you suppose it is that many Americans are so angry over loosing a few seconds time on the road that they consider it justifiable to attack bicyclist with a deadly weapon (i.e. their car)?

Edited to add, In my experience when people easily loose their temper over minor annoyances, I have found that there is usually something more going on. They are suffering from severe depression, they just lost their job, their wife just left them, they just failed an important exam or some such thing. Its an indication that their over all stress levels in life are already over the top. It makes me wonder what is going on in America that makes us so much more prone to irrational rage than our neighbors over the pond.

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Megan
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Note that some cyclists discussed in that article were also displaying some serious rage. Your main point still stands, though.
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BannaOj
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I'm seriously considering getting a velomobile or a recumbent tricycle. $$ is the main problem. They are much better on your back, and I've been getting pretty sore after riding my mountain bike.
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Starsnuffer
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Most of those cases the "serious rage" was an unfortunate comment from the cyclists. Notice the biker who started beating Yates up with a bike was drunk, apparently. Anyway, I think that emphasizes how, even when driving, you're better off being angry alone and not yelling and getting other people angry also, because sometimes they'll be horrible about it and crash into you... if you're on a bike, at least.
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pH
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I don't necessarily keep an eye out for bikes while driving...but I just keep an eye out for moving things in general. People around here like to just step out into the street without caring if there's a car coming their way.

-pH

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