Saturday, May 16, 2009

I Almost Hit A Bicyclist

I was about to make a right turn onto a five-lane street. There wasn't much traffic, but I waited for it clear, then started my turn. Right in front of me, there was a bicyclist. Going the wrong way. In the dark. Without a helmet. Without a light. I didn't hit him, but I could have. As he bicycled off, I saw he had a red light on the back of the bike. Not much help that does when he's going the wrong way.

A long time ago, it was recommended that you should bike going against traffic. This stupid advice hasn't been given out for a long time. In fact, in Washington State, as in many states, it's illegal to ride against traffic. The King County web site has a good summary.

Here are the essentials:

  • You're harder to see when you're biking the wrong way, both to vehicles in the street and to others.
  • Motorists making a turn don't spend a lot of time looking the wrong way before making their turn. Pedestrians move slowly enough that they are usually spotted easily. Not so with bicyclists.
  • Your speed relative to other traffic is much greater when you ride against traffic, significantly increasing the risk of an accident and the likelihood of injury in an accident.
  • Assume that motorists are not looking out for you, both literally and figuratively. Do everything you can to be visible.
  • Always wear a helmet, but know that it will not save your life in a major accident. Do everything you can to avoid an accident.
  • Use two lights at night -- one in front and one in back. Lights that blink are a good idea. An extra light on your left leg that moves up and down for more visibility is a good idea.
  • Following the law is always a good idea, but it's not enough -- in the vast majority of bicycle accidents, the bicyclists were following the law. It will not do you any good to have been in the right when you're hit.
Further reading
  • is an excellent, quick read with practical advice. Good to read even if you're not a bicyclist.
  • Bicycling Street Smarts is book about "riding confidently, legally, and safely" which is available online.


RobertinSeattle said...

Roy -

Bicyclists seem to be particularly aggressive here in the Pacific Northwest (only Oregon is worse, trust me). I also find some of the pedestrians particularly aggressive (or stupid). If I'm coming down the street doing the posted 30 mph, you do NOT step quickly into the crosswalk without warning (or in the middle of the street for some) and expect me to be able to immediately yield to a pedestrian. What happened to looking both ways?

I understand that Seattle has just passed more punitive fines against drivers and crosswalks. However, I see little on the other side for fines on pedestrians. I know you can't legislate common sense but enforcing some basic rules of the road that pedestrians - and bicyclists - have to follow might make it easier and fairer for all of us.

There seems to be no end to the kind of stupidity we see on the road these days. And it keeps getting worse and worse. Just when you think you've seen it all, another even dumber idiot shows up. I only wish that the Darwin Theory were still allowed to take its natural course.

IkeaPimp said...

Reminds me of an old song my father used to sing:

Meine Oma fahrt Motorrad
Ohne Bremse, ohne Licht
Und die Dumme Polizei
Seht die Renvig nicht


My grandmother rides her motorcycle
Without brakes, without lights
And the stupide policeman
Doesn't see the b**ch