Turns out cars are much like horses - they really don't want to hit you. In talking to people who don't like bikes in the street, most have finally confessed that their actual objection is a fear that they might accidentally hurt a cyclist. So let's all pay attention and give drivers the cues they need to not run over anything 'squishy'.
Given the Opportunity, they really don’t want to hit me
Written by Jeffrey Ferris
published for free in the Boston Bicycle Reflector
I have counseled numerous cyclists and would-be cyclists with this statement over the years. It is an important belief to have for cycling in traffic. It doesn’t mean you can just go out and be oblivious to traffic, but just the opposite! You must actively give drivers the opportunity to not hit you.
The cyclist must be constantly aware of what is going on around him/her and of what is coming. This allows you to be visible and predictable - not invisible or erratic. If a driver doesn’t see me or know what I am going to do, I am at risk. Being seen can mean wearing bright clothes, lights and reflectors at night. It also means not weaving in and out of traffic and the parking lane. A cyclist riding a clear predictable line lets drivers know both where you are and where you are going. Safe biking is not just passively following the rules, but actively using the three C’s: Courtesy, Cooperation, and Communication. Knowing where the cars are is good for your safety, but drivers knowing that you know where they are is important too.
Courtesy means realizing just because you’re righteously saving the earth in a non-motorized vehicle doesn’t mean car drivers aren’t humans trying to get somewhere too. Respect right-of-way, both yours and the drivers. Understand and respect rules-of-the-road, even when you don’t follow them.
Cooperation – Traffic has a certain flow. When you can work with the flow instead of fighting it, everyone is better off.
Communication is much more than arm signals. Turning your head and looking to make eye contact is essential to establishing understanding with drivers. Sometimes its your turn, sometimes theirs. Also body language - I mean indicating your position on the road, not giving the finger.
Follow the 3 C’s and you will be a safer and more respected cyclist with the majority of drivers. It will also make you more prepared to deal with the distracted drivers and the few jerks who don’t want to deal.
More and Safe Cycling,