How to Improve Your Chances of Surviving Riding a Bicycle on Our Roads

The following are a few of the lessons I’ve learned that allow me to survive riding a bike in Pinellas County, one of the most heavily populated counties in the country:

1. Be courteous, courteous, courteous, even when the driver may not have earned it. Too many times, we cyclists are very willing to give a hand gesture to a motorist who displeases us. Rather, try to cultivate a bicycle culture of civility to all drivers: you will be surprised how many will respond in kind.
2. When group riding, never swarm a motor vehicle. Some may wonder what this means: when a group approaches a stopped vehicle, normally at a controlled intersection, many cyclists will pass on either side of the vehicle to gain a little bit of space. The effect is to virtually surround the stopped car. It can be terrifying to the driver; and it without a doubt will not endear cyclists to that driver in the future.
3. Whenever at a red light, where there is any other vehicle in the area, do not roll or run that light: the driver seeing you do that maneuver may just be one of your jurors if the time ever comes where you are in court for injuries from a vehicle/cycle accident. Even where the accident was clearly not your fault, anyone on that jury with a bad past experience with cyclists will punish you. May not be fair, but it is reality.
4. If in a large group, where the first quarter of the group has passed the intersection when the light turns red, that does not give the other three quarters of the group license to continue through the intersection, blocking drivers with a green light. I know the concerns for stopping by the cyclists; that’s why we all have big voices. Use them. If you think about it, angering drivers of vehicles that weigh 200 times your bicycle makes no sense. While they may not hit you, many will “punish” you in the future with a brush back pass. While not legal, no one should ever want to be “dead right.”
Common sense and courtesy on the road is not only good practice, it could save your life or the life of another cyclist. Even if you are a large, big-voiced, intimidating cyclist (No John S., I’m not referring to you), by your immature actions towards a driver, you may be setting the stage for another cyclist’s nightmare. Let’s work harder to be friends of motorists; let’s work harder to cultivate favor with the motorists with whom we have no choice but to cohabit our streets. We may never win over some motorists, but we must continually try to be good users of our roads and to show others cyclists that we can be safe, law-abiding participants in our society.

The Need to Protect Yourself When Cycling: Create and Keep Your Own Evidence

Crashes while riding your bicycle are a fact of life. Unfortunately, so are crashes with motor vehicles. The roads are not fair to us. Neither is the “fairness” of police officers investigating bicycle/car accident cases objectively. We all have read articles that seem to suggest the cyclist was at least partly at fault, even when in a legally designated lane, and struck from behind. Police are much more likely to not issue a citation to the motorist, where had both vehicles been motorized, there would not be such hesitation. We all have to be aware that it is not a level playing field when you are hit on your bicycle; you will more likely than not be blamed; and, where it appears you are not at fault, the driver still will not be cited.

What can be done to right this wrong? Education of the police? Sure. Better education of motorists? Sure. But, in the meantime, what you can do to better be able to show you did no wrong? Have the proper gear necessary to prove your innocence. What gear is that? Cameras. Yes, have a video camera on your front bars, and another on your rear seatpost. Make your own evidence, and then hope you never need it. Video mutes almost every motorist’s claim that “he came out of nowhere,” or “he swerved right into me,” or, “the sun blinded me,” or “the cyclist struck me, not the other way around.”

It’s my belief that cameras, front and rear facing, are a necessity if you are going to ride Florida roads. Unlike the driver who just tried to “buzz” you and denies it when asked, the camera documents reality.

There are numerous options: Garmin, Cycliq, Shimano, and numerous others make these products. While not cheap, they can save you many times their cost if you are the victim of a negligent or malignant driver, one who goes out of his or her way to scare, injure, or kill you. The Cycliq products are especially functional, providing not only video and audio, but also accident preventing lights in the same package. This product automatically begins overwriting when the memory is full. It also has automatic save functions if an accident occurs, preventing the valuable evidence from being inadvertently discarded.

I’ve handled several cycling accident cases where the video made the difference between having a case or not. In one current case, the video could prove invaluable in showing the driver didn’t turn on her turn signal until already making the turn, thereby giving no adequate warning to the cyclist before striking the bicycle.

Christmas is not too far away. Ask for the best Christmas gift a cyclist can have this year: cameras for the bike.

Be safe out there.