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The Villages
Thursday, September 28, 2023

How to Bicycle in Traffic (Part 2)

Dave Lawrence
Dave Lawrence

Safely coexisting with all users of our roadways and multi-modal trails is based upon drivers and pedestrians knowing and following the law.  In part 1, I talked about cyclist rights and road position in the traffic lanes and on the shoulders and bike lanes. There are however other things we cyclists can do to keep ourselves safe, like being aware of our surroundings:

Take nothing for granted at intersections.  When you approach an intersection with the intention of proceeding straight ahead, and you have the right of way, look carefully to the left, to the right and back to the left. You have no guarantee that another road user will obey a STOP sign, YIELD sign or traffic signal. Watch for pedestrians, golf cars and other cyclists too.

Beware of motorists making a right turn. Recently, many of the crashes in our area involving a motor vehicle and a bicycle have been in roundabouts. Some impatient motorists will enter the roundabout (attempting to pass a group of cyclists) in the inside (left) lane and want to take the first (right) exit. Cyclists call this a “Right Hook”. The vehicle changing lanes within the roundabout is at fault if such a crash occurs.  On multi-lane roads and particularly in roundabouts, it is important to claim your lane so that a faster moving vehicle overtaking you doesn’t make a right turn across your path. When you are riding as close to the right as possible, you appear to be giving up your right to the road.  Worse yet, that road position makes you less visible to faster moving traffic.

Know and use hand signals when cycling.  When turning, follow the same laws that govern motor vehicles. Position yourself in the correct lane well in advance of the turn, signal your intention (100 feet before the turn) and make a predictable turn while controlling your lane. Like any other driver, be on the lookout for pedestrians.  Here are the hand signals identified in Florida State law:

Signal that you’re slowing or stopping by holding your left hand down with palm facing backward. This simple gesture often works to hold traffic back in potentially unsafe situations as well.

Signal a left turn with left arm straight out to the side.

Signal a right turn by holding the left arm out with your elbow bent up at 90 degrees, or (an alternate right turn) with the right arm straight out to the side.

Beware of car doors and parked golf cars.  When driving your bike in and around the town squares, ride just a bit farther to the left when passing parked cars.  Drivers tend to open their doors after checking for traffic, they may not be looking for cyclists. If you hit a door, your bike will stop immediately, you will not!  If you see someone in the drivers seat, expect the worst, slow and give yourself some distance. Using the  STOP hand signal will warn other drivers that something is up. Keep a close watch for pedestrians positioned between parked golf cars. Most golf cars are fairly tall and may be enclosed making pedestrians impossible to see. Pedestrians usually look for traffic, not bikes, and might step into your path.

When you see a driver stopped at a cross street, attempt eye contact.   A friendly wave (using ALL of your fingers) can be an attention grabber as well.

Earn respect, obey the law and ride big. Motorists are much more likely to treat cyclists with respect if they earn it with patience, courtesy and lawful cycling.  On the other hand, when you ride erratically (roll through stop signs and traffic lights), drivers can’t be blamed for becoming frustrated.  It is also important to ride big (be highly visible when cycling on the roadways).  Always wear a vividly painted, certified helmet and bright clothing.  The circular motion of brightly colored shoes or socks are helpful in catching the eyes of motorists. Finally, use front and rear lights for both day and night rides.  Combined, these simple tips will provide contrast to your surroundings.

Harassment. Every experienced cyclists has stories about close passes and bad behavior of all kinds.  If you are harassed or threatened by a motorist, do whatever it takes to safely survive the situation. The best reaction is to show no reaction. Continue your ride.  Any reaction by you may exacerbate an already tense situation.  However, if harassment is serious or repeated, report the vehicle description and license number to police (911).  One suggestion is to have a high definition movie camera facing forward on your bike.  This has been a solution for me in reporting both crashes and threats.

Need More Information?  Go to www.SLBike.club, place cursor on “Club Info” then in the dropdown box click on “Bike Safety and Health”

The formula for roadway safety:

Knowledge + Predictability + Courtesy = Safer Sharing of our Roadways

Dave Lawrence is the Director of Safety for the Sumter Landing Bicycle Club and is also a League of American Bicyclists, League Cycling Instructor.

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