Suburban Assault

The Invisible Cyclist

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Invisible Cyclist

No, I’m not talking about the class of cyclist who, for whatever the reason, HAS to ride their bikes, instead of choosing to ride bikes—those who I feel are usually under-represented by mainstream advocacy efforts. That’s a topic for another post.

Right now, I’m referencing the guy in the picture. I noticed him heading down a pretty major arterial road, while I was taking one of my early morning walks. I know it’s a bad shot, but can you tell what he might be doing poorly? He’s got lights. He’s wearing a helmet. Do you think he is riding safely?

Quite frankly, what he’s doing isn’t enough. As an League Cycling Instructor, I try to lead by example and strive to be the most visible that I can be on the road – at any time of the day. I wish others would do the same.

Let’s start with his lighting. He has head and tail lights, but they were less than substantial and other road users could barely see them. This cyclist seems to have a false sense of security, thinking his rear light is enough. I prefer lights that are much brighter – and in multiples if possible. Along with having good lights, I like to have retroreflective elements. Although retroreflective gear is only as good as their placement, and the lighting that shines on it, every little bit adds up to supplement even the worse tail lights. I have reflective material on my helmet, my ankles, my backpack and on my bike.

Let’s talk about his clothing. It’s been stated that high-vis colors aren’t as effective at night. I’ve noticed that the best time to use those colors is during the early morning or dusk hours. They are also good during inclement weather, when the color spectrum of your environment becomes a dull range of gray. High-vis clothing wouldn’t have helped him too much at this moment, but it also wouldn’t hurt.

Finally, let’s talk about his lane position. In my town, a cyclist has the right to take the full lane, as long as it’s less than 15 feet wide. I know there is a school-of-thought out there, where cyclist feel safer being closer to the curb. They feel it puts them in a better defensive position to get out of the way if danger comes from behind. The problem with taking this position, is that it forces the need to ride defensively. Riding next to the curb reduces the ability for other road users – coming from any direction – to see you from further away. Being a defensive rider, who is mindful of your surrounding is good. However, adding a better, more visible, posture on the road helps give other road users more time to react, which reduces the need for defense.

I also noticed several cars passing this guy in his lane. Being so close to the curb was an invitation for cars to share the lane while they overtook him. Taking the lane reduces this, forcing cars to leave your lane when passing.

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One Response

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  1. AS an LCI, if you were teaching the invisible guy in Ocean Shores, how would you approach how he should deal with 10.040.10G? And how does your rear light observation match up with OS 10.50.10A which REQUIRES a rear reflector (a bright rear light may not comply unless it is also a qualified reflector)? Both laws may be found through http://dfwptp.blogspot.com/2013/12/tale-of-two-cities.html

    The point is that safety and law don’t always match. I use a rear reflector AND two rear lights, but rarely avoid riding if no high vis is available.

    Steve A

    May 1, 2015 at 9:31 am


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