Be a Defensive Bicyclist: Tips to Avoid Bicyclist-Motorist Accidents

Many people enjoy riding their bikes during the few months of nice weather that we get in Michigan. While it is true that bicyclists have as much of a right to the road as cars, bicycles and vehicles are still a dangerous mix. I am definitely not suggesting that it isn’t the responsibility of motorists to follow appropriate safety rules when on the road with bicyclists. However, cars are simply bigger—they can obviously cause more harm than someone on a bike can to a car. Thus, it’s up to you, as a cyclist, to keep yourself safe. The best way to accomplish this is to assume that motorists cannot see you. In addition, avoid the following seven common motorist-bicycle situations (pdf):

The wrong-way wreck: if you’re driving against traffic, drivers aren’t going to expect to see you and probably won’t look for you. Always ride with the flow of traffic, and yield to the right-of-way cars.

The right hook: a car passes you, and then attempts to make a right turn, cutting you off and possibly hitting you. To avoid this situation, don’t ride on the sidewalk. Instead, stay further to the right in the driving lane, get a handle bar or helmet mirror, and check carefully before riding out into intersections.

The rear end: this situation occurs when you try to move to the left to go around something in the road and get hit from behind. To avoid this, always look behind you or in your mirror before moving left. Also, don’t ride in the parking lane and then merge back into the driving lane. Always be predictable in your patterns—just like motorists should be—and signal before making any major lane changes or other big moves.

Red light danger: when stopped at a red light, never sit to the right of a car. The car could turn right into you when the light turns green (don’t rely on motorists to signal, you can never be certain they will always do so). Instead, always sit in the middle of the lane, directly behind or in front of other cars while waiting for the light to change.

The door prize: it is much more common than you might think for bicyclists to run into a suddenly opened car door. Again, the further left you are in your lane, the better the chance you have of avoiding this situation.

The left cross: this situation occurs when a car turns left into your path and cuts you off. Cyclists should always slow down at intersections and make themselves visible by wearing bright clothing, using headlights, and by making eye contact with drivers. If you can’t make eye contact, shout.

Hopefully, these tips will help ensure your safety while enjoying your bicycle ride. Remember, always be a defensive driver, whether in your car or on your bicycle.