Eight ways to avoid anti-cyclist road rage and survive in traffic

News reports over the past few months indicate more people are buying bicycles and riding them to work because of high gasoline prices. Maybe you saw the recent Newsweek magazine article about “road rage” incidents involving cyclists and motorists.

In the interest of reducing the chances that you’ll be run down by a motorist, I’m offering these tips for bicycling in traffic (proven effective so far in 14-plus years of road cycling) and avoiding the ire of those who choose to be propelled by internal combustion:

  1. Be visible. That means wear bright colors every time you ride. Use a headlight and blinkers to make sure drivers notice you when it’s dark or getting dark. It’s easy to leave the headlight at home when you take off for an early evening ride, but you don’t know for sure that you’ll be home before dark. You might decide to ride a little farther, stop for ice cream or a beer, or get delayed by a flat tire, a sudden storm or mechanical problem.
  2. Look around. Check both directions before crossing through an intersection — even if you’re crossing a one-way street. A good friend once announced a street was “clear” just before he pulled out in front of a wrong-way driver, who missed him by inches. Fortunately for me, I saw the car before I got in the way. (Don’t take someone else’s word for it that a street is clear, by the way. See for yourself.)
  3. Ride in a straight, predictable line so drivers know what to expect from you. An acquaintance argues against this, on the theory that a motorist coming up from behind will give a weaving rider more room and pass more carefully. I’m afraid I’ll read about him in the newspaper some day after he gets run over.
  4. Ride in the bike lane if there is one. Some argue that bike lanes don’t make riding safer, but if there are designated bike lanes that’s where motorists will expect to see you. Use them.
  5. Use a mirror — always. Check it frequently for traffic coming up behind you. Get in the habit of glancing in the mirror every few seconds.
  6. Be ready to bail out. When you look in your mirror and see that a motorist overtaking you isn’t going to go around, get off the road. Quickly. Even if you crash in the ditch, you’ll more likely to be able to get back on the bike than if a speeding car ends your riding days permanently.
  7. Obey the law. In my experience, few things anger motorists more than seeing cyclists flout the law by ignoring stop signs and red lights. If you expect motorists to follow the rules of the road, it makes sense that you should do the same. It’s safer for everyone.
  8. Wear a helmet.

Pedal on.

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