Tuesday, September 19, 2006

biking: be visible and predictable

this past weekend i went to a free, 4 hour classroom course on bike safety. i want to get into biking and want to do it safely here in san francisco, so i thought a class on safety would be a good start. the class was offered by the san francisco bicycle coalition, and it was fantastic.

this article from 2005 in the sf chronicle gives a good overview of what i learned (in fact, my instructor is quoted in the article). i want to emphasize one quote, because when i rode a bike in palo alto for a summer i did not do this at all, and neither did many bikers on the road:
Ride like a car: A baseline concept is taken from an old manual, "Cyclists fare best when they act and are treated as drivers of vehicles." This creates visibility and predictability for cyclists. They signal, obey traffic laws, and when they need to do so, take over a lane.
the key point here is being visible and predictable. i was always afraid to drive out in the car lane, or two close to moving cars but in fact most bicycle accidents happen when the cyclist is too close to parked cars, or moves in an erratic manner. moving cars will avoid cyclists and do a good job of it if the cyclist is acting predictably.

this saturday i have the second day of my course, which is out on the road. i'm afraid, because it's one thing to say this and listen to it, it's another thing to implement it on the road. i'm in a state of intimidation right now, which hopefully i can overcome:

"An urban cyclist goes through three stages," says Bert Hill, who teaches clinics for the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition at police stations around the city.

"First, you're intimidated. You try to find out rules and follow them," Hill said. "The second occurs when you gain some mastery, and discover freedom of movement. But that can grow a little too heady, and lead to mistakes. The third follows all that, after you realize you are an ambassador for cycling. What you do changes the world where you ride."


James said...

It seems everyone these days are getting into biking and I'm pondering if I should do the same. However I have this nasty vision of me getting knocked over by a pickup truck or something...

Edward said...

Congratulations, Omar! The very best way to overcome the intimidation you're feeling is through education. That's the whole point of the bicycling education program. It gives the cofidence necessary for riding safely and comfortably on all our roads.

Have fun!