Bike Safety – Country Roads

May 20, 2010 | Rural Bike Safety, See Me Bike Safety
Bicycle Riding and safety on Country Roads

We are starting this blog to encourage cyclists to send in their safety ideas and their thoughts about bicycle safety.  We want this to be a forum for every aspect of bike safety.  We’ll publish all helpful and thoughtful comments, but no rants or raves or name calling or nonsense.

We will also provide the names of helpful websites about bike safety.  An excellent site is, by Michael Bluejay.  If you ride in town,  this site contains helpful, practical information on safety.

My riding is almost entirely on two lane country roads in rural North Carolina, it’s a lot different from town riding.  Whatever your situation, if you have ideas about bicycle safety, we want to hear from you.  Here’s what I have learned on rural roads.

First, three basic assumptions:

1.  You always ride with traffic – on the right side.
2.  You use a mirror all the time.  My buddy uses one that clips on his glasses; I use a larger one on the drop bars.  Whatever…use a mirror.
3.  Never ride with ear buds listening to music or anything else.  Your hearing is a critical safety factor.

There are two theories about where and how a cyclist should position himself on the road in relation to motor vehicles.

● The ‘command the lane’ theory says that you should not ride on the extreme right side of the lane but in at least 1/3 of the way toward the white line.  This forces drivers behind you to make a conscious effort to pass you, and discourages drivers from trying to squeeze past when a vehicle is approaching from in front.  I feel this approach can annoy drivers who you hold up.  I don’t want a driver getting annoyed with me, ever.

● The other theory calls for staying as close to the right shoulder as possible so as not to hold up a driver.  Of course, this may encourage drivers to squeeze by when there is a car coming.

●  I just don’t feel comfortable in the middle of the lane watching a car approach in my mirror.  I have tried it but don’t like riding that way.

●  I believe in the ‘make em love you’ strategy.  When you talk to drivers who don’t ride their frustration is clear.  We are an annoyance, we’re in their way, we’re arrogant and a damned nuisance.  They really hate group rides with cyclists three abreast in a long line, forcing them to follow along at 15 mph until they get a long enough straightaway to pass.  These are valid complaints which I try to address on my rides.

My whole strategy is to make the driver see me as a friendly, helpful human being instead of an anonymous pain-in-the-butt road hazard.

When there is no traffic coming, my buddy and I ride side by side.  But when we see a vehicle in the mirror we call out ‘car back’ and ride in single file.  When the driver slows up behind us because of a blind corner or hillcrest, the second we see the road ahead is clear we wave them by.  We give them a great big ‘come on by’ wave with the left arm, and give them a salute and call out “Thank You”, when they pass.  You’ll be amazed how often you get a return wave.  You’re no longer an anonymous rider; this simple act has transferred you into a courteous, helpful, friendly human being.

Help the driver get safely by you and acknowledge your thanks for their consideration in slowing down behind you.  We all know you have every right to be on the road and all that.  But it’s a weak argument when you make it from a hospital bed.  Be courteous to every driver and always acknowledge their return courtesy.  Become a friendly, considerate rider who is trying to help them get where they are going faster and easier – don’t be an impediment.  It’s simple, but I have found it helps.

So what do you think?  How do you deal with cars, dogs, other riders.  We want and need to hear from you.  Is my strategy nuts?  Great, tell us why in a rational, logical way.  Let’s all work together to be safer.

Thanks and start the emails coming.

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