Cars turn into your path. Be ready.

Tuscola 072

Or maybe even tractors turn into your path? Actually no; as we were riding across Indiana (in 2007) we passed the tractor.

But the most common bike-vehicle accidents involve cars turning left into you, or they make a right turn into you. Why? Because they simply do not notice us or realize our speed.

I think in the case of a car turning left into us, it’s because they just don’t notice us. They are not accustomed to paying attention to cyclists coming toward them way over there across the road. Their eyes are looking only for big cars more directly in front of them, and if they don’t see any, they whip the left. If we’re suddenly right in their path, it’s too late.

In the case of a car making a right turn, I believe it’s because they are not paying attention to our speed. Subconsciously, the driver assumes bicycles creep along at 8 or 9 mph and as soon as they pass us, their brains register that we are far behind them. Once they begin their turn, they are no longer even aware of us speeding along at 16 to 20-something mph.

What can a cyclist do? He/she must be ready for the worst to happen! A cyclist must ALWAYS maintain “situational awareness”. It has happened to me many times, and fortunately I have seen it coming and I have been able to either turn right in the case of a left turner, or stop in the case of a right turner.

Usually it’s the vehicle’s speed that gives him away. If he’s coasting or slightly slowing, he’s probably getting ready for a turn. Assume he is! For a potential left turner, sometimes you can see where he’s looking and he gives away that he’s about to turn. With right turners, they always have to slow down and you must be watching for it and stop (or slow WAY down) when you see this happen. I think seeing a right turner getting ready is lots easier than with a left turner.

Cyclists must ride defensively

One reason fast cyclists are not sufficiently aware of these reckless turners is because they are focused on their speed and effort, as if in a race. They are not riding defensively, but are concerned about their performance. (Or, they are simply not maintaining situational awareness regarding a 150-lb bike among 4000-lb cars). Cyclists MUST be ready to slow or stop and relinquish their hoped-for performance stats for the ride. Better to complete a slightly slower ride than end up in a hospital.

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