Top 5 Dangerous Situations to Avoid While Cycling in Urban Areas September 28 2017, 2 Comments

How dangerous is bicycle riding? After all, it is one of the cheapest, healthiest, and most eco-friendly ways to get from point A to point B — how bad could it be? 

According to a 2015 study done by the US Department of Transportation, that answer could be “very”. 2015 saw the highest rates of cycling crash deaths since 1994, as well as over 50,000 cycling-related injuries across the country. Almost 70% of these crashes occurred in urban areas, which house one of the greatest hazards to cyclists: cars.


To keep yourself safest on your next ride, look below to learn the top 5 dangerous situations for urban cyclists and how to avoid them.



1) Right Hook 

Problem: Sometimes it is the fault of the driver, who passes you on the left and doesn’t see you before hooking to the right and cutting you off. Sometimes it is the fault of the cyclist, who tries passing a car on the right and is unaware that it is making a right turn, leading to an unfortunate collision. Regardless of the cause, right hooks usually come when you least expect them.


Solution: In the latter scenario, the best advice you can follow is to never pass on the right. While it may seem necessary when riding behind slow cars, try to resist the urge. This maneuver takes place in dangerous blind spot territory, and is never worth the risk. As for the former scenario, try your best to keep a safe distance from passing cars, watch out for blinkers, and make yourself as noticeable as possible. Bright helmets, neon riding gear, and headlamps are all great ways to do this.



2) Getting Doored

Problem: More often than not, riders are carrying along a road to the left of a string of parked cars, feeling safe as can be with no active drivers on their left. Suddenly, a driver’s side door pops open from a parked car, and the cyclist runs full speed into an unexpected, painful wall of metal. But how can you know which parked cars are safe to ride by, and which aren't?


Solution: You can’t. While the majority of parked cars are safe to pass, all it takes is one distracted passenger failing to look behind them to lead to a painful crash. As a general rule of thumb, be sure to ride further to the left than you normally do, even when beside parked cars. Around 4 feet of space should be enough to ensure that, even if a door opens, you will be out of its range.



3) Left Cross

Problem: Riders often find themselves passing by small crosswalks and side streets on a main road. It is in these instances, or occasionally in busy intersections, where a driver fails to notice a cyclist when making a left turn, resulting in an unfortunate collision into the side of a vulnerable bike.


Solution: As mentioned above, staying visible is a vital part to bike riding, if you are not in possession of vibrant (preferably neon) riding gear, doing so will drastically increase your chances of being seen. Be sure to ride further behind the car in front of you than you normally would to keep other cars from blocking your line of sight. And, in general, try to stay as aware as possible of other cars, especially those who are least likely to notice you (such as those making left turns).



4) Getting Rear-Ended

Problem: Many riders fear rear-end collisions most, since it involves cars hitting your bicycle that you never even get the chance to avoid. However, the majority of rear-ends are caused by outside obstacles that force a cyclist to swerve or slow down unexpectedly, resulting in an unfortunate crash.


Solution: It can be scary to encounter things like potholes or unexpected debris while riding your bike. However, try to train your instincts to respond to these hazards in a more reliable way. No matter what, be sure to never swerve your bike to the left when avoiding road hazards — swerving right (or even stopping in place, in an emergency) is preferable to swerving further into traffic. Remember that hand signals can also be used to signal drivers to move around you, should an obstacle arise.



5) Trucks and Large Vehicles 

Problem: Trucks can be dangerous to all vehicles on the road, but especially bicycles. Their size and lack of fast braking/turning ability makes them difficult to maneuver around. In addition, their blind spot is much larger than a normal car, making it risky to even cycle near or behind them.


What You Can Do: Cyclists should always do their best to keep their distance from trucks. If you know a common route is prone to freight vehicles, try to find an alternate route with less threat of large vehicles. If riding next to a truck is absolutely necessary, do your best to ride far behind them and never on the right. Should you worry about a truck turning or slowing, remember that you can always pull off to the sidewalk and let a risky situation pass before continuing your ride.

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