Monday, April 16, 2012

Education Priceless When it Comes to Bicycle Safety

First published in the Coloradoan, April 16, 2012 

Why Not Become a League Cycling Instructor?
By Rick Price, Ph.D.

Self-preservation suggests that you should take care of yourself on your 30-pound bike when surrounded by 6,000-pound SUVs.  Part of that care is to anticipate hazards and avoid them.  So I am baffled when I see cyclists who put themselves so blatantly in harm’s way that they are literally crashes waiting to happen.
The cyclists in this photo (westbound on Mountain Avenue at College) are waiting for the light to change.  To be safe they should all be in the center of the lane behind that SUV.  They are putting themselves in a hazardous position, trying to make themselves small, by crowding into the gutter.  They face the hazard of right-turning motor vehicles around them as well as the hazard of fellow cyclists starting out and possibly turning right.  Nobody can interpret where they are headed.  The lesson here is:  get in line with other vehicles sharing the road and wait your turn, whether you are turning right or going straight.

Headed south in the south-bound bike lane on Remington Street I noticed a young woman cyclist across the street headed south in the north-bound bike lane.  I couldn’t resist calling out as we pedaled south together, “you know, what you are doing, riding the wrong way in the bike lane, is the single biggest cause of bike-car crashes in the nation.”   She pedaled on and soon found a safe opportunity to cross over to the correct lane.  I explained that I had spent the morning teaching bike safety to kids and couldn’t resist calling out to her.  She thanked me, told me she knew her behavior was dangerous and illegal, and encouraged me to continue mentioning this to wrong-way riders.

Another day coming off of CSU campus I was east-bound on Laurel Street preparing to turn north onto Howes.  I merged from the bike lane into the left turn lane where I stopped at the light.  A young man eastbound on his bike in the bike lane came to the light, turned left abruptly in the crosswalk in front of five stopped cars, went up onto the sidewalk and headed north along Howes Street

I turned north on Howes when the light changed and in the next block this same cyclist came off the sidewalk and crossed the intersection diagonally to head north in the correct bike lane.  I overtook him at Howes and Mulberry where we both stopped at the light. 

I told him that I teach bicycle safety to kids and adults and asked him if I could deploy a team of videographers to follow him through town to illustrate dangerous cycling behavior.  He said no but he did ask me to tell him how he should have handled that maneuver and admitted that he “hadn’t a clue on how to bicycle in traffic.”  I explained the safest way to handle that situation as we awaited a green light. 

If you “don’t have a clue” on how to bicycle in traffic, here’s a partial solution for your own safety and for the good of the community:  the Bike Co-op is hosting a League Cycling Instructor seminar May 4 -6.  This intense seminar is taught by Preston Tyree, the best bicycle education coach in the country.  The seminar costs $200 and it’s worth every penny.  Help us teach eight hours of safe cycling skills to kids in town and we will refund that fee to you.  The scholarship is made available through the support of the City of Fort Collins’ Safe Routes to School Program.  If you are interested contact me for details.