Riding a bike to and from work is a great way to stay fit and more fun than sitting in traffic in a car. However, if you want to arrive at your desk in one piece, it is important to always pay attention to other road users and be aware of your surroundings.
Having cycled in many different countries over the years, I have encountered a wide variety of motorists, from considerate drivers who give you plenty of room when overtaking to those who hardly notice you are there. The following is a brief list of some of the more common type of accidents that I have witnessed, or been involved in, and how you can avoid them.
- Colliding with a car door – This is one of the most annoying, and often most painful, type of accident that cyclists are involved in every day all around the world. It normally happens when you are riding past a line of parked cars, on either the left or the right, depending on which country you are in. The driver or a passenger opens a door into the road without checking to see whether there is any oncoming traffic first and you ride straight into it with no chance of stopping or swerving to avoid it.
The simplest way to minimize the chances of colliding with a door is always to leave at least 3 feet in between your cycle and any parked cars that you are passing. Although this may mean that you have to stray from the bike lane, it is not illegal and is much safer. A variation on this type of accident and one that has happened to me is when riding through traffic on a multi-lane road. Passengers in a taxi that has stopped at the lights may decide to get out in the middle of the road with no warning and there is very little that you can do about it except to avoid filtering through traffic in such a situation.
- Getting hit by turning cars – This one also depends on the country in which you are cycling. If the traffic is on the left and you are riding on the same side of the road, a driver could pass you and turn without looking to see where you are. The result of such a manoeuvre is that the cyclist usually ends up riding into the side of the car or worse still, is knocked off or run over. A similar situation can arise when riding on the right hand side of the road and a vehicle passes you before turning right.
It is difficult to predict when this might happen, especially if the motorist in question fails to use his or her indicators, but you can minimize the chances of it happening to you by being especially vigilant and paying particular attention to vehicles that pass you and then slow down. With a little practice, you can almost predict what a driver is going to do before they know what they are going to do!
- Being shunted from the rear – Being hit from behind by a car, even if it is only a gentle nudge on your back wheel, can throw you off course and result in serious injuries. This can sometimes happen when the driver in question is not paying attention to the road ahead and fails to brake in time or notice that you are there. However, cyclists that swerve around erratically can increase the odds of this happening to them dramatically so always ride in a straight line and give plenty of notice to other road users when you are about to change your position on the road to avoid being hit from behind.
There are many other dangers on the road that you need to look out for such as pedestrians stepping off the curb without looking. The above examples are those that can have the most serious consequences and that are most easily avoided with minor changes to your riding style.