5 More ways not to get hit by a car on an electric bike

By September 2, 2009July 7th, 2018Ask Optibike!, Fitness, Health, Optibike News, Weight loss

Collision type #6: The Left Cross


A car coming towards you makes a left turn right in front of you, or right into you. This is similar to #1.

How to avoid this collision:

1. Don’t ride on the sidewalk. When you come off the sidewalk to cross the street, you’re invisible to turning motorists.

2. Get a headlight. If you’re riding at night, you should absolutely use a front headlight. It’s required by law in most countries, anyway.

3. Wear something bright, even during the day. It may seem silly, but bikes are small and easy to see through even during the day. Yellow or orange reflective vests really make a big difference. Reflective leg bands are also easy and inexpensive.

4. Don’t pass on the right. Don’t overtake slow-moving vehicles on the right. Doing so makes you invisible to left-turning motorists at intersections. Passing on the right means that the vehicle you’re passing could also make a right turn right into you, too.

5. Slow down. If you can’t make eye contact with the driver (especially at night), slow down so much that you’re able to completely stop if you have to. Sure, it’s inconvenient, but it beats getting hit.

Collision Type #7: The Rear End


You innocently move a little to the left to go around a parked car or some other obstruction in the road, and you get nailed by a car coming up from behind.

How to avoid this collision:


1. Never, ever move left without looking behind you first. Some motorists like to pass cyclists within mere inches, so moving even a tiny bit to the left unexpectedly could put you in the path of a car. Practice holding a straight line while looking over your shoulder until you can do it perfectly. Most new cyclists tend to move left when they look behind them, which of course can be disastrous.

2. Don’t swerve in and out of the parking lane if it contains any parked cars. You might be tempted to ride in the parking lane where there are no parked cars, dipping back into the traffic lane when you encounter a parked car. This puts you at risk for getting nailed from behind. Instead, ride a steady, straight line in the traffic lane.

3. Use a mirror. If you don’t have one, go to a bike shop and get one now. There are models that fit on your handlebars, helmet, or glasses, as you prefer. You should always physically look back over your shoulder before moving left, but having a mirror still helps you monitor traffic without constantly having to look behind you.

Collision type #8: The Rear End, Part 2


A car runs into you from behind. This is what many cyclists fear the most, but it’s not the most common kind of accident (except maybe at night, or on long-distance rides outside the city). However, it’s one of the hardest collisions to avoid, since you’re not usually looking behind you. The best way to avoid this one is to ride on very wide roads or in bike lanes, or on roads where the traffic moves slowly.

How to avoid this collision:

1. Get a rear light. If you’re riding at night, you absolutely should use a flashing red rear light. Bruce Mackey (formerly of Florida, now head of bike safety in Nevada) says that 60% of bike collisions in Florida are caused by cyclists riding at night without lights. In 1999, 39% of deaths on bicycles nationwide occurred between 6 p.m. and midnight. [USA Today, 10-22-01, attributed to the Insurance Institute for highway safety]

Bike shops have red rear blinkies for $15 or less. These kind of lights typically take two AA batteries, which last for months (something like 200 hours). I can’t stress this item enough: If you ride at night, get a rear light!

2. Wear a reflective vest or a safety triangle. High quality reflective gear makes you a lot more visible even in the day time, not just at night. I had a friend ride away from me while wearing one during the day, and when she was about a quarter mile away, I couldn’t see her or her bike at all, but the vest was clearly visible. At night the difference is even greater. Bike shops have vests and triangles for $10 to $15. Also, when you hear a motorist approaching, straightening up into a vertical position will make your reflective gear more noticeable.

3. Choose wide streets. Ride on streets whose outside lane is so wide that it can easily fit a car and a bike side by side. That way a car may zoom by you and avoid hitting you, even if they didn’t see you!

4. Choose slow streets. The slower a car is going, the more time the driver has to see you. I navigate the city by going through neighborhoods. Learn how to do this.

5. Use back streets on weekends. The risk of riding on Friday or Saturday night is much greater than riding on other nights because all the drunks are out driving around. If you do ride on a weekend night, make sure to take neighborhood streets rather than arterials.

6. Get a mirror. Get a mirror and use it. If it looks like a car doesn’t see you, hop off your bike and onto the sidewalk. Mirrors cost $5-15. Trust me, once you’ve ridden a mirror for a while, you’ll wonder how you got along without it. My paranoia went down 80% after I got a mirror. If you’re not convinced, after you’ve used your mirror for a month, take it off your bike and ride around and notice how you keep glancing down to where your mirror was, and notice how unsafe you feel without it.

7. Don’t hug the curb. This is counter-intuitive, but give yourself a little space between yourself and the curb. That gives you some room to move into in case you see a large vehicle in your mirror approaching without moving over far enough to avoid you. Also, when you hug the curb tightly you’re more likely to suffer a right cross from motorists who can’t see you.

Collision Type #9: The Crosswalk Slam


You’re riding on the sidewalk and cross the street at a crosswalk, and a car makes a right turn, right into you. Cars aren’t expecting bikes in the crosswalk, so you have to be VERY careful to avoid this one

How to avoid this collision:

1. Get a headlight. If you’re riding at night, you should absolutely use a front headlight. It’s required by law, anyway.

2. Slow down. Slow down enough that you’re able to completely stop if necessary.

3. Don’t ride on the sidewalk in the first place. Crossing between sidewalks can be a fairly dangerous maneuver. If you do it on the left-hand side of the street, you risk getting slammed as per the diagram. If you do it on the right-hand side of the street, you risk getting slammed by a car behind you that’s turning right. You also risk getting hit by cars pulling out of parking lots or driveways. These kinds of accidents are hard to avoid, which is a compelling reason to not ride on the sidewalk in the first place.

And another reason not to ride on the sidewalk is that you’re threatening to pedestrians. Your bike is as threatening to a pedestrian as a car is threatening to you. Finally, riding on the sidewalk is illegal in some places. (In Austin, those places are the Drag, and downtown on 6th St. and on Congress). If you do plan on riding on sidewalks, do it slowly and EXTRA carefully, ESPECIALLY when crossing the street between two sidewalks.

Collision Type #10: The Wrong Way Wallop


You’re riding the wrong way (against traffic, on the left-hand side of the street). A car makes a right turn from a side street, driveway, or parking lot, right into you. They didn’t see you because they were looking for traffic only on their left, not on their right. They had no reason to expect that someone would be coming at them from the wrong direction.

Even worse, you could be hit by a car on the same road coming at you from straight ahead of you. They had less time to see you and take evasive action because they’re approaching you faster than normal (because you’re going towards them rather than away from them). And if they hit you, it’s going to be much more forceful impact, for the same reason. (Both your and their velocities are combined.)

How to avoid this collision:

1)  Don’t ride against traffic. Ride with traffic, in the same direction.

Riding against traffic may seem like a good idea because you can see the cars that are passing you, but it’s not. Here’s why:

Cars which pull out of driveways, parking lots, and cross streets (ahead of you and to the left), which are making a right onto your street, aren’t expecting traffic to be coming at them from the wrong way. They won’t see you, and they’ll plow right into you.

How the heck are you going to make a right turn?

Cars will approach you at a much higher relative speed. If you’re going 15mph, then a car passing you from behind doing 35 approaches you at a speed of only 20 (35-15). But if you’re on the wrong side of the road, then the car approaches you at 50 (35+15), which is 250% faster! Since they’re approaching you faster, both you and the driver have lots less time to react. And if a collision does occur, it’s going to be ten times worse.

Riding the wrong way is illegal and you can get ticketed for it. Bruce Mackey says that 25% of cycling collisions are the result of the cyclist riding the wrong way.

There’s one possible exception to riding the wrong way. When you’re riding in the country on narrow, high-speed roads, it may be helpful to ride against traffic so you can see what you’re up against. Compared to city traffic, country traffic is likely to have less roadspace for bikes and cars to share. That being the case, riding the wrong way allows you to bail into the shoulder if a car doesn’t see you. You don’t have problem #1 above because side traffic is rare, and #2 is avoided because you’re riding primarily along one road and not turning right.

Country traffic is more likely to be sparse, which means that you may have the ability to switch to the “correct” side of the road when a car approaches you from ahead. I did a 100-mile ride with a friend once, continually switching from the left-hand side of the road to the right-hand side depending on whether traffic was approaching us from ahead or behind, since a vehicle passed us only once every several minutes — but when it passed us, it was doing 70mph+, and we wanted to be as far away from it as we could. But remember that vehicles will still approach you faster when you ride the wrong way, and it’s still illegal. It’s your choice.

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