Hi everyone — something happened to me this morning that really scared me AND made me super mad. This post is my way of turning that fear and anger into something positive.
So here’s what happened — I was riding my bike on a residential street where the speed limit is 25 mph. I was going around 20 mph. A guy driving a huge silver SUV (think it was a Ford Expedition or some such) pulled up next to me and got really really close to me — less than a foot — and layed on the horn for what felt like forever but was probably around 10 seconds or so. It was LOUD. Scared me half to death and I twitched but did not swerve. Then he roared away — I tried to catch up to him to get his license number but he was going way too fast.
My heart was pounding — I kept thinking about all the what if’s — what if there had been a pothole and I hit it and swerved in front of him? What if there was broken glass and my tire blew out? What if I wasn’t as experienced of a rider and I’d have swerved in front of him when he first blew the horn?
Then the fear turned to anger — this guy had just endangered my life. I’m a girl on a bike — any vehicle could kill me or seriously injure me if it hit me — much less a huge SUV.
Mind you, there were no cars coming the other way so he could have passed me with no problems. And, bikes are considered vehicles in the state of Texas and it is perfectly legal — and in fact, safer to ride on the road! Now, there were parked cars on the side where I was riding, so I had to ride over from them by 3-4 feet to keep from being “doored” — that’s where you’re riding along and someone opens their door right in front of you — what usually happens is that your bike hits the door and you go flying over the handlebars land hard on the pavement. People get head injuries and broken bones from being doored. I don’t want to get doored.
So here’s how you can help me — help me educate people about bikes. Here’s some facts to pass along:
- Bikes in Texas are considered vehicles and are legal to ride on the road “as far to the right as practicable” — which means that it was perfectly legal for me to ride where I was so that I wouldn’t get doored. Note that most all other states I know of have the same kind of a law.
- Honking a horn like that guy did can endanger a cyclist’s life.
- When passing a cyclist, give them room. At least 3 feet. Cross the center line if you have to, don’t try to squeeze by. If you can’t pass with enough room, wait a few seconds until the situation changes.
And here’s some general info:
- It is safer to ride a bike on the road than on the sidewalk. Sidewalks are for people, not bikes. Cars turning into driveways, shopping plazas, etc don’t look for bikes on sidewalks. Plus bike riders can endanger pedestrians by going too fast.
- When riding a bicycle, you are most likely to get into a car/bike accident when a car is turning. Always watch for turning cars, especially cars who turn right in front of you — the “right hook”.
- Since bikes are vehicles, when riding on the road you should be riding in the same direction as traffic. Two more notes on this point: one is that statistics show that the likelihood of a driver running into you from behind is very very very unlikely. I’ve read it’s 1% of all accidents to even less than 1%. This brings us to point two — head-on collisions are far worse because the speed of the car is ADDED to the speed of the bicycle — far more likely to result in injuries.
- Bikes can go faster than you think. Especially when going downhill. Even more so with tailwinds. It’s hard to judge from a motor vehicle, but going 20 mph on a road bike isn’t that great of a feat.
- Always wear a helmet. Just put it on.
- If you are riding at night, invest in some blinky lights, bright reflective clothing, and be even more alert. Too many times I’ve seen guys wearing all black on a bike without reflectors or lights of any kind — duh.
So what do you do if you see someone riding a bicycle without following these rules? Well, you can try to TALK to him or her about it. It’s probably safer just to let it go. DO NOT HONK AT THEM.
One last thing — I’ve been riding my bike just about every day for 3 years now. Things like this are way out of the norm. I can count on one hand the times someone driving a car has endangered my life. Usually I get waves and smiles. I love my bike, and it has given me so much — it has helped heal my ankle, it’s lowered my blood pressure to around 100/68 (well, doubt it was that low today, ha), it’s helped me lose weight and keep it off, it gives me a great sense of accomplishment and well being, it gives me time to think about things — including designing stamping projects — and it’s all in all made me a better person. No way I will stop riding.
Be safe everyone, and thanks for helping me spread the word about bike safety. Tell everyone you know! And thanks for reading, I feel better after writing this. Still mad, but at least I feel like I’ve done something. Hugs to all — Lisa