On one of my recent early morning rides in the dark I realized again that a lot of my safety depends on my skills (or the lack thereof) of anticipating the mistakes others might make. As beautiful as it is riding in the dark, cutting through the icy air and having a frozen face while you see the sun slowly rising, it is dangerous at that time of the day: While I am only yawning for the first 15 minutes of an early morning ride, I have to assume that many drivers are the same: they have just gotten up, way too early, are driving their car half asleep, are possibly trying to handle that cup of coffee they managed to make before leaving the house, and are reminiscing about last night’s braai. Or worse, the driver who has been partying all night and is on his way home: a solo cyclist’s flashing red rear light instantly beams him back into the club he has just left.
While I try to be aware of them all the time, I have learnt that a few situations are almost predictable – so I am extremely careful when:
Approaching a traffic light with a slip lane turning left, while I want to go straight. Without doubt and no matter where you position yourself approaching the traffic light, drivers tend to over take you and then cut in just in front of you in order to turn, often underestimating your speed. Try and make eye contact but don’t swerve while looking over your shoulders. Indicate where you are going. Assume that cars are going to cut in in front of you, so maybe reduce speed earlier than you normally would when approaching traffic lights.
Long steep and curvy ascents: If you know Vissershoek in Cape Town, you will know what I am talking about: you are a very slow obstacle on the left of the road, easily overtaken, if there is no oncoming traffic. However, if cars are coming your way, drivers behind you tend to forget that you also require space while they squeeze closer and closer to you, trying to avoid the oncoming car speeding down the hill. Try and stick to the left, ride in a straight line despite your slow speed.
Traffic circles: Despite indicating where you want to go (by hand signal) and despite flashing light, I have realized that at traffic circles many drivers are either unaware of the right of way rules or simply don’t see you. Seeing how many drivers cut in front of cars, it is no surprise that the same happens while you are on your bike. On my last ride I had a car cutting right in front of me and the driver, even though merely 2 metres away hasn’t seen me. Try and be as defensive as possible, there is no point in trying to claim your right of way.
Private driveways: more dangerous than intersections, because cars tend to reverse halfway into the road before they can see you. Intersections you can anticipate, driveways are just dangerously hidden. Try and watch out for open gates or garages and car lights shining into the road. Don’t swerve without checking traffic behind you.
Let me know if you have further tips! Safe cycling.
- Traffic circles bad: cycle tracks good (stephenrees.wordpress.com)