You've probably heard it said that when driving a car, it is best
to anticipate the actions of fellow motorists. The same holds true
when you are bicycling. Few skills are more important to your survival
than "anticipation," which means watching as well as listening for
road and traffic hazards.
Ninety percent of all crashes involve conditions that are in front of
you. So you need to look ahead. Does your travel lane narrow? Does the
edge of the pavement get worse? Does your travel lane divide into two
lanes or does it merge with another lane? Will that car up ahead pull
out of its driveway? Are there any cars approaching on side streets?
You need to keep an eye on what's going on and think about where you'll
be in 10 seconds, a minute, a couple of minutes. Often you can spot trouble
well before it reaches you. And when you see potential hazards in time, you
can avoid getting into trouble altogether.
If you pay attention to where you are on the road and what lies ahead,
you can avoid falling or colliding. This is especially true when riding
with other cyclists, as on club rides. Notice whether there are potholes,
grates, sand, paint lines, etc. ahead.
If you see these hazards well enough in advance, you can do something to
safely avoid falling and possibly taking another rider down with you.
You also need to keep an ear on what's going on around you. Listen for
audio clues that warn of approaching traffic and whether approaching
vehicles are slowing down (an indicator that they may be turning). You
need to hear when other riders give audible warnings - "Car up!" "Car
back!" "Loose gravel!" "Dog approaching!"
You need to be able to hear what's going on around you while you ride.
That's why it's illegal to wear headphones in most jurisdictions. Beyond
obeying the law, for your own safety, leave the headphones at home.
Being aware of potential road and traffic hazards gives you the opportunity
to take appropriate action. Being predictable - following the same rules
of the road as motorists - and being visible are your keys to safety -
together with awareness of your surroundings.
Reprinted from "Bicycle USA", magazine of the League of American
Bicyclists. Effective CyclingTM.
For more information about the League of American Bicyclists, visit
their web site, www.bikeleague.org,
or e-mail them at firstname.lastname@example.org.