Bart Haynes here in sunny San Diego, delivering you a list of the biggest dangers of cycling. Cycling is dangerous, there’s no question. Any serious cyclist has had their share of close calls, or worse, has actually had dangerous collisions. I have never made a list before, but a conversation with a non-cyclist friend (NCF) the other day made me think about this:
NCF: Bart, I don’t know how you can stand cycling.
Bart: What are you talking about?
NCF: People get slammed into all the time. One of my coworkers died years ago while biking.
Bart: It’s not that dangerous. I mean, there are some dangers, sure, but…
NCF: You were just telling me last time we talked about almost slamming into the back of a car that cut you off
Bart: Point taken.
So I decided to make a list of the biggest danger I’ve experienced cycling. Here is my top list.
Cyclists with chips on their shoulder
Without question, my experience has been that the greatest danger for cyclists in general are cyclists who have a chip on their shoulder, and think they are entitled to the road.
- Makes cyclists look bad
- Makes drivers want to retaliate to that behavior
- Makes drivers angry
In short, it makes drivers angry, vengeful, with low respect for cyclists. Those are not the makings of good company, and cyclists and drivers need to be on excellent terms. Just look at cities with good biking cultures, such as Mercer Island, WA, and cities with bad biking cultures (I won’t name names). The difference in cyclist behavior is tangible.
Good practice: be nice to everyone.
Drivers with chips on their shoulders
This one hardly needs mentioning. Some drivers think that they shouldn’t have to share the road with cyclists. This results in stupid behavior, some examples I have personally experienced are:
- Driver purposefully hugging the edge of the road, inches from my bike
- Driver pretending to swerve at me
- Truck pulling along side me on a hill, then gassing a huge cloud of exhaust in my face in 97-degree weather
- Driver cutting me off so that I have to slam on breaks
The list goes on. It is this type of driver that makes me wish I had a license to give drivers tickets. Secondly, it promotes ill will between drivers and cyclists, which as said is not something any cyclists needs.
Good practices: pretend every driver doesn’t like you, wear a GoPro, and write down license plate numbers for particularly aggressive drivers.
Drivers not paying attention
This is usually the danger we keep an eye out for most. I saw a guy get hit and runover, resulting in the cyclists not having much of three fingers after the accident. Unfortunately, while it was technically the driver’s fault, the cyclist could have easily avoided the incident if he had been paying more attention.
How many times have you slammed on your breaks to avoid a car that didn’t see you?
My advice is this: pretend that every drive does not see you and be ready to react. It’s the best way to avoid being hit.
People not paying attention on public paths
I’ve had several accidents cycling on trials. Usually, this is only a problem in more crowded areas with brush that obscured the path ahead.
For example, there was the time I cam around a corner, only to find a skate boarder riding in my direction, on my side of the path, texting! Fortunately, no one was seriously injured.
Good practice: communicate regularly and loudly with other people on the path to let them know you’re there.
Myself not paying attention
Most of my accidents have been because of this. It’s usually over something incredibly stupid, laughable, except that these stupid-laughable accidents have resulted in some serious injuries. A few examples of stupid injuries:
- Trying to put my water bottle back in its holder, looking down, and losing my balance – this happened at mile 50 of a 200 mile race and I got to ride the rest of the race with only access to one gear (the low gear).
- Picking up a coffee on my way to work, and trying to ride with only one hand. Usually this works fine, it doesn’t work as well when you hit a big pothole and go down like a sack of lead (the coffee, amazingly, survived).
- Not looking at the road and hitting a huge Kellyhump in the road, the result being a total collapse onto the road.
- Trying to pass the cyclist in front of me while latched on to my aerobars. As soon as I moved out from behind him and hit the wind at a slight angle, I lost control faster than you can say the word “control.” I no longer use aerobars.
Amazingly, my worse injury actually happened on my trainer. I got a little to zealous on my trainer, which I had set on a slightly wet, tiled floor, and put my self out of commission for three weeks.
There are many other examples of catastrophic stupidity over my 25 years of cycling. Fortunately, it’s been bene a while since I hurt myself.
Good practice: if it doesn’t sound like a truly good idea, don’t do it.
Invisible debris on road or path
Last but not least, there’s always debris in the roads that post danger. It can usually be avoided if you are paying attention. The most common hazards I see are:
- Leaves that look like they should be okay to ride over, but are wet underneath
- Humps in the road that are hard to see
- Critters (snakes, squirrels) etc.
Eyes on the road is a good practice here. And if you’re not sure about it, avoid it.