Feeling powerless after the recent loss of a friend to a cycling accident, I was at first frustrated by well-meaning suggestions about things like lights—that would not have made in a difference in her case. Fortunately, another friend helped me see that Karen, as a world-class triathlete, now has a special power to shine a "light" on cycling safety and help others. In that spirit, I've been thinking a lot about do-able things to be more visible and more safe on the road, until we can tackle root causes like road design and driver education—topics for another day.
1. Lights. Front & Back. Night & Day.
There are plenty of good choices for lights out there, and if you're not night riding, just grab one, any one, that you'll actually use. My current favorite is the Planet Bike Spok Light Set 2.0. It's easy to use/move with a stretchy strap instead of hardware, and with a long battery life, these won't get forgotten at home on the charger. If you're not already riding with day lights, please order a set today and we'll both feel better. :-)
2 & 3. Wear High Visibility Gear. Protect Your Noggin. In One Fell Swoop.
I used to wear a high-visibility pink jersey which has since been retired because pink seemed to attract TOO much attention. Rather than building a new cycling wardrobe of hi-vis gear, it turns out there's a simpler solution—a high-vis helmet! Thanks to the Twitter chats hosted by the cool kids at BibRave, I won a Rudy Project Sterling Helmet and chose hi-vis yellow. Although a Rudy helmet isn't cheap, it's cheaper than buying a new hi-vis wardrobe—and a whole lot simpler. It's also amazingly comfy and well-engineered; topics for another post!
4. Wear a Road ID.
It's not fun to think "what would happen if...", but if you're "lucky" enough to make it through a crash, you want the first responders to know all your critical health and contact information. These days, I wear my Road ID 24x7, making it one less thing to think about when I'm headed out for a ride or run. Road ID makes so many great styles, colors and "trinkets" it's easy to personalize one you'll want to wear all the time. Here's a $5 Road ID Discount to help you get started—no excuses now! ;-)
5. Share Your Whereabouts.
In my case, sharing location updates is less about what-ifs and more about peace of mind for those who care about me. As my training rides and runs get longer in duration and further away from home, it's nice for my "support crew" to check in and see how I'm progressing on the planned route.
I've tried several methods for SOS and live tracking, including the now defunct Kickstarter project Bia, as well as subscribing to the premium version of Map My Ride exclusively for its live tracking feature. Happily, this season the market seems to finally be catching up with the desire for tracking features, and at least two new options are available: Strava (Premium) offers a "Beacon", and Road ID recently launched a FREE beta app with both live tracking and a "stationery alert" that notifies your emergency contact if you stop moving for more than 5 minutes, as well as showing your emergency contact information on the lock screen of your phone. Whichever live tracking method you choose, sharing is caring!
6. Chose Your Route Carefully
Though it is clearly the least sexy option on this list, route choice makes a difference. Admittedly, I spend a lot more time on the trainer inside just so I don't have to deal with all the factors that go into riding safely outside. But I do enjoy riding outside, and I do believe it's necessary for some percentage of triathlon training to be outdoors in order to be well-prepared for race day.
When it comes to choosing routes, I'm incredibly picky and would generally rather ride alone and chose roads based on my own (anti)risk profile. This means there is not a lot of variety in my rides, because there's a pretty limited set of roads that have little traffic and aren't falling apart. And there's a pretty limited way to ride them, because it's safest to take a circular route that uses only right turns. Even with hi-vis gear on, left turns can go horribly wrong, and there are too many examples to prove it already. Plan for right turns where you can.
BONUS: In the Car: Take a Deep Breath & Be Patient Out There
While we can't change how everyone else drives, we can set a good example on the days we aren't riding. On so many rides I see drivers that are clearly impatient and causing issues where there don't need to be any—it might literally take a few extra seconds to hang back and wait to pass when there isn't an oncoming car. In many states, passing a bike like it is a car is the LAW, albeit a law better known to cyclists than to many drivers.
Though I can only speak for myself, I know there are days when I'm feeling rushed and/or are distracted by other things going on when I get in the car. These days, I practice getting in the car and taking a deep breath to settle in and concentrate on what I'm about to do. Sometimes I think we forget the average car is 2 tons of metal hurtling down the road at 55 miles per hour, and can cause irreparable harm if we're not very careful.
Be careful out there, and god bless.