During a training ride, a cyclist was riding down the road, in the bike lane. He was following the traffic laws. It was bright and sunny outside, in the middle of the day. He wasn’t riding recklessly or dangerously, but cruising along right where he should have been and right where drivers should have expected to find him.
Even so, an “older gentleman” pulled out of a driveway, trying to make a left-hand turn. He was on the opposite side of the road from the cyclist, and they had four traffic lanes between them. The man drove across all of those lanes and almost slammed into the bike against the opposite curb.
“You’re invisible out here,” the old man said, seeming to blame the cyclist for the incident.
Are you invisible?
There are a lot of problems with that statement. First, it puts the blame on a cyclist who did nothing wrong. Second, it makes the driver believe he was in the right. It wasn’t his fault that he didn’t see the cyclist, so he didn’t make any mistakes. It’s that mindset that makes it so hard to share the road.
It also exposes the risk that you face. What can you do to make sure that you’re not invisible? Here are a few tips:
- Wear bright colors. Lime yellow is often touted as the brightest. Red and orange can also help.
- Put front and rear lights on your bike. Use them even during the day. The strobe setting is probably most effective at drawing attention.
- Ride where you’re supposed to ride. As this example shows, that doesn’t always work, but it is safest to be where people expect you to be.
- Find out what roads other cyclists tend to use. You can do this by looking at heatmaps. When you identify them, use those roads, as it is most likely that drivers will look for cyclists in places where they are most common.
- Look for small movements when cars are waiting to turn. If the wheels roll at all, assume the driver is about to step on the gas.
- Meet a driver’s eyes when you think they should have seen you. If they just scan the area without meeting your eyes, assume they never saw you at all.
This last point may be surprising, but it happens a lot. Drivers look right at cyclists and, for whatever reason, still do not see them. It’s a real risk you face, even when you do everything right.
If you do get hit, you could suffer serious injuries in the accident. You must know what options you have and what legal steps to take.