Growing up, we have all dreamed at one time or another of being able to make ourselves invisible. Just think of all the things you could see and do, wandering through the world with no one noticing. What we didn’t realize when we were younger were the dangers that go along with not being seen. Originally posted in 2010, we feel it's important to keep this information in the forefront of our thinking as we ride.
In recent weeks, two of our fellow cyclists in Frisco have been struck from behind while riding their bikes into the sun. One occurred while riding into the morning sun in mid September. The cyclists survived, but suffered some pretty severe injuries. The second was only last week, a cyclist rear-ended while traversing west on Panther Creek at sunset, this time with no serious injuries.
In both cases, the drivers were blinded by the sun and didn’t see the cyclist ahead until it was too late. “Too late” in these types of accidents is almost always bad news for the person on the bike. It’s the simple physics of bike vs car – weight, speed and momentum.
Cyclists are most vulnerable when they become invisible to motorists. Many motorists are not conscious of the risks taken when driving into a blinding sun. Rather than finding another route, wearing glasses that block the sun, or simply slowing down, they will continue to drive, blinded, with the misguided notion that it will only last a few moments and no harm will be done.
Cyclists on the other hand, continue down routes that take them into the sun, many times with no tail lights and in many cases where there is an accident – they ride alone. Many cyclists also will fail to make use of a rearview mirror, which in many cases would allow them to take evasive actions if it appears the car behind doesn't see them and an impact is emminent.
Remember, as a general statement, no one intends to hurt or kill a cyclist.
What can you do to avoid being in a situation where we can be seriously injured, or worse when out for your daily ride or commuting home from work? There are steps that can be taken to improve your visibility and position on the road, here are some:
· Avoid routes that take you directly into a rising or setting sun. In many cases this is just not possible, but plan your route to minimize the time spent traveling into motorist blind spots.
· Mount a tail light on your bike and use it at ALL times, day or night. It’s true it can’t be seen as well during the day, but look for any advantage you might give yourself to reduce your “Cloak of Invisibility”
· DO NOT hug the curb. This seems counter-intuitive to many cyclists, but this is the wrong thing to do for a number of reasons.
o Riding too close to the curb gets you closer to debris that collects in the gutter and to uneven spots where the curb meets the road.
o It also limits your ability to take evasive action should you come upon objects in the road.
o Most importantly, riding too close may leave drivers the impression they can easily pass, and clip you as they go by – be visible.
o A good rule of thumb is to stay approximately three feet from the right hand side of the road. This will avoid most debris and obstacles from drainage ports and the like. It’s pretty easy to judge the distance – just put your bike in the path marked by the right hand tires of cars.
· Ride in a group. It’s much easier for motorists to see many lights, than just the one. You’ll be amazed at how eye-catching multiple lights, flashing and pulsing at different times, will catch the attention of vehicles approaching from the rear. Remember, even two riders constitute a group and are more visible than a single cyclist.
Take one thing from what’s been said here: As cool as Harry Potter is with his “Cloak of Invisibility”, please do everything possible to make yourself VISIBLE. Be safe and be responsible on the road.
Give yourself a chance!