Cyclists don’t mince words. Conversation among riders often takes the form of one word warnings that communicate approaching road and traffic hazards. In an effort to prevent falls and ultimately avoid crashes, pedestrians often hear a song of warnings when a group of cyclists ride by. This is especially true in the springtime, as the roads are recouping from winter’s assault. Listen closely to cyclists as they pass, and you should hear warnings of potholes, grates, manhole covers, loose gravel or dirt, railroad tracks, and cracks in the pavement. Given the many obstacles of road cycling, how do you prepare for a fall-free ride?
The first step toward a fall-free ride is to be aware of potential road and traffic hazards, which vary depending on the season, weather patterns, and time of day. Be aware of wind gusts as you cross bridges or as a large truck passes by. Railroad tracks, storm grates, steel plates, and painted road lines are especially slippery when wet. Cross railroad tracks perpendicular (at right angle) to the tracks. In the spring after the roads have heaved many potholes, uneven surfaces, and open cracks appear - look ahead to prepare to avoid them and remember to look behind for automobiles planning to overtake you. Riding predictably is riding safely. Dodging road hazards startles automobile drivers.
Andrew Burnell, Program/Volunteer Director at the Community Bicycle Center (CBC), says that kids often come into CBC with “scraped knees and hands due to the sandy shoulders, partially paved roads, and long cracks.” Burnell adds that another danger of springtime riding is that “many kids and adults are re-learning the cycling skills that they’ve forgotten during the winter. For example, many riders forget that they should just coast to a stop if they accidently go into a soft shoulder or into an uneven lip in the pavement. A lot of kids try to quickly turn their wheel back onto the road, which ends up catching and throwing the bike and rider down to the pavement.”
The second step is to make sure your clothing isn’t working against you. Mitigate your risk of falling due to clothing malfunction by wearing light, bright, and tight clothing. If you’re thinking that a root canal sounds more appealing to you or your teenager than wearing high-vis spandex in public, then consider using a leg strap or rubber band to keep your pants from getting caught in the chain. Many commuters simply roll up the right leg of their pants when riding. They also tuck in their shirt to keep it from catching on the back of the bike seat. You are dressed for danger if your shoes have long laces and sloppy bows, which turn into tentacles when riding. Laces wrap around unsuspecting crank arms and pedals, lurching riders off their bikes. Shoelaces should be double knotted, tucked under the shoe tongues, or even duct taped to your shoes.
The third step is to check the bicycle before you ride. Learn how to perform an “ABC Quick Check,” and get in the habit doing it before you ride. Falls constitute 50 percent of all bicycle crashes. Lower your chance of falling by following the steps outlined above for a safer ride.