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More on Promoting the Safety Culture

Safety Corner logoby Bob Zogg
from the May 2007 WheelPeople

We agree to two conditions when we participate in CRW rides—they are: 1) to cycle in a safe, courteous, and lawful manner, and 2) to encourage the same among other participants. While this agreement has always been implicit, the recently adopted CRW Safety Policy makes it explicit.

In April’s Safety Corner, we discussed yielding and facilitating the smooth flow of traffic, both of which are essential to safe, courteous, and lawful cycling. We now touch on other safe-cycling practices, including some that are particularly important in group rides.

Dress to be seen: Select bright-colored jerseys (hi-viz fabrics are best), or at least light colors. You’ll be much more visible, even on sunny days.
Check your Bike: Inflate tires. Check tires for cuts, bulges, imbedded objects, and excessive wear. Spin wheels—they should spin freely, without wobble or looseness. Check brake pads for wear, and that they contact the rim squarely when applied. While straddling your bike, squeeze the brake levers firmly. They should not reach the handlebars. While holding the front brake only, try to move your bike forward and backward—the brake should hold and there should be no knocking or looseness at the headset. While holding the rear brake only, try to move your bike backwards—the brake should hold. Check cables for fraying or cracked housings. Be sure your gears work smoothly. Check cogs and chain rings for worn or cracked teeth. Be sure all bags, water bottle cages, pumps, and other items are securely fastened.

Carry ID and Contact Information: Carry ID, including your health insurance card, and emergency contact information, on your person—not on your bike. We suggest carrying photocopies of these items in a plastic bag. No need to lug around a heavy, bulky wallet that you could lose.

Stay Alert, but Relaxed: It’s easy to focus too much on one thing and miss the big picture. Keep your eyes moving, and scan as far ahead as you can see. Anticipate developing situations so that you are ready to react. However, try not to become fearful and tense. Maintaining good control requires a relaxed body. Grip the handlebars only enough to keep your hands from slipping. This will encourage relaxation throughout your body.
Be Predictable: Pick your line and stick with it, being careful not to swerve unnecessarily. Better to ride over a little rough pavement than to sideswipe someone. Use hand signals and/or call out your intentions. Change lane position gradually, after having signaled and checked behind you for approaching traffic (cyclists and motorists).

Slow and Stop Gradually: What might seem like a gradual stop to the rider can seem much more abrupt to those following. Even simply ceasing to pedal (without applying brakes) can slow a rider faster than is safe in a group ride, especially if climbing a hill or riding at high speed. Slow or stop quickly only when absolutely necessary, and shout “slowing” or “stopping”. Don’t attempt a hand signal if stopping quickly—you’ll need both hands on the handlebars. For non-emergency stops, signal in advance, call out “stopping”, and gradually bring your bike to a stop at the far right edge of the roadway. Resist your first instinct to stop quickly if you miss a turn, drop something (such as a water bottle), need to walk a hill, or your cell phone rings. Even if a rider crashes in front of you, stop quickly only if you must to avoid a collision. It’s much better to steer around the crash and keep moving. Well after you’ve passed the crash, you can stop gradually and walk back to assist. Whenever stopping—even if only briefly—move well off the roadway.

Encourage Safe Cycling: The most effective way to encourage safe, courteous, and lawful cycling among others is to set a good example. You will also have many opportunities while riding or taking breaks to share what you know with others and to emphasize how important these practices are. Don’t be shy—just be thoughtful and considerate.

Remember—safety is about choices. What choices will you make?

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