Roads: They’re Not Just for Cars Anymore.
Who knew that the Texas Department of Transportation, the highway and toll road people sponsored classes for bicyclists? They’re also for car drivers to learn how to respect the rules of the road and vulnerable road users, i.e., dudes and dudettes on bikes. So on Saturday I saddled up and sauntered slowly downtown despite my ongoing allergies or whatever they are to get a little knowledge dropped into my mountain cedar-induced feverish brain. And I may have learned a thing or two. It turns out that you can teach an old dude new tricks. Not like, magic, or BMX, but you know, tricks.
While I won’t repeat everything that was said in the class (you’ll need to take it or an equivalent near you), it was a good review of the rules of the road. While it’s true all car rules apply to bikes, there are a few variances, namely that bikes can ride on the sidewalk when necessary (and not otherwise illegal). The “Idaho stop” for example, becoming common in other places, allows bikes to proceed like at a stop sign if there’s no one at a ride light, and to yield if there is no traffic at a four-way stop. Sounds logical to me, and it’s even believed to be safer. (If I can I’ll include that link.)
Very interesting were the many ways cars and bikes can interact incorrectly. Here are a few of the main ones:
- left hook (facing car turns in front of bike)
- right cross (passing car turns in front of bike)
- head-on collision
- overtaking from the rear
- sidewalks, hidden or obstructed view driveways
In most cases, these can be avoided by constant vigilance or better signaling and communication from the bicyclist. I know this to be true because when I don’t feel safe sharing a narrow lane, I will “take the lane.” Cars get confused so I wave them around. Smiling, waving, and then going back to riding on the right as soon as there’s a bike lane, also help matters.
Mirror, Mirror on Your Bike or Helmet
Unlike many riders, especially racers, who object to any extra weight or drag, the instructor was not opposed to and in fact always uses a rear view mirror. But who cares if it looks a little dorky? It’s more cool to stay alert and alive. A Dude has long espoused this view though is currently sans mirror because they keep breaking off his handlebars. Until he gets this cool new type mirror (from a place he’ll reveal when he gets it), he looks back over his left shoulder frequently (making sure to shift weight to the right handlebar slightly to avoid veering left). In some ways, always having to look back can make you more aware, and cars see you looking and see a face which is helpful to cars. The Statesman article about me referenced that advice. If it’s in print, it’s true!
Bottom Line, Is A Cycling Class Worth It?
The class also covered: bike parts, close calls various riders had had (including a recent handlebar clipping A Dude survived), and lots of questions and answers. All in all, good stuff.
Yes, it’s worth it! Especially if you’re a new rider, or it’s been a long time, things change. If you’re experienced, you may have some bad habits you need to unlearn. And for car drivers (none of whom who weren’t also people on bikes made it to this class), it would definitely help. Also, it’s free!
For upcoming classes in the Austin, Texas area from January-August of 2018, here’s the link to Bike Austin’s schedule. Outside of Austin, contact your local bicycle advocacy and education organization. The League of American Bicyclists may know of many of those in your area. Remember, safety first!
“Hey! I know we’re all in strung-out shape but stay frosty and alert.”
— Corporal Hicks (Michael Biehn) in Aliens (1986)
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