So, it turns out that car doors aren’t a cyclists worst enemy after all. There’s a much bigger culprit when it comes to serious injury, and we’ve found it’s not very well acknowledged amongst SA cyclists. Happily, it’s also fairly avoidable.
Ask a group of cyclists to name the crash types they think cause most serious injuries, and we’ve found the most likely answers are ‘car doors opening on a cyclist’ or ‘being side-swiped’.
In fact, a study of cycle – vehicle crashes on SA roads found that “close to 40 per cent of all crashes in the study involved an oncoming vehicle turning right across the path of a cyclist who was continuing straight. In more than 60 per cent of these cases the vehicle driver was crossing two or more traffic lanes while undertaking the right turn manoeuvre” (CASR 112).
That is to say, we’re most at risk riding along a straight road, from a vehicle that is looking to turn right. Particularly, onto a side street and especially across more than one lane of traffic. Not surprisingly, this is a scenario when a driver has the most things to concentrate on: moving into position, looking for oncoming vehicles, taking visual obstructions into account, judging timing and speed of oncoming traffic and actually executing the turning manouvre.
Where does a cyclist fit in all this, and what can we do about it? The first, and most effective answer is for vehicle drivers to be consciously looking for cyclists amongst that oncoming traffic in the first place. The second, is for cyclists to take active control of those factors we can influence:
- Choose your mindframe: Are you in a rush, just trying to get to work / home as fast as you can? Or perhaps riding on ‘autopilot’? Injured cyclists involved in the study, whether they were at fault or not (and most weren’t), attributed part of the cause to their mindframe at the time, and felt they could have avoided the crash had they been more ‘present’ and focused.
- Lights on flashing, day and night: If you’re looking to get noticed, a flashing light is a great way to go. Set one up in the corner of the room, and just try ignoring it – we assure you, it’s VERY hard to do. Our peripheral vision is automatically drawn to it – and a driver’s will be too.
- Light over dark: Clothing, accessories, bike & helmet – they’re all better in a lighter, brighter colour than a dark one. You don’t need to go high-vis, just think how much easier that light blue t-shirt is to see than your black one.
- Never, NEVER assume you’ve been seen: just because you should be, doesn’t mean you have. Make eye contact with drivers if possible, and unless that occurs then operate as though they have no idea you’re there.
- Mind the gap: Keep an eye out for gaps in a line of traffic – it seems obvious, but if there’s space between vehicles up ahead, there’s a good chance they’re leaving room for one making a right turn.
- Common courtesy: Finally, and importantly, acknowledge any great driving behaviour with a friendly knod, smile or wave. It encourages repeat behaviour, and the better we treat each other, the more chance we have of sharing the road successfully, and safely. A little kindness from all road users goes a long way!
Oh, and don’t ignore the car doors – they can still be nasty buggers as we all know!
If you’d like to find out more, Bike SA can come and chat to your workplace for FREE. Everyone who attends will get a gift pack, some great facts and strategies, and greater confidence sharing the road safely – cyclists AND motorists: www.bikesa.asn.au/be-safe-be-seen