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Gini Dietrich

Seven Tips for Sharing the Road with Cyclists

By: Gini Dietrich | July 3, 2012 | 
173

I know this has nothing to do with PR, marketing, or anything digital, but it’s important to me. And, I figured, it’s a holiday in the U.S. tomorrow and Canadians are coming back to work today, so I don’t think you’ll mind.

For those of you who don’t know, I’m a pretty avid cyclist. I’m not one of the best, but I definitely can hold my own. I ride nearly every day, no matter if I’m traveling or have the comfort of my fitted Trek Madone 5.2. I got my love of cycling from my dad. I started out running marathons, but didn’t really love it. I had severe asthma when I ran and I had to force myself out there. The I had my knee scoped twice and the doctor politely suggested I find something else to do.

So, eight years ago, I followed my dad, switched sports, got a coach, and started riding. The first time I rode with clipless pedals, I fell over and cut my leg open so badly I should have gotten stitches (big scar there now). But that didn’t deter me! I got right back up and tried again. And that was all she wrote.

It’s been a particularly good riding season this year. Maybe it’s because it was warm enough to be outside in March (unheard of) or because I switched from riding at 5:30 a.m. to noon. It’s a fantastic way to clear your head in the middle of the day and I’m sporting a serious (but ridiculous) cycling tan.

After writing a book last year (cough, Marketing in the Round, cough) and not getting out as much as I like, I’m in racing shape again this year and have fallen back in love with my bike (I would marry it, if I could).

But, as much as I love it, it’s reminded me of what jerks people can be in their cars. Just yesterday, I was in the freaking bike lane and a guy in his SUV, without turning on his signal or giving me any indication he was going to turn right, came into the bike lane to turn, as I was going straight. If it had been three seconds sooner, he would have hit me.

My biggest fear is I will get doored because no one looks in their side mirror before opening the door of their parked car into the bike lane. I have these visions of my riding right into someone’s door and coming off my bike over the hood of the car. It scares the crap out of me.

So, with that in mind, I’ve put together some tips for watching out for cyclists this holiday week:

  • Bikes belong in the bike lane. Cars do not belong there. And bikes are not allowed on sidewalks. Be mindful of that fact.
  • Cyclists, by law, can ride two abreast and it is the courtesy of the car to go around them.
  • Honking your horn at a cyclist is almost as bad as hitting them. Have you ever walked across the street and have the car you’re passing honk their horn? It scares you so badly, you jump. Same thing on a bike, but a cyclist could easily fall off their bike and under your tires.
  • When you come to a four-way stop and have the right of way, freaking drive your car. The cyclist cannot breeze through the sign, but many cars will just sit there waiting to see what he or she will do. If you just sit there, the cyclist is going to take their turn and then you get mad because they didn’t have the right of way. Follow the same rules of the road as if the cyclist were a car.
  • If you are going to cross the bike lane to make a turn, look in your mirrors for cyclists, just like you would another car. And use your signal. It tells us what you’re going to do as much as it does another car.
  • Turning left in front of a cyclist is as dangerous as doing it in front of an oncoming car. Wait the extra three seconds for the cyclist to pass.
  • And, for the love of all things good and great, please, please, please look in your mirrors before opening the door to get out of your car.

I know some of you will say, “But Gini, cyclists don’t follow the rules of the road.” Yes, I know. It kind of makes me nuts to see guys (I’ve never seen a woman cyclist do this) weaving in and out of traffic and going through red lights. I’ll write a blog post for them next.

Some of my cycling friends will have additional tips, which I’ll ask them to leave in the comments below.

In the meantime, be safe. Have a good holiday (no blog post tomorrow!). And watch out for cyclists on the road!

About Gini Dietrich


Gini Dietrich is the founder and CEO of Arment Dietrich, a Chicago-based integrated marketing communications firm. She is the lead blogger here at Spin Sucks and is the founder of Spin Sucks Pro. She is the co-author of Marketing in the Round and co-host of Inside PR. Her second book, Spin Sucks, is available now.

170 comments
kglobos
kglobos

@shonali @ginidietrich Great tips, except...what bike lane? Good luck finding a safe one in Toronto!!

Shonali
Shonali

When I drive to & from work every day, I pass a ton of cyclists (I drive through Rock Creek Park). I'm sad to say most of them behave as if they own the road. Like @DebraCaplick I would never cycle in traffic - I'm just too much of a wimp - but I do try and be mindful of what you've pointed out... even when the cyclists are driving me crazy. In fact, I was on the phone with @rachaelseda one day, and yelled in frustration at a "bad" cyclist, and then said, "Man, if Gini could hear me now."

Latest blog post: In Praise of Freedom

DebraCaplick
DebraCaplick

As a motorist AND a motorcyclist - sorry, there's no way you're going to get me in traffic on a bicycle - the behavior of others drives me nuts. I nearly hit a bicyclist once who decided to shoot up my left side as I was making a left turn (and yes, I always use my turn signals). I have no idea where he came from - he wasn't in sight when I checked the mirrors. It's why I don't like driving downtown - those who bicycle down there are insane. And don't forget the joggers - I was hit by a jogger once who was so into his music that he forgot about traffic. I'm sitting there at the intersection waiting for traffic to clear so I can make my left turn, and the next thing I know, I hear this loud "thump" and the whole car shakes. I get out to see what happened, and there he was, lying in the street complete with the figurative little birdies flying 'round his head and chirping. Not even thinking about liability, I just asked him, "You couldn't see me? Wasn't the car BRIGHT enough for you?" (it was a lemon-yellow Mustang II), got back in and left. You truly can't make this stuff up.

 

As my paramedic husband says, if you expect the stupidest, most bizarre thing people can do on the road, you'll never be disappointed....and I will always have job security.

jennimacdonald
jennimacdonald

Gini I have a question. For years I have wanted to buy a bike and start cycling, I have many friends who are hard core like you but the thought of falling has held me back. I know to do it right you should use the clip-in pedals but I'm afraid I'll have a stroke from the anxiety of thinking that my feet are permanently in the bike. 

 

Any tips that could help me overcome my fear?

hackmanj
hackmanj

I fear for cyclists and I am very cautious around them. I actually prefer mountain biking for safety reasons. It sounds backwards, I know, but I've never felt comfortable on the road with a bike. Thanks for the tips.

Henneke
Henneke

And please, please don't park in the bike lane... 

 

Happy cycling, @ginidietrich 

 

Did you ever watch "bike lanes" by Casey Neistat? (it's on YouTube)

TonyBennett
TonyBennett

It's Wednesday, the fourth, chillin' poolside w/ my Sweet Tea Arnold Vodka.... WASSSSUUUUUUUUPPP!!! :P naaaghhh

rdopping
rdopping

Don't ride in Toronto then. Our AssHat mayor decided to eliminate some bike lanes so all the commuters could further clog the roads and make it easier for them to drive their gas-guzzling SUV's around the core. Sheesh.....I used  to ride around the city a lot. Now, I ride the transit line and cringe every time a cyclist gets clipped here. Happens a lot.

 

Enjoy your day off. Hope it's a lovely day.

cophotog
cophotog

@RickCaffeinated thank you much!

bdorman264
bdorman264

So, does it get crowded in bed with the 3 of you? 

 

Bikes are like motorcycles in that sometimes they are not easy to spot and car drivers think they are a nuisance anyway and don't respect the rider; you definitely have to be on the defensive. With 'go fast' riders like you, sometimes you don't have the luxury of taking evasive action.

 

My friend did not fare so well; he's paralyzed with limited use of his right arm and he lost his right eye.

 

Be careful out there........

LauraScholz
LauraScholz

OMG, seriously. Same for runners, too. NO ONE--and I mean NO ONE--in Atlanta stops or even looks turning right. Red light, stop sign, cross walk--doesn't matter. You'd best wait for the intersection to clear or make sure you have made eye contact with the driver (and that there's not anyone behind him/her) and the go-ahead before crossing. Forget crosswalks in this town. When they exist, people just plow through them at 60 mph. And it's bad enough drivers do it to me (I'm healthy and can sprint across), but when they nearly run down a 80 year old lady carrying her groceries across the street, I get pissed. A good friend of mind was hit in a crosswalk at a red light nearly two years ago and in a coma for a week. She made a miraculous recovery (after being in a spinal rehab center for nearly a year, quitting school and losing nearly nine months of memory), but it's scary. Being a runner and being married to a cyclist (no, I'm not going over to the dark side--I'll go back to swimming first!) has made me a much more mindful driver.

 

p.s. I love how many times you wrote "freaking" in this post.

Hajra
Hajra

I was into cycling when I was a kid. And my dad made sure I indulged in the love of it. And one evening, I was cycling with my friends and a guy who thought the road was meant for him, honked his car too loud and flashed his lights. It scared me and I fell off, not only suffering a terrible scar but also a fear of cycling (I was around 9). But then, as I grew up I got rid of the fear.  So, yes, this comes as a great reminder... hope people remember and don't honk a cyclist! 

jeffespo
jeffespo

As someone who got doored and run over, I can say that I agree with all of these tips lady. One of my bigger peeves/wants from drivers was to not tailgate someone on a bike. It has happened to me on numerous occasions and there is nothing worse than feeling the heat of a car on your back. Too many motorists think hey the cyclist should just speed up like I do, As you know our legs are not gas powered. 

Latest blog post: Cartoon of the day

jasonkonopinski
jasonkonopinski

Oh - I just thought of a tip that you let slip by! Ride with, run against (the flow of traffic). 

Latest blog post:

kglobos
kglobos

@Shonali Um..wait, you were driving and talking on your cellphone while yelling at a cyclist? :) @DebraCaplick @rachaelseda

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

 @Shonali  I'm definitely no saint when I ride. If a car has been pushing me into parked cars or the curb, I'll go out in front of it and ride in the middle of the road. Sometimes that's the safest place for me to be, but I only do it if the driver has been particularly rude. Like the guy who pulled out of his parking spot without looking. I saw him doing it so I stopped and when he saw me, I waved. He flipped me off. So I got out in front of him and rode several blocks in the middle of the road. 

Latest blog post: #FollowFriday: Keith Privette

rachaelseda
rachaelseda

 @Shonali HAHA. And as soon as she yelled I was thinking the same thing...I hope Gini didn't just over hear you all the way in Chicago! (Oh wait maybe she did hear you so she wrote this post hehe)

 

But I have to say as a runner, cars don't even care if it's your turn to cross the street. I constantly have to be on the lookout and I realize it's my responsibility as well but I can definitely count multiple close calls every time I run and if it weren't for me paying attention would've turned out differently. You'd be surprised how eager people are just to get into the McDonald's parking lot...that's one of the worst places I pass in my run haha.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

 @jennimacdonald Yes. Practice. That's all that'll do it. You will fall over. It's inevitable. But practice clipping in and out in a parking lot or somewhere without traffic. Once you get used to them, you'll never go back. And you'll be mad at yourself for not doing it sooner.

 

Also, the more scars and bruises you have from cycling, the better. They're badges of honor!

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

 @jeffespo I really believe everyone should have to ride a bike, on the road, once in the life...before they're allowed a driver's license. People who behave this way have never gotten on a bike.

Shonali
Shonali

 @kglobos I was yelling about a bad cyclist to @rachaelseda ... does that make any more sense? And fyi, I was on speaker mode/handsfree, and no, I don't make this a regular occurrence, it had been a frustrating series of days and I needed to talk to Rachael. 95% of the time I'm listening to the radio or car dancing (true, ask @Jason Konopinski ) while driving.

Btw, you're going to have to give me much more than a fistful of salt if you want me to believe that you, @dough and, frankly, *anyone* has never done that... :) 

Oh, and before you, or anyone else asks, I don't text and drive.

Latest blog post: In Praise of Freedom

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

 @rachaelseda  It's amazing to me how people do things like that when it saves the all of three seconds. And sometimes it doesn't even save them that because you end up passing them again.

Latest blog post: #FollowFriday: Keith Privette

dough
dough

 @ginidietrich  @jennimacdonald Agreed- when I bought my first bike with clips, the shop owner let me ride it in the parking garage- where I fell over twice. I also fell a few times early on (no injuries). One comforting thought is most "new clip" falls occur while stopping, so you won't have any high-speed accidents. 

jennimacdonald
jennimacdonald

 @ginidietrich Thanks, that's a great idea to practice where there's no traffic and I can go VERY slow.

 

I already regret not starting sooner. Just like my fear of starting to blog...in the words of Nike, JUST DO IT!

 

Hope you had a great 4th.

dough
dough

 @ginidietrich  @LauraScholz Had an interesting experience in Paris-- the bike tours through the city go right through the streets to the landmarks and monuments. We rode in the streets (no helmets- yeah, I know). 

 

The best advice from one tour guide was using the "Palm of Power" - making sure the driver sees you as you are going through an intersection or (gulp) traffic circle.

 

I kept screwing up and calling it the "Palm of Death"

jeffespo
jeffespo

 @ginidietrich well there are always going to be assholes and have seen folks who cycle do the same while driving.I get pissed when I see other folks not obeying traffic laws. 

Latest blog post: Cartoon of the day

Shonali
Shonali

 @dough  Ah, I hit "post" too soon! My comment about "owning the road" was not meant to say who does or doesn't own it, motorists or cyclists or pedestrians or cows (as you'll sometimes see in India, for example). As a motorist I'm happy to share the road with everyone else - that's the way it should be. I don't like it when the other road users, be they motorists or cyclists or whoever, don't obey traffic signs & behave as if they are more important than anyone else. Because they're not. @ginidietrich  @rachaelseda 

Latest blog post: In Praise of Freedom

dough
dough

 @ginidietrich  @rachaelseda @Shonali One of my biggest frustrations as a cyclist is motorists who talk on the phone while driving ;P.

 

As for "owning the road," cyclists have a right to the travel line in the absence of a dedicated bike lane. just takes patience (and no horn tooting please) to wait for a cyclist to determine when it is safe to get over and let cars pass. That's how it is.

 

That said, there are a lot of jerks like Gini out there. 

Lisa Gerber
Lisa Gerber

 @jennimacdonald  @dough I'll add, ask them to set them really loose to begin with and just give you some time to get used to that ankle twist to get out of the pedal. Soon, it becomes second nature and like @ginidietrich said, you'll LOVE it. I love the connection to the bike - to be able to really pull. For me, it's even more important mountain biking.I actually feel safer when I'm clipped in. 

 

I rode it around my block and kept turning right so there was no worry if I couldn't stop, and just practiced getting in and out while I coasted slowly. All that grass around made it fairly comforting. :) 

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

 @jasonkonopinski I seriously think you need to write this book. Start a blog and do it one post at a time. LISTEN TO ME!

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