How not to get hit by trucks | Bleader

Thursday, November 1, 2012

How not to get hit by trucks

Posted By on 11.01.12 at 05:43 PM

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  • commuteorlando.com
I just came across a link from Twitter user @mikelikesbikes—posted in response to yesterday's cycling death at Augusta and Ashland—on what cyclists should do (and not do) around trucks. The article, from Commute Orlando, is titled "What Cyclists Need to Know About Trucks", and the image alone is informative enough to make it worth passing on; I had no idea what a truck driver's blind spot looks like. The thing about this is that a cyclist stopped in the bike lane at a red light, doing exactly what seems to be the safest and most legal thing, is also in the best position to get hit by a truck driver who doesn't know he's there. Most experienced cyclists know to look out for right-turning cars and position themselves either in front of or behind those cars at lights to avoid what's often known as the "right hook," but I don't think most people realize just how big a trucker's blind spot is.

So, just to summarize (though the article is worth reading, and not very long): stay away from the right side of trucks if at all possible, and don't assume a driver who's just pulled up to a light that you're stopped at has seen you. If that happens, I think it might be safer to try to go through the red light, as long as there's no traffic coming, than stay where you are. Sometimes an illegal move is safer than a legal one. (This is my own opinion, not advice from the Commute Orlando piece.)

Seeing the article reminded me of advice that I give friends who are just starting to bike in the city, because it's not intuitive how to stay safe. I almost always refer them to "How Not to Get Hit By Cars," an excellent guide to common ways to get hit and how to avoid them. But because there's a lot to remember in there, I also tell them to bike further to the left than they think they should. Newbies tend to stay as far to the right as possible, trying to stay out of the way of traffic. There are a number of problems with this:

1. It leaves you nowhere to go if a car comes at you from the left (besides into a row of parked cars or a curb).

2. You're more likely to get doored; if someone opens their car door directly in front of you, your only choices are to crash into the door or swerve into traffic.

3. It encourages cars to pass unsafely when there isn't room. Cyclists are legally allowed to take the lane, and should do so if necessary. (That said, I'd avoid two-lane roads where you need to do this—pissing off drivers doesn't help your safety.)

4. Drivers turning left are usually looking for cars that are going straight but may not look far enough to the right to see bikes. If there are no cars beside me when I'm approaching an intersection where cars are waiting to turn left, I usually get as far left as I can so they'll see me—waving can help too.

5. It leaves you vulnerable to the right hook (discussed above) and the right cross (discussed in "How Not to Get Hit By Cars").

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