Bicycling in Portland: How NOT to Get Hit By Cars (Part 1)

 We offer here our Top 10 reasons cycling accidents occur, and the best ways to avoid getting hit by a car. The truth is you’d be better off following these tips without wearing a helmet and not getting hit, than to wear a helmet and think that’s the last precaution you need to take, leading you to get knocked off your bike and facing frightening injuries or worse.

  1. The right cross. Far from being a boxing term, this is actually the most common way for a bicyclist to get hit. Riding happily down the street, the cyclist is suddenly confronted with a car pulling out of a side street, driveway or parking lot on the right. This gives the cyclist no time to avoid the collision, and as any bicycle accident lawyer will tell you, when a car hits a bike, the car wins…every time. To avoid the right cross:
    A. Get a light and get yourself seen. Consider bright, flashing LED lights, even for daytime driving. If you can mount a light or lamp on your helmet, it’s even better, because when you look directly at a driver, you’re shining your light right at them, increasing your chances of being seen. Make eye contact any time it’s possible.
    B. Wave your hand if you can’t make eye contact. Moving your arm left and right makes a motion that doesn’t match the flow of traffic, making it more likely to be spotted. Consider getting an air horn (really loud) for your bike, and if all else fails, shout “Hey!” if you see a car pulling out. Being embarrassed is better than being flattened.
    C. Slow down if you think you haven’t been seen. If you haven’t made eye contact and you think there’s any chance you haven’t been seen, make sure you can come to a complete stop if necessary to avoid the collision.
    D. It may go against your natural instinct, as well as your desire not to be hit from behind, but move over to your left a bit. The further right you are, i.e. closer to the curb, the more difficult it is for cars coming from the right to see you. Being seen is the number one key to avoid being hit. On faster roads with fewer intersections, it’s ok to stay a bit further to the right, but statistics show you’re far more likely to be hit by a car coming from the right that can’t see you than a car coming up from behind that can see you clearly.
  2. The door prize is one you don’t want to win. One of the top three causes of bicycle accidents is caused when a car door is opened directly in front of an oncoming cyclist. Once again, moving over to the left is the best way of avoiding this type of accident, in spite of a cyclist’s natural inclination to worry about cars behind not being able to get past. The fact is the further left you are, the less likely you’ll have the door of a parked car opened right in front of you.
  3. Crosswalk danger. People riding bikes on the sidewalk are difficult for drivers to see when they’re turning right from one street onto another. Many cyclists are hit as they leave the sidewalk and enter the crosswalk. Avoid this by:
    A.    Get that headlight on, even during the day.
    B.     Slow down, so you can stop if a car suddenly turns in front of you.
    C.     Stay off the sidewalk. You probably shouldn’t be there in the first place, but if you are, the rules state you shouldn’t be going any faster than a pedestrian would normally walk.
  4. Riding the wrong way really is riding the wrong way. Moving against the traffic is such a bad idea for so many reasons, suffice it to say that if you’re riding on the left side of the street, towards oncoming traffic, you’re three times more likely to be hit than if you’re on the right side of the road; for child cyclists, that figure increases to being seven times more likely to be hit. In fact, one in every four cycling accidents happens when the cyclist is riding against the traffic. And just a question—how do you plan on making a right hand turn?
  5. Stay out of the blind spots at red lights. Cyclists are killed every year by pulling up along the right side of a car or truck at a red light. As the light turns green and the cyclist pulls off, the car or truck makes a right hand turn, and disaster is unavoidable. To keep this from happening, simply take up a position behind a car while waiting at the red light. This will make you highly visible to the cars behind you, and you won’t be in danger if the car in front makes a right turn without warning.