Skills for a Savvy City Cyclist

By Guest Blogger Catharine Hornby, GIC

Are you seeking the skills to be a savvy city cyclist this summer?  Read on!  The warm days and long evenings make summer the perfect opportunity to be active outdoors.  Many State employees bike to work or on recreational trips or to run errands around their neighborhood.  Biking in cities and town centers is more fun and less stressful if you learn a few urban biking skills.

Here’s a quiz:  Typically, trucks are: A. Tiny.  B. Large.  C. Small.  Answer?  Yes, you there with your hand up?  That’s right, B!  Trucks are impressively large.  Toddlers watching construction sites and long-time cyclists pay particular attention to trucks, but some inexperienced cyclists do not give enough thought to the nature and habits of trucks. 

Here are some facts to consider when developing your strategy for sharing the road with large vehicles: Trucks, especially semis, make wide right turns, meaning they pull slightly left before turning right, and when they do turn right, the body of the truck swings sideways.  Trucks also have blind spots to the right of the trailer where the driver cannot see other vehicles.  These blind spots overlap with the area where the trailer swings sideways as the truck turns right. 

Next quiz:  So what is a master cyclist to do when sharing space with a truck at an intersection?  A. Panic!  B.  Pull up to the right of a truck stopped at an intersection, but stay out of the driver’s sightline, then leap crazily onto the sidewalk if the truck starts to move.  C. Stay fully clear of a truck at an intersection, meaning stay entirely behind the truck, or pull far enough ahead of the truck that the driver can see you.

What’s the answer?  That’s right, C, Stay clear.  You say the truck was not signaling to turn…?  Not good enough.  Trucks, like all drivers, sometimes fail to signal. 

For those of you who chose “A, Panic!,” here’s an extra credit question.  In what state was the nation’s first 100-mile bike race staged, in 1882?  That’s right, Massachusetts!  Learn more at Mass Moments.

Finally, here are some bonus strategies:

  1. Stay clear of the “door zone” of parked cars – too many drivers do not look before they open their car doors. 
  2. Stop at red lights.  Running red lights is illegal and causes ill will among drivers.
  3. Drivers’ failure to yield while turning is a major cause of crashes involving bicycles.  When on your bicycle, pay attention to your surroundings.  And when you are driving?  Pay attention to bicycles around you.
  4. If you are not in the mood for dealing with motor vehicle traffic, Massachusetts has lots of off-road options, including the Paul Dudley White Charles River Bikepath along both sides of the Charles River from the Museum of Science in Boston to Watertown Square and beyond, and the Minuteman Commuter Bikeway from Alewife T Station to Bedford.
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One response

  1. My motto is “arrive alive.” I use front and rear blinkie lights night AND day, and try to dress in something visible (i.e. not all black!). Some bicyclists seem to think that if they can see cars, cars can see them, even in daylight. Not necessarily true! If you cycle into a shaded area you can become almost impossible to see and it only takes a moment for a car to “not see” you.

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