A new perspective on road safety to shift your mindset and give you more freedom when riding on the road. Hint: It’s about your circle of influence, not HiVis clothing.
A New Perspective on Road Safety, and 5 Ways to Increase Your Safety on the Road
I’d normally shrug my shoulders at this one. Maybe I’m getting older and more responsible? Whatever it is, one thing’s clear, since the end of last years pro road season, there’s been many training accidents and too many deaths. So I’m here to give you some of my thoughts on staying safe on the road. If I can give you one bit of advice that you didn’t know before, then I’m a happy man because that could make the difference one day.
Here is my stance. It’s based on two elements. Patterns and control, which Stephen Covey would call it your Circle of Influence.
Patterns to me are like the unwritten rules of the game and habits of the players. I believe that if you expand your view broad enough you will eventually see common elements linking these two together. Enough to get a snapshot of how to operate in the same situation. That’s a little abstract so let me give you an example.
Shinjuku Station in Tokyo is used by over 3 million people per day. At first, it just looks like a random swarm of people, moving around in no particular way. When I entered the station to make my way to the train platform, at first I went slow, actively trying to dodge people. This is what I was used to, but I found that I kept bumping into people. So I picked up the pace and the funny thing was I started hitting fewer people, then I picked up the pace some more looked further down the concourse and didn’t run into anyone.
The style that I had adapted to at the end was in total contrast to the beginning. What I thought and what came naturally were wrong. It wasn’t until I figured out the unwritten rules like you don’t touch anybody, and habits of the players, like no sudden movements, that is all started to work.
OK. I know what you’re thinking, what has this got to do with cycling. Well, the same rules apply to riding a bike. Especially if you’re talking about riding in a new place. While there are definitely differences between countries, cities and regions can also vary. Where I live it’s common for cars to drive in the middle of the road, merge without looking at oncoming traffic. Cars also honk when passing a car and don’t stop at traffic lights. When I first moved here it looks chaotic and unorganised, and officially it is, but there is also patterns at play. Once I understood these I could better anticipate the actions of the drivers, pedestrians and other players in the game.
Now I want to talk about what happens outside of these patterns because this is the place where I bring in the circle of influence. The elements that are in my control. Everything outside of the pattern cannot be planned for. It’s a waste of mental energy and may lead to more trouble. Once I thought of it like this, it was quite liberating. This mindset shift has resulted in more freedom.
Here are 5 things that are in your control while riding on the road. These are gleaned from my motorbike riding days. They cross over really well because if you think bikes have it rough, jump on a motorbike and go play with traffic. We can at least stay out of the way most of the time.
1. Cover your brakes
- The time it takes to get your hands on the brakes
- Difference between stopping in time and not
- I don’t have concrete information on times
- It could mean 5 or 10 metres on the road
2. Ride in the vision of cars
- Always make sure they know you are there
- Don’t ride in blind spots
- Find their face in the mirror
3. Choose a part of the road that is free from debris or at least be aware of the surface
- This again is about braking
- I ride next to the white line if the shoulder is dirty, but I ride in the shit if it’s peak hour
- Wheel wells versus centre of the road, oil etc.
4. Practice scanning the road
- Practice getting a feel for looking up the road and anticipating potential movements
- This comes back to how well you understand the pattern in the first place
- Ride a brakeless fixie to really hone in on this one. it takes it to a whole new level
- Back yourself
- Take the gap when you instinctively go to do it.
- Waiting can lead to more trouble.
- Same idea in something like crit racing. Maybe the life and death stakes are higher…
Bonus tip. Practice emergency braking and starting
Stopping quickly is an art form, but an forgotten element is what is happening behind you.
You are most likely going to stop quicker than a car, in which case getting a wriggle on straight away is another part of the emergency stopping that you have to take into consideration. So a quick head check just before you completely stop could save you from getting slammed into from behind.
Tech, Hacks & Products Section
Leg shaving hack. Shave with a razor to your normal hairy boxer line, then use a pair of clippers with just the blade, no cover, for the rest. Sounds simple, but it will save you, ingrowns, inching, other weird red sore spots and your love life.
Photo Credit: ottokristensen