What I Fear When Cycling

I’ve been riding bikes since my high school years on my first ten-speed bike (SEARS), then up in the Dallas area when I moved up there, again here in the Valley and any city that I went to go cycle at (Austin, Houston, Corpus Christi, San Antonio). I’ve cycled on long country roads, neighborhood streets and mixed in with the cars on busy city streets and I do consider myself and experienced cyclist. But, that doesn’t lead to complacency, in fact my experience tells me to heighten my sense of surroundings. Does that make me fearless? No, not at all. I have fears just like any one out there. What I fear the most when I’m out cycling is not the car behind me, but the car behind the car.

You may thinking that all wrong, I should be afraid of the car that is immediately behind me, even if I’m on a shoulder or bike lane. True that vehicle poses the most immediate threat to my safety, but it’s really the car behind it. Why? Simple, most of the time they can’t see you! It’s even worse if the second car is behind a van or other large vehicle, they are really blind beyond the rear of the van. Especially those tailgater’s!

How many times have you been driving down the road and have that one car storm up behind your ass and tailgate, looking for that time to pass you up? You know the kind, they stay inches from your ass and then punch it the first chance they get to pass you. How about those guys who thinks the road is their personal Daytona 500 and they are out to win. I’ve personally seen them do that in front of me, tailgate the person, switching lanes frequently and when they can’t pass legally, they suddenly swerve into the shoulder and pass the car. If there was a cyclist riding on the shoulder they would be dead. Anyone for that matter.

What are the chances of that happening? I don’t have the computing power to answer that, but I can tell you it’s one of those things that is constantly in the back of my head when I’m out riding on a shoulder-less road and a car wants to pass me. I see the car in my mirror (yes I use a mirror), but I can’t see if there is another car behind that truck. If I can’t see that second car, then they can’t see me. Are they paying attention to the vehicle in front of them? Do they notice that they moved over to the left lane to pass me? Are they distracted with something? Are they in a bad mood? Are they in a hurry? During those times I’m not concentrating on riding, but on the cars. I don’t breathe a sigh of relief until they pass me and have me in their rear view mirror.

I look for other dangers while I’m out and about. You have to because becoming complacent will get you in trouble. There is plenty to look out for, blind spots, door opening, squeeze plays, debris on the road, etc. Don’t worry, I am having fun out there too! So, yes, the car behind the car is what fear the most when I’m out cycling getting my exercise in.

Have fun, but be safe.

More Valley cyclists killed on the road

Our local news station reported that three cyclist were hit by a car trying to pass another vehicle. Two of the three were killed while the third clings to life at the hospital. You can read the news of it here.

This goes to show that the Valley is not immune to these types of events. Everyone that rides a bike needs to be aware of their surroundings at ALL times and not let your guard down. If you ride at night then being seen is essential, use your lights in front and in the back. They are a cheap, inexpensive way to make yourself visible to others.

I always ride with a mirror attached to my glasses and I feel uncomfortable if I start to ride without one. Sometimes when I ride at night I put on some reflector straps to my ankles in addition to the use of front and rear lights. While approaching an intersection I place my hands on the brakes and look at the drivers at the intersection. These are some of the things I do to mitigate the chances of getting into an accident, while I’m out riding my bike. Do I have lapses and forget to slowdown at intersections or forget to check the mirror, yes I do. But it is at those times that I remember that increased vigilance on my practices is called for. I wear my Road ID, but I hope I’m never get in a situation were it needs to be used.

Stay vigilant, stay safe, have fun riding.

2011 Edinburg Bike Rodeo

Saturday morning was the first Edinburg Bike Rodeo held at parking lot of City Hall in Edinburg, Texas. The goal of the event is to bring cycling safety awareness, Share the Road awareness and the city’s new Safe Passing ordinance to the citizens through education and riding skill practice courses. Before the kids can go out on the courses they first had to go through several stations that included a bike repair, bike check, helmet fitting and an instructional safety video. For those kids without helmets, Farmers Insurance provided helmets for the them to keep. New bikes were also provided for the kids to use during the event. Later those same bikes were raffled  to those that completed the entire program.

There were a lot of families attending the event that served up activities and refreshments (hot dogs, water, sodas and even Hygiea was there to provide milk). Volunteers that signed up received a free Bike Rodeo t-shirt to wear for the event. Many of the sponsors that were there also had their club shirts on so it was easy to identify who belong to what group.

The Bike Rodeo was a result of traffic accident to a local cyclist, Deby Moreno. We are very fortunate to have Deby present for the Bike Rodeo  as being hit by a car usually has fatal consequences but she is alive and well and already riding again. An article from The Monitor about the about the event can be found here. I also blogged about the accident in my Danger, Will Robinson! Danger! article back in late July.

The day was a beautiful overcast cooler day. When I say cooler, I mean in the 80’s rather than the usual 100+ degrees we normally have. As I mentioned before, there were several stations that the kids must go through before trying out the twelve different courses. Wally’s Bicycles provided the repairs to bikes as needed at one station. There were some bikes that needed to be fixed and this was a great opportunity to get the bikes fixed at no cost to them.

Bike Edinburg was present to man both the Bike Check and the Helmet Fit stations. In the Bike Check station they inspected the bicycles to see if they are in working order. They checked the bike for good brakes, tire pressure and chain.  If the tire needed air, they would pump up the tire or show the parent how to do it. They also adjusted the saddle height to the rider and or made sure the bike was the right size for the child that is to ride it.

Over at the Helmet Check station Bike Edinburg volunteers made sure the each child had a helmet to wear and that it was properly fitted and strapped on. If the child did not have a helmet, the helmet that was fitted for them was theirs to keep, courtesy of State Farm. Each child was taught how to wear the helmet and how to adjust the strap so that it stayed on their heads. Bicycle education and safety were stressed in this event at every station.

The last safety and education station was the Edinburg Police Department’s mobile command center that went over bicycle laws, rules of the road, hand signals and the new safe passing ordinance. They accomplished this though the use of an instructional video that both the child and parent had to watch. Once they were finished with these core stations, the kids along with their parents were allowed to navigate the various obstacle courses that challenged certain bicycle skills as well as reinforced basic traffic skills.

Ciclistas Urbanos, one of the co-sponsors of the Bike Rodeo, had volunteers there to man two of the obstacle courses as well as to pass out safety materials, coloring books, oranges and bananas. They also provided a 101 Round-up Ride to and from the Birding Center in Edinburg. The ride is to introduce newcomers, of all ages, on the basics of cycling at an easy relaxed pace. Hopefully this will encourage cyclist that felt intimidated in cycling on the roads to feel more confident that they can do it and in a safe manner.

Also present at the event included the Hidalgo County Metropolitan Planing Organization and their new transit system buses for the Edinburg area. These buses are splashed with Share the Road awareness promoting sharing the road with cyclists as well as the City of Edinburg’s Safe Passing ordinance information. These are very nice looking buses that will be rolling around the city making their rounds. In addition, the buses support the facility for the rider to take their bikes with them on their commute as the bus is outfitted with a bike rack that can carry two bikes. I’ve personally seen this type of setup while I was visiting San Antonio and took the bus to Fiesta Texas. Students would take the bus to college, get off and jump on their bike and ride the rest of the way. Many people did this while I was there. Hopefully this will encourage more people to use the bus and bike combination as an alternative or supplement their commuting with them.

Overall, I would say that this was a great start for the City of Edinburg and all the people and clubs involved in making it happen. Getting the neighboring cities to follow-up and do the same will be a challenge.

 

bike-repair-station

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