First solo road ride on Sunday: safety concerns.
This morning I wanted to talk about Sunday’s solo road ride in a little more detail. This ride was significant because it was my first solo ride on busy roads. Many of the roads I was on were single lane with no shoulder or bike lane.
First of all, the weather on Sunday was outstanding! It was cool and sunny, and the skies were crystal clear. Mike and I had planned on a road ride, but he had to bail at the last moment. I was pretty sure the rest of the guys I know were already out riding, and so I was faced with an indoor session on the fluid trainer, or a solo ride. There was zero chance I was going to ride indoors on the most beautiful day of 2012, so I decided to hop on the bike and go explore.
Some of the roads I was on had bike lanes, and even though cars were zipping past me just a few feet away I didn’t find that too unnerving. The roads that freaked me out were the single lane roads with no real shoulder and no bike lanes. The speed limit on these roads was between 45-50 MPH, and there was enough traffic that I was being passed pretty regularly. I rode a safe distance from the edge of the road, and maintained speeds between 20 and 30 MPH.
Since purchasing my road bike I’ve done a lot of reading and studying. I’m up on Florida cycling and traffic laws, and I’ve read volumes of cycling safety information. So even though I’m well aware that a “rear end” type bike/car collision is one of the most infrequent types of accidents, that knowledge did little to alleviate my fears as cars were forced into the oncoming traffic lane in order to go around me.
Some motorists were extremely respectful of my right to share the road with them, and they did everything they could to make sure I felt safe (followed a safe distance behind until it was safe to pass and, when passing, they gave me plenty of space). On the other hand a few people drove so closely behind me that I could almost feel the heat from their cars’ engines. Others passed so closely I could have reached out and touched their sideview mirrors.
As a mountain biker, putting my life into the hands of strangers is the only aspect of road riding that I’m having difficulty adjusting to.
Earlier this month two local cyclists were killed in separate incidents on the same weekend. In one of the accidents, Forrest Flaniken, 53, was killed on a Sunday afternoon by a teenager believed to be high on K2 (synthetic marijuana). Forrest was obeying traffic laws, wearing a helmet and riding in a bike lane. The teen hit him from behind, killing him, and then tried to flee.
That same weekend yet another local cyclist was hit and killed by a teenager driving an SUV.
These stories are not uncommon.
Most people are safe and courteous, but it only takes one who isn’t.
I flatted about halfway into the ride, and thankfully it was in a spot where I had plenty of room to change the tube. While I was changing the tube, a couple of people felt the need to yell insults as they whizzed by me. Seriously? What the hell is wrong with people? I can’t even begin to comprehend the mindset of someone who feels compelled to hurl insults at a perfect stranger who is simply out for a bike ride. It’s pretty sad. I don’t like being on the same road as those kinds of people–especially on a bike.
I think group rides are probably much safer than solo rides: motorists are forced to pay more attention to a group of cyclists than a single rider, and are probably less apt to confront them.
I love mountain biking, and I really want to enjoy road cycling, too. The safely issue is making that very difficult. I’m not sure how to get around that, or if it’s even possible to do so. Any thoughts on all of this from the experienced roadies?