Bicycle Diaries: Getting thru traffic

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Getting thru traffic

like a sharp knife
through warm chocolate cake

With the new job I'll be ramping up my commuting in the City of Big Shoulders. Even though the new office will be up here on the far north side I'll be meeting with a lot of groups all over the city and surrounding region. To boost the odds for my survival I took a look through the bike blogs searching for commuting tips.

Out in San Francisco Lane Kagay owns CETMAracks. He builds front-end bike racks and blogs about bike culture. Several months ago he posted a dissection and analysis of a busy urban intersection from the viewpoint of a bicycle courier...

  • A. The traffic light turned red while you were mid-intersection.
  • B. Oblivious pedestrians. BIG TROUBLE. Practiced city-walkers will look left before stepping into the street, but you're not likely to encounter them here. See the lady in front? She's looking up at some dumb billboard and daydreaming. The moment she snaps out of it and notices the walk signal, she's gonna bolt without looking. The others behind her are in conversation and WILL follow her thoughtlessly.
  • C. Check the bus. It's difficult to see in this picture, but up ahead there's a stampede waiting to board this bus. The bus driver hasn't signaled yet, but you know better. Stay away from the right side.
  • D. This driver probably poses the greatest danger to you. Oncoming traffic from the right will be approaching any moment, and you can count on this guy making a panicky hard right to clear the intersection. With limited visibility behind the delivery truck (and with you smack-dab in his blind spot), he's not gonna see the stopped bus on the right, and I guarantee you, he's gonna floor it to avoid getting swarmed by pedestrians in front of the crosswalk. Be ready.
Kagay thus suggests:
Get the peds' attention with a shout or a bell or something. When they see your ugly face barreling down, they'll stay put. Lay on a couple hard pumps to get on the wheel of that guy on the bike, but keep a close eye on the black car (D). Watch the front wheels and listen for the acceleration.

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Blogger Fritz said...

Of course, after you've done this for a while a lot of the analysis like that shown for the intersection takes place instantaneously/automatically. That's part of the reason children are more likely to get into accidents -- lack of experience means they don't anticipate what the traffic around them will do.

Even newbie adult cyclists will have an advantage -- they've likely been driving and know the behavior of other motorists.

20/1/07 20:41  
Blogger Sportingo said...

I am curious as to whether you ever write entries on pro-cycling tours.

23/1/07 07:46  
Blogger Da' Square Wheelman, said...

To be honest I'm not sure what pro-cycling tours are; but I'd be game if I could find an interesting angle.

23/1/07 10:43  
Blogger Lance said...

Hey, what a cool surprise to find my name and "street dissection" on your blog! Thanks for the mention. I'm tickled to think that folks enjoyed that.

I was originally set to do an entire series of those dissctions, but got distracted.

Thanks for the CETMAracks mention!

5/2/07 22:11  

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