The Bike-Car Conundrum: Road to the Century, Part III

Tips from one rider's first time planning and riding a 100-mile route
Staff Writer

I was sitting down to dinner when I saw a text from my boyfriend, Jacob, pop up on my phone. We've both been training—he in Chicago, I in New York—to do a 100-mile bike ride together next month in California (and I've been dropping tips along the way).

“Before this gets around to you from someone other than me: I’m actually at the hospital right now because I got hit by a car during my ride.”

With that, my appetite was gone. 

Jacob had been crossing a street when he was hit by a woman in an SUV who didn't see him. The car hit his leg and sent Jacob flying over his handlebars. Luckily, with his background in parkour, muscle memory kicked in and he was able to dive-roll to limit the impact. His sweet moves didn’t save his leg, however, and he ended up walking to the hospital for seven stiches.

So today there is only one tip, and let its singularity be a testament to its importance:

Don't get hit by a car.

If this sounds silly, you haven’t been riding long enough. For cyclists in New York City, getting “doored” is practically a rite of passage. And even if you don’t live in a big city, there are still cars… and drivers less accustomed to cyclists can be even more dangerous

Luckily, you can do a few things to avoid an accident like Jacob’s (or one much worse):

  • Channel the Disney laser light show: Wear reflective clothing, put reflectors and lights on the front and back of your bike and wear a headlamp at night. If you do this right, any car within a 100 foot radius will know you're there. When I ride, I use lights like these because they’re cheap, effective and simple to take on and off your bike.
  • Find a helmet that makes you feel sexy, or whatever: Let's face it, a helmet is not the most fashionable accessory. And though everyone knows it's not optional, a dorky helmet can give you that little bit of hesitation.  A cool one, on the other hand, can make you feel like you own the road. Invest the time to find a helmet with the best style and fit. Even if the price tag is steep, this is an expense you can justify. 
  • Stay on the Defensive: You move a lot slower and weigh a lot less than an SUV. It’s ultimately your job to stay out of its way.
  • Don’t Pass on the Right: Sometimes cars don't watch for cyclists or use turn signals. Accidents can happen if a driver suddenly or unexpectedly makes a right turn.
  • Ride in the Road: You’re a lot easier to see if you’re a part of traffic. If you try to cross a street from the sidewalk, you’re easier to miss.
  • Carry a cell phone: If you want to avoid the heavy backpack, purchase a saddle- or handlebar-bag (about $7-$25 on Amazon). They can fit both your snacks and your phone.
  • And, of course, parkour lessons can’t hurt. 

Click here for more stories from the Lessons Learned Series.