Safety Corner, July 2021

John Allen


The weather has opened up, the pandemic is winding down, or at least more of us are vaccinated, and the increase in bicycling during the pandemic seems to be holding for now.


I am hearing reports though about how motorists are supposed to be more reckless than they were before. Bicyclists will always talk about how badly motorists drive, but a rational response is always situational awareness and defensive driving on your bicycle. Best practices are counterintuitive to anyone who grew up with the common perceptions that usually revolve around staying out of the way. Safety often requires assertive positioning on the roadway-- to be visible, to discourage motorists from taking chances on passing in a too-narrow space, and to have room for an evasive maneuver, if that is necessary.


Example: on May 15, in midafternoon  a Saturday with substantial traffic, a group of cyclists in one of my courses  took on downtown Waltham. The video embedded here records some challenges which this ride posed.



You may ask, about much of the video, “where is all that traffic that John just mentioned?” Well, actually you see a lot of it coming the other way – but very little behind.


Why? There will usually be little traffic when turning right or left on a green light. It is often useful to wait and not turn right on red, for that reason. Wait just to the left of right-turning cars so they can pass on your right.


The satellite view in Google Maps is a great tool to help figure out how route selection and traffic-signal timing can make bicycling more pleasant.The ride shown has a left turn, a right turn and then a left turn, each of them on a green light. And also – motorists traveling between the same start and end points could take a different route, continuing straight at the first left turn in the video, and turning left a block later, requiring only one turn and further reducing the traffic volume on the bicyclists’ route.


The video tells the rest of the story.


John S. Allen is CRW Safety Coordinator, a certified CyclingSavvy Instructor and League Cycling Instructor and author of Bicycling Street Smarts.