of the most common car/bicycle accidents caused by the actions of the motorist
are turning left into an oncoming cyclist and turning right while along side or
after just passing a cyclist. According
to statistics from the League of American Bicyclists, these two situations
constitute over 24% of all car/bicycle accidents. Last month, I was riding tandem with my wife and we were
approaching an intersection when a car pulled up beside us and turned right.
We were able to maneuver the tandem around the corner inside the car’s
turn radius only because I have practiced the quick turn maneuver taught by the
League in their Effective Cycling Course. You
are not helpless in these situations but what are your options if you are put
into this situation?
What can you do to improve your chances of avoiding injury?
Let’s take a look and see.
Just by knowing where and when these problems can occur increases your situational
awareness and early recognition of a dangerous predicament. The earlier
you can react (and the more you practice the emergency bike handling procedures
we're talking about here) the better your chances of avoiding a collision and
possible serious injury. But if you find yourself in either of these
critical situations you basically have 3 options. You
can hit the car (most undesirable), you can execute an immediate stop
(definitely an option we’ll discuss in another article), or you can turn to
the right just inside the car’s path (we’ll discuss this one today). Don’t even think about turning left to avoid an oncoming
left turning car? Remember, this is
a reaction, not something you have time to evaluate the repercussions.
Turning left is a very dangerous maneuver and may cause you even more
problems as you will be turning left from the right side of the road in front of
traffic behind you and possibly head on into the path of the oncoming car.
Even if you avoid the car, you stand a good chance of being in the middle
of other oncoming traffic. Now you’ve got a completely different set of problems!
As I said above, today
I’ll discuss the quick right turn procedure to avoid a collision.
The first thing you need to understand is that you can’t turn a bicycle
by just steering the handlebars in the direction you want to travel…you must
also get the bike to lean in the direction you want to turn.
WHAT…you say? Yes,
that’s right…if you want to turn around a corner fast, you must first make
the bike “fall” in the direction you want to turn.
Think about it. When you are
riding, the bike is always “falling” in one direction or the other.
When it does, you steer the bike to correct the fall to ride a straight line or
time the steering to complete the turn.
When you are riding normally and want to make a turn, you simply time
your lean naturally and complete the turn without thinking about it, but in an
emergency situation you don’t have the time to simply time your fall to
complete the turn, you have to force it! How
do you do that? I’m glad you
must steer the handlebars in the opposite direction you want to turn.
That means steering the bike toward the danger first!
Remember in the second paragraph, I said
that don't even think about "turning" left to avoid the car.
Well, you aren't turning left, you are "steering" left. This
will cause the bike to fall away from the car toward the direction you want to
turn. Basically, you are forcing a
lean instantly instead of waiting for it to happen naturally as in a normal
turn. Then you steer the handlebars
back in the direction of the turn to complete the process.
The most common mistake here is to over steer back after the initial
steering input. Another common
mistake is cramming on the brakes while trying to turn quickly.
Both of these actions make the bike straighten out and become upright too
early. You want to continue the
turn until you have safely turned inside the turn of the car.
The point to remember is that you will always lean (or fall) away from
the direction you steer the handlebars.
This maneuver is not an
intuitive phenomenon. You have to
practice it over and over until it becomes part of your normal riding habits.
The picture at the left is one of my students demonstrating excellent form initiating
a quick left turn maneuver. When you are faced with this situation it’s too late to try to remember
how to do it correctly, you have to react quickly and do it automatically!
I recommend practicing it every time you enter a normal turn.
Simply make a conscious effort to steer away from the direction you want
to turn until it becomes natural to you. This
procedure and other important bike handling skills are taught and practiced in
the League of American Bicyclists Road 1 course. Practice this
procedure...it may save your life one day.