Are cyclists victims of ‘magical thinking’?

Some New Haven bicyclists may engage in “magical thinking” regarding bike safety. They figure that since they have done everything right — donned their bike helmets, worn reflective clothing and paid scrupulous attention to the rules of the road — they will be spared the catastrophe of a bicycle accident.

The fact remains that doing all of the above offers no guarantees that a cyclist will be safe from a collision with a motorist on the roads. Certainly following safety protocols is important and can save a cyclist’s life if he or she does get hit by a car, but it’s never safe to assume that these actions offer cyclists’ any kind of immunity from getting into an accident.

If you are really concerned about bike safety, follow these tips to avoid getting into accidents:

Choose the road not taken

Avoiding the busiest streets and taking less-traveled routes can be a literal lifesaver, especially during peak traffic times, e.g., morning and afternoon commutes. While a route may be a bit longer, cyclists may still shave minutes from their routes by having to stop fewer times for lights and traffic congestion.

Don’t win the door prize

This particular collision is the bane of cyclists’ existence. Getting “doored” by a distracted motorist is a common occurrence, and frequent bikers have their war stories. But most “door” incidents can be avoided by cyclists riding a bit more toward the left. Yes, it places you closer to the traffic lanes, but at least in that position you are visible to oncoming traffic in ways that you aren’t when riding the curb.

Give a friendly wave

Some motorists appear like they are zombies, with eyes focused only on the road ahead. They may not notice a cyclist about to merge with traffic from a side street. Giving a vivid wave of your arm and hand while at the light or stop sign can be a visible sign of your presence beside them on the street.

Avoid sidewalk riding

It may seem counterintuitive — isn’t riding on the sidewalk inherently safer? It’s not when you eventually have to cross a street. What may be a safe option for a small child riding back and forth in front of the family home, an adult bike rider on a route will eventually have to leave the safety of the sidewalk and enter the traffic zone.

The problem is that motorists typically don’t expect bikers to enter the road from the sidewalk and remain oblivious to your plight. There’s always the danger of being hit by motorists pulling out of their driveways when you ride on a sidewalk, too.

Avoiding the blind spots

If you pull over to the far right of cars at stop signs and red lights, you may think that you are in a safe zone. In reality, you are in a very precarious position — the vehicle’s blind spot. It’s far safer to stop behind the vehicle ahead of you, in full view of all those in traffic.

The life you save may be your own

Cyclists must understand that all of these tips can’t keep them safe from a driver’s negligence. But they can mitigate some of the circumstances surrounding bike accidents. If you do get hit, your injuries could be life-threatening and affect your ability to earn a living. Seeking compensation for your injuries and other damages can put you in a better place to meet the challenges of your “new normal.”