Over 90% of wrecks can be avoided by practicing the first two layers of crash prevention, Control Your Bike, and Obey the Law. You can further manage your risk by actively Discouraging Drivers’ Mistakes. Today, I’ll explain how to Avoid Drivers’ Mistakes.
We teach two maneuvers that can help you avoid a car, and one to avoid unexpected obstacles. Hazard avoidance maneuvers are best learned in a parking lot with an instructor. Sign up for the next session to learn them. I’ll describe here the Quick Stop, Instant Turn, and Rock Dodge, with links to videos of each.
1. Quick Stop. The front brake has the most power because your momentum shifts all the weight to the front during deceleration. It is so powerful that it can pitch you over the handlebar, so you should never use the front brake alone, but use both brakes together. You can increase the power of the rear brake by increasing the weight on the rear brake. Rise up off the seat and scoot your butt back so it is over the rear wheel.
2. Instant Turn. Sometimes turning sharply will avoid a wreck when there isn’t time to stop quickly enough. Because the bike steers by leaning (not the handlebar), you can make a sharper turn by forcing the bike to lean by twitching the handlebar the opposite direction of the turn. To perform an instant turn, twitch the handlebar briefly the other direction, then turn it back the way you want to go.
a. Do NOT apply your brakes during this maneuver.
b. LOOK where you want to go, not at the object you are avoiding.
c. Keep your pedals level. If the bike leans over far enough during your turn, you can scrape the pedal on the ground if it is in the down position.
3. Rock Dodge. You can avoid most obstacles by riding at least an arm’s length from the edge of the road and scanning and signaling to go around something in your path. But sometimes something unexpected can pop up, perhaps hidden by the terrain or unseen because you were momentarily distracted. You might not have time to scan and signal, but you can still avoid the obstacle without swerving into traffic using the Rock Dodge. This is just a quick flick of your handlebar to the left or right, and immediately turning back.
If the hazard avoidance maneuvers intimidate you, don’t worry. Practice them at slow speed initially, then continue to practice them whenever you ride. It’s kind of fun.
The Five Layers of Crash Prevention developed by the League of American Bicyclists for their Smart Cycling program are:
1. Control your bike. 83% of bike wrecks don’t involve a motor vehicle. Learn the common pitfalls and how to avoid them.
2. Obey the law. In half of car-bike collisions, the cyclist was not obeying a traffic law.
3. Discourage drivers’ mistakes. Just like defensive driving, you can discourage drivers from making common mistakes by choosing where and how to ride. A key concept is learning how to control the lane.
4. Avoid drivers’ mistakes. For those mistakes they make anyway, there are a couple maneuvers you can learn—and practice!—to avoid a collision.
5. Wear a helmet. Practicing the four principles above prevents over 90% of bike wrecks. The helmet can save your life for the few you can’t avoid.