Got to pull out into the traffic lane. Quick, look in the rearview mirror. No cars. Do it.
Bicycle commuting requires total awareness of your surroundings, and recent bicycling tragedies prove both cyclists and drivers have to be on their guard.
I'm confronted by situations every day on my commute to work. Here are some from the last few days:
There's a car at the stop sign on a side street. Does the driver see me? I don't assume anything, even though I have the right of way. I don't want to argue with tons of steel.
He's inching out into the street and into my path as I approach. I got a white bike helmet so that I can be seen more easily, and I'm planning on getting one of those fluorescent vests.
He sees me. Cool. I go by.
Stay alert. Here comes something tricky. I'm coming up to a stop sign and three cars traveling in the same direction have their right-turn blinkers on. I'm going to make a right turn, too.
There's no bike lane and I don't want to squeeze between them and the curb. I slow down before the corner and let all three of the cars turn before me. A fourth car behind me slows and the driver waves me on.
In the last couple of weeks, I've seen a lot more courtesy and awareness on the part of drivers and bicyclists. Other bicyclists have mentioned the same.
It's a good thing.
Watch it, a pickup truck pulls up behind me on a narrowing street without a bike lane. There's not much
Instead, the driver backs off and cruises at my speed of about 15 mph behind me. Then, when the coast is clear in the second lane of the one-way street, he passes me with plenty of space.
His courtesy is much appreciated.
Yikes, a women opens the door of a parked car into the lane of traffic. I brake and swerve further into the lane of traffic. Whew, no cars behind me.
Keep looking way ahead. There's a car double-parked in the bike lane. The driver is waiting for another vehicle to leave a parking spot.
Quick. Look in the rearview mirror. No cars. Turn out into the traffic lane and pass.
Quick, think fast. A teen with no helmet and wearing ear phones for an mp3 player is coming out of nowhere off the sidewalk and into the street. Brake. Smile.
What's up? I'm in the bike lane on the left side of a four-lane, one-way street waiting for the light to change. The light changes and a guy in a pickup truck in the left lane honks at me to go.
I immediately get hot under the collar and think he wants me to hurry and get out of his way. Let's be positive. He's just letting me know he's there for my safety.
Avoid the head-on. Surprise! Here comes a rider up the bike lane going against traffic. Think fast. I've got to move somewhere, even though I'm going in the right direction and he isn't.
Check the rearview mirror. No cars. Get out into the traffic lane.
(Bicyclists in the street should follow the same rules as motor vehicles. Otherwise, they should stay on the sidewalks. But if a bicyclist is on a sidewalk, pedestrians have the right of way.)
Heads up. A delivery truck is coming in the opposite direction and its left turn signal is on.
Does the driver see me coming? I've got the right of way even though there is no bike lane. The driver waits for me to pass.
Watch your back. I'm in the center turn lane waiting to make a left turn onto a side street. There's a lot of oncoming traffic and a long wait. Hope i'm visible to cars in front and behind me. The center turn lane is dangerous.
Suddenly, a driver coming in the opposite direction slows down and waves me on to make my turn. Another courtesy.
Don't let your guard down. I've got to cut through a parking lot. Parking lots are just as dangerous as streets. Motorists pulling out of parking spaces are looking for cars, not bikes. I've got to go slow and make myself seen.
Motorists pulling into parking lot entrances often make wide turns into the entrance. So watch out leaving a parking lot, too.
There are close calls when commuting on a bike. Just be alert, follow traffic rules, chill out and be courteous.