When it comes to traveling on your bike, short or long distance, it’s not always going to be smooth sailing… riding. It is not “if,” but “when” you will be harassed or yelled at by drivers. Some people suggest that this may be because we are disturbing the natural order of economics and evolution called the “free rider problem”. Others wonder why cyclists break traffic laws when our number one concern is being safe (don’t forget to leave your feedback).
Yet, we purposely forgo the possibilities of these negative interactions and continue to ride our bikes as vulnerable creatures on the road. We continue to look forward to all the positive interactions and forget the negative, like my friend Evadne for instance. Even though her bike eventually was stolen in Ventura, she still had the spirit to go back and finish her ride from Seattle to Los Angeles.
To help you live another day, I have 6 road safety tips that you can try the next time you have a negative encounter with another individual shielded by 2 tons of steel and glass.
1. Keep Your Cool
Having someone honk, scream obscenities, or throw things at you will certainly trigger a defensive reaction. It’s natural to want to give them a piece of your mind, but rather than escalating the situation by retaliating, just keep it cool and bite your tongue. Situations like this usually happens in a split second, and they are gone, so let’s not worry about it and let it go. Don’t forget that they are holding a 2 plus ton weapon in their hands and can easily change both your lives forever in an instant.
2. Wave to Them
Whenever I get honked at or harassed, I would wave. They are expecting you to react negatively and to just do the opposite will certainly throw them for a loop and confuse them. I have heard of people doing this and the drivers would actually wave back. Unfortunately, I have had experiences where the driver would then flip me the bird. Oh well, you can’t win them all.
3. Get Out of the Way
If the situation goes beyond the harassment and honking, where they can potentially harm you physically, stop and get out of the way. Get on to a sidewalk if there is one or onto the shoulder. Get your cellphone and start looking out for a way out. Wave down another motorists if you have to. Your safety is the highest priority.
4. Get a Rear View Mirror
I understand it looks strange and dorky, but I don’t care. I would rather look dorky and be able to see who or what is approaching me from behind so that I can react appropriately. That is why having a rear view mirror is a must when I go on long distance rides. Get one and try it out. It takes time for you to get used to, but it will be valuable when you can scan behind for any dangers.
5. Have a Camera
Whether you have an action camera like a GoPro, your cell phone camera, or even a system like the Fly 6 camera / light, it’s a good idea to have it ready to record. You just don’t know what may happen, so it’s best to be ready to document your incidents. Most people change their moods and minds once they realize that they are being recorded. When I was riding in Oregon this past summer, I had a GoPro mounted to my left drop bar of the bike. My brother-in-law, Sang Hyun, told me that there was a truck that passed us and the kid hanging out a window was getting ready to chuck a drink at me, but didn’t. My guess was that they saw the camera and changed their minds. I wasn’t even recording, but it helped as a great deterrent against malicious encounters.
6. Support Your Local Advocacy Group
Make sure you support your local bicycle advocacy group. They make it possible to help build better infrastructure and pass laws to protect cyclists. They can help change your community where negative behaviors may not occur frequently and prioritize road safety for bicyclists in the community as well as for other bicycle tourists. They are the voice to the politicians and to your community. If they do a good job, we will reap from the fruits of their labor. Support them in any way by volunteering or donating to help fund further improvements.
Be safe out there!