Safety: Prevent the Crosswalk Slam

You’re riding on the sidewalk or bike path, you cross the street at a crosswalk, and a car makes a right turn, right into you. Drivers aren’t expecting bikes in the crosswalk, and it’s hard for motorists to see you because of the nature of turning from one street to another, looking left to turn right; so it’s very easy for you to get hit this way.  In fact, this collision is common.

How to avoid this collision:

Get a headlight. It’s helpful to use your headlight even when riding during the daytime – to help others see YOU. If you’re riding at night, a headlight is essential and required by law, anyway.

Slow down. Slow down enough that you’re able to stop completely if necessary. 

Don’t ride on the sidewalk in the first placeif there’s another option. Crossing between sidewalks/bike paths is a dangerous maneuver.

If you ride on the left hand side of the street, you risk getting slammed. For example, when pedaling west on the bike path on Marine Drive to Kelley Point on the left side, check the traffic in all four directions: 1) from the left, 2) from the right, 3) oncoming cars making a right turn in front of you, and 4) look over your right shoulder for cars making a left turn from behind.

If you ride on the right hand side of the street, you risk getting slammed by a car behind you that’s making a right hook, either directly in front of you or right into you.

Sidewalk riding also makes you vulnerable to cars pulling out of parking lots or driveways.  And you’re threatening to pedestrians on the sidewalk/bike path, who could get hurt if you hit them.  These kinds of accidents are hard to avoid, which is a compelling reason not to ride on the sidewalk in the first place.  In addition, riding on the sidewalk is illegal in some places – for example, downtown Portland.

Some special sidewalks/bike paths are safe to ride on.  If the sidewalk is long (no need to frequently cross streets), and free of driveways and pedestrians, then there’s little risk to you and others.  Just make sure when you do cross a street or driveway. that you slow down sufficiently and that you check the traffic in all directions, especially behind you if you’re riding with the flow of traffic.

The Safety Committee, excerpted from