The Commute — Possibly the Safest Bicycle Trip You Can Make?
I recall reading somewhere years ago that bicycle commute trips are some of the safest trips cyclists make. I don’t know if that claim was based on any really sound research, but the more I ride, the more I believe it.
This morning I had a meeting up in Maitland, so I didn’t take my normal route. The ride up there was uneventful, but coming back to downtown between 9:00 and 10:00 a.m., it had its moments. First was the old man who passed too close on Fairbanks between Wymore and I-4. He had a clear lane to the left, but must have felt that magnetic draw of the curb. I chalked that one up to just old age. (BTW, he passed me again on Mills Ave. just south of Princeton. I suppose he must have stopped somewhere…)
After crossing Colonial on Mills I had two drivers get ticked at me for commanding the lane. (The lanes on Mills south of Colonial are about 10 feet.) Both honked their horns and gave me the finger.
But on my routine commute on South Street where I take the lane I rarely get much grief from motorists. It’s not that it’s any easier for motorists to pass, it’s that they see me day after day and figure out that I’m not out there “joyriding” (“You’re enjoying yourself at my expense! Hissss!”), but going to work just like everybody else.
So that’s one reason why commuting is safer — less antagonism.
Knowing the route. You learn where all the little problem spots are; whether those are bad pavement, bad bikeway designs, unresponsive signal loops, etc. And you learn how to deal with them.
Knowing the flow. You learn how traffic moves at that particular time of day, and how to deal with (and take advantage of) that.
Motorists generally know where they are going. They make fewer unexpected moves because they know their routines. The worst problems I experience are near commercial districts on the weekends. “Oh, wait; the store’s on THAT side of the street!” [SUDDEN TURN!]
So if you start commuting by bike, don’t be discouraged if the first couple trips are a bit challenging. Those rough spots will get smoothed out over a couple of weeks and you’ll soon find it pretty stress-free.