Fear of Road Riding/Improving Safety

Hi All:

Could not find a similar post to this, so I decided to create a new topic. I’d like to hear what others do to increase safety and mitigate their fear of riding on the road (specifically, due to motor vehicles).

I’ve been cycling for about 12 years. I’ve been using Trainer Road for 2-3 years now, and do most of my training indoors. However, I like to get outdoors at least once a week for a long ride. I’m lucky in the sense that I have a long greenway trail close by that I can ride out/back to get 100k. However, that gets boring when you do it every weekend, and there are other pedestrians you have to deal with (runners wearing earbuds, dogs on extendy leashes, etc.), and right now it is also impossible to social distance riding on the greenway. There is also something about the freedom of getting on roads and going different places/seeing different sights, but I often let my fear get the best of me to the point that I don’t enjoy the ride as much, or let it keep me from getting out of the door. I just purchased a Garmin Varia a few weeks ago which has been a game changer. However, it in and of itself does not completely mitigate my fears but It’s a piece of the puzzle. Is there any other gear/tips/tactics you can recommend to help improve safety/mitigate fears? By far and large, in my experience most motorists around here are kind and pass safely, but there seems to be 1 out of 500 or so that don’t give you the space (whether they are distracted, trying to prove a point, etc.) and buzz you too closely. I’ve thought about adding a camera (or two) to my setup, but that is really only good after the fact (which I still think is a piece of the puzzle). I’d like more ideas on the preventative measure side of things to improve safety and to give peace of mind.

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The reason I ride as little road as possible and now focus on gravel and mountain biking. Too many drivers reading text or some other crazy vs. driving. Roads are only for connecting up great gravel routes as far as I’m concerned. Can’t think of much else to do except ride on high alert.

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I simply moved to the Netherlands… solved any concerns in that regard :rofl:

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Nothing particularly sophisticated and some of these not everyone can do all the time.

  1. Plan the route well. I drive further out into the country/rural areas for road rides than I do for mountain bike rides. I’m looking for long straight roads with less traffic, intersections, etc.
  2. Plan the time well. I’m looking for times to ride that further drive that traffic down. Early morning usually. Don’t ride on a road on Sunday that has a busy church. Don’t ride during rush hour or the morning commute etc.
  3. Ride in a group. Riding solo is almost never comfortable for me. Groups of 3-15 are much safer.
  4. Take the lane. Do not try to ride on the edge of the road. Ride in the middle of the lane or at least the quadrant next to the middle of the lane. Do not give folks a way to pass you without having to go into the other lane. If they have to go into the opposing lane they will give you much wider berth. If they try to squeeze by you, they may squeeze you out, particularly if there is an oncoming car.
  5. Be visible. This is somewhat explanatory. Clothing, lights, etc. However, also consider the sun position. Try not to ride at times in the morning or evening when the sun is at a position to blind the driver. This only happens certain times of the year when the sun is very low in the sky.
  6. Ride consistently and in a tight formation. Nothing worse than having a group split up across a long distance where a car cannot possibly dodge every straggler.
  7. Communicate with the cars behind you. Signaling, waving, warning, etc.

I’m sure there are others, but these are the ones that came to mind right away. You can’t completely remove the risk and communicate perfectly. I also try not to dwell on the close calls. They happen, but they happen with everything in life, particularly driving, so if I do the above, I feel relatively safe.

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Adding to your awesome list:

  1. Be aware of surrounding traffic. Consider a mirror AND the Garmin Varia radar (since you already have it). I have both (despite the finger pointing from friends in the group towards my ‘dorky’ mirror) and they are a fantastic combo to me knowing the distance and position of approaching traffic from behind.
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@russell.r.sage is right - these are all good ideas especially riding in a group when you can. I also have flashing lights and cameras front and rear. Flashing lights are better than steady. I often have a period after a close pass where I will actively avoid roads and do more MTB but I have to drive to get to decent trails which seems counter productive to me.
I have noticed since lock down in the UK that although there were less cars on the roads those that were out and about were making up for everyone else by driving even worse and much faster. Right bunch of motons with no consideration.

I’ve also passed on clips of idiot drivers to the police a couple of times. I’m by no means a vigilante but it might make them more considerate next time.

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This is an excellent point…but let circumstances dictate when you should do it. I don’t think it is a universal approach.

In general, I will ride farther out when I feel how visible I am may be compromised. If I am on a road with heavier traffic, I won’t ride out towards the middle because I am then an impediment and pissing drivers off.

But yes, don’t be afraid to take the lane…we have been indoctrinated to stay to the side / edge / shoulder and often that is the worst palce to be.

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radar (gen1) and flashing light (night flash):

and mirror at end of handlebar:

I use the radar to alert me, and the mirror to judge passing distance.

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This is exactly my setup.

I have the Varia 2nd gen on flashing, a helmet light flashing as well (different light pattern) and mirror at the end of the handlebar (it is not pretty, it sometimes gets on the way… but it works).

I try to head East to West as much as possible after work (when the sun is still high) since that means on my return (West to East) the sun will be setting behind me and lighting me up without blinding the drivers coming behind me.

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Ohh… one more thing… I ALWAYS carry a ROADID with me. Its on my AppleWatch and it has my name, medical information and my family’s numbers. This wont prevent anything from happening but if something did happen, I would want whoever finds me to know what to do.

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Same. On my wrist.

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This is a good picture to spur conversation about this road.
To me, this looks like a safe road.

  1. It’s two lanes each way, so passing next to you is not necessary. However, usually more lanes equals higher speed limits and possibly traffic.
  2. Most noticeable, It has a big shoulder, which can be good or bad. I would suggest riding in the shoulder where possible. However, this is a big caveat, some shoulders are littered with debris and are perhaps extremely dangerous for punctures, storm drains, and obstacles big enough to wreck you. This shoulder looks great, but if the shoulder is dirty, I would still ride in the road and take the lane when needed. Also be careful about cars turning in front of you because they don’t see you as part of the flow of traffic.
  3. Long straight views. Seems like a rural area.
  4. Low traffic.
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I wonder about the Varia. How does a beep when a car is coming up behind you help? Yes you are aware of it but what action do you take ?
I have not used one or seen one in action.

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In my first post I wrote and then deleted “Choose roads wisely.”

That was a low-traffic early Sunday morning. I would not ride that road during the week.

Cars are usually going 60-70mph. First I hear a beep and look at head unit (Edge 530) to see how many cars. Then I look in rear view mirror to see what lane(s) the car is in. If the car is in right lane, or approaching closely, I move far right to the edge of the wide shoulder.

Front light is white on blink mode. Rear light is red on blink mode. Be predictable and obey laws especially at intersections. Assume they don’t see you and understand most motorist (at least around here) are used to cyclist puttering along at 10mph. So, when you are cruising at 25mph or sprinting to make that stop light at 35 cars turning left do not expect that speed. So maybe don’t sprint for stop lights as well :wink:

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Above all be PREDICTABLE and ride with confidence.

  • I would start by finding a slower and slightly rural road that you know is frequented by cyclists, runners, or walkers.
    On those roads drivers expect to see cyclists and others so they are more likely to drive slower and give you more room when they pass. This will help you to gain confidence.

  • Riding predictably means doing your best to hold a straight line.
    One thing I see a lot of less experienced cyclists do is always ride in the shoulder. This sounds safer than riding in the lane but a lot of times there is more debris in the shoulder than the lane. This includes everything from grit and gravel to nails to downed tree branches. And people will ride along in the shoulder and then abruptly steer into the lane to avoid something when they would have just been safer riding along the edge of the lane the whole time. Obviously this depends on the road/area you are riding on as some have wider/cleaner shoulders than others.

  • Similar to that, if there are right hand turn lanes on the road you are riding, ride in the lane that follows your traffic flow.
    I see a lot of people riding along only to follow the edge of the road into the turn lane and then come back into the road and continue straight. This makes cars think you are going to turn only to realize that you are coming back onto the road.

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always be looking ahead and scanning road for safe lines. Like skiing thru moguls, you always need to be picking lines to ride.

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@russell.r.sage has a spot on list.

I’ll just add that for me I’m all about how a road feels to me. In other words I have certain roads that I’ll only ride during certain times and avoid them during heavy use. Plan your route but also make a mental note at how the road feels to ride. Are you enjoying it, or do you feel like you’re constantly on alert? Some roads are necessary evils that I’ll only use occasionally while others are almost always stress free.

I’ve learned to ride with a good balance of assertiveness and defensiveness; there is a time and place to simply yield to traffic behind you especially if you’ve made them wait for extended period of time - of course put your safety first and use judgement.

Assertively taking the lane and using hand signals to traffic behind you is helpful. Moving over to the right when you have good sight line for them to pass, wave them on and wave at them if they have passed with care (I really believe that’s the best thing we can do for future interactions).

I see the point about riding in groups as safer, but only if it’s the right group. Personally I prefer solo riding because I’m the only one making decisions on line choice and it’s easier for cars to pass one rider safely. I see too many inexperienced riders riding “together” with big gaps between riders which makes it nearly impossible and frustrating to get by safely in a car. Something more cyclists should consider. If you’re the stronger rider let the weaker rider on your wheel, and learn to draft safely.

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Not just in the UK, they are everywhere. It’s like all the decent drivers are staying home and all that’s left on the road are the complete a-hole drivers. Hell, police here just busted a teenager for driving at 308km/hr!

Stay safe!

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Not feeling that way here in NorCal, the roads I ride on have been safer since shelter in place was enacted about 2 months ago. By safer I mean less cars, and no close calls. In fact I’ve seen more drivers give me a lot of space. Also seeing more bikes on the road.

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