In Cycling Tip of the Week, we'll be featuring a weekly tip aimed at making cycling safer and more fun for you. Feel free to send us your tips as well.
In a previous cycling tip of the week, we discussed how a cyclist can use her voice to alert drivers to her presence. That approach works for the most common situations that threaten a cyclist's safety, such as when a car door opens suddenly or a vehicle tries to cross a bike lane without looking. However, there are situations where yelling won't help, and the best approach is to notice the situations well ahead of time. For instance, what's most disconcerting to riders is that they can't see the traffic behind them unless they turn around to look, and approaching drivers, if distracted, can collide with a cyclist.
Over the years, I've learned to listen for those situations and avoid them. One of the joys of being on a bicycle is that your senses come alive, and you can feel the warmth in the air, or listen to birds chirping, leaves rustling, etc. But just as importantly, you can use your senses to stay safe as well. Over time, you can learn to hear if a car is swerving or speeding. You can listen for the sound of diesel engines- which is a sign that a large truck or bus might be behind you.
Anytime you hear something that might present a danger, prepare to act. Particularly if a dangerous situation is approaching from behind, never be shy about pulling off the road. Listen for dogs barking-as they might chase you. Listen for cars at blind intersections. Listen for obstacles on the road that cars in front of you are running over, but you can't see-things like cardboard boxes, for instance. Listen for anything and everything, be it beautiful (such as a bird chirping) or dangerous (an erratic driver). Not only will learning to listen on the bike make the experience more enjoyable, it will also make it safer.