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Ask BikePortland: How can I convince my friend that cycling is safe?

Posted by on October 11th, 2013 at 1:14 pm

“This is the second time she’s been right-hooked in five months…How can I suggest to her that biking around can be okay again?”

Welcome to our latest installment of Ask BikePortland where we (that includes you, dear readers) attempt to answer your burning bike-related questions.

Today’s question comes from reader Chris Muhs. It’s sort of a bummer of a topic, but one I felt was important to share with the community because I think it’s something many other people grapple with. Chris wants to know how to convince his girlfriend that — despite two collisions in five months — she shouldn’t stop riding.

Here’s the background and Chris’s question…

“On the morning of October 2nd, my girlfriend, a student at PSU, was on her way to class when she was right hooked by a woman driving southbound on N Interstate looking for parking on her way to an appointment at Kaiser Permanente… My girlfriend proceeded into the intersection, not expecting the car to suddenly slow down and turn (it didn’t have a turn signal on). She was hit and flew off her bike. An ambulance and police came to the scene, and she is now in the hospital with a neck brace on getting x-rays. (Update: Chris says she is now home and doing fine with just bumps and bruises.)

I introduced my girlfriend to how easy it is to commute by bike in January of this year. She since then has loved biking every day, and we went on a bike tour this summer. Last week she bought rain pants, ready to bike through the winter that seems to be here. The problem is that this is the second time she’s been right-hooked in five months.

The first was a hit-and-run on SW Broadway & Washington… She was not hurt physically at all that time and kind of shrugged it off.

After that, we talked about how some streets have bike infrastructure but are still quite dangerous, and what alternate routes are available. That crash shook her up quite a bit (and me too), but she wanted to keep biking.

But now I’m at a loss after this one. What do I do? How can I suggest to her that biking around can be okay again?

That’s a tough one Chris. I think in order to have that conversation you yourself have to believe that biking around Portland is safe. The good news is, I believe it is. Or, I should say, I believe it can be safe if you are always very alert and vigilant.

In a real biking city, like Groningen for example, your girlfriend would be able to ride around completely relaxed and out of harms way for her entire trip. But unfortunately here in the U.S. (and yes, even in Portland) people on bikes must pay constant attention to potential hazards in order to avoid collisions.

Despite that, the fact is that tens of thousands of people ride bikes in Portland every single day without incident. And they love it! It’s also been proven statistically that as biking rates in Portland have gone up, the rate of (reported) collisions/crashes has come down.

“Combined Bicycle Traffic over Five Main Portland Bicycle Bridges Juxtaposed with Bicycle Crashes” from PBOT, 2012.
– Click to enlarge-

I’ll stop there and open this up to our readers. Can anyone out there relate to this? If you were Chris, what would you say to a good friend to assuage cycling fears?

— Read more in the Ask BikePortland archives.

NOTE: We love your comments and work hard to ensure they are productive, considerate, and welcoming of all perspectives. Disagreements are encouraged, but only if done with tact and respect. If you see a mean or inappropriate comment, please contact us and we'll take a look at it right away. Thank you — Jonathan

  • Todd Boulanger October 11, 2013 at 1:23 pm

    This data is great and all good…but for most newbie commuters they are not likely living in the peak bike traffic arterial corridors (yet) if they are having to ask this question vs seeing 4000 bike riders pass by on Williams.

    Perhaps a new more ‘suburban’ East [of 82nd] Portland graphic might be in order vs. the Classic Bridge Data…now that PBoT has 10+ years of eastern arterial data.

    …just sayin’

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  • dan October 11, 2013 at 1:23 pm

    I would say that a couple of these attached strategically around the bike to provide 360 degree coverage would help encourage drivers to be more observant. But the sad truth is that even that might not be enough — people don’t even really pay attention to other cars when driving, so getting them to actually look for bikes seems like a lost cause.

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  • Ciaran October 11, 2013 at 1:33 pm

    If I had a good friend who had been right hooked twice in a few months, I would (1) point out that they are just terribly unlucky since that rate of accidents is very unusual (perhaps suggest that they should get a lottery ticket in case the usual luck still holds out) and (2) offer to ride with them the next few times to see if there was anything in their riding behavior that was somehow putting them at greater risk.

    If that didn’t fix things, I’d try to help them find a better route, a better time to take that route, or make themselves or their bike more visible.

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  • Sarita October 11, 2013 at 1:37 pm

    That is a hard one… once you’ve been hit, it can be a challenge to get back on your bike for fear of another collision… and 2 in 6 months, luck is not on her side! My suggestion would be to make biking fun again. Riding with her at a casual pace or inviting her on rides with groups of friends where she can be in a larger pack and potentially more visible. Also, as the winter comes, make sure to have visible clothing / lots o’ lights, so she can stand out to cars. I think she needs time, encouragement and support until she feels confident to keep riding out there! Plus maybe you can get her some bright new lights or a cute visible raincoat 🙂

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  • Rider49er October 11, 2013 at 1:39 pm

    Just get her a bus pass and limit riding to Sunday Parkways, other large events and bike paths.

    Our infrastructure is generally unable to provide a “sense of safety” to cyclists and as long as funds are prioritized to automobiles over bikes/peds it never will.

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    • Nathan Alan October 11, 2013 at 1:57 pm

      Better yet, never crawl out of bed again. Our society is generally unable to provide certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

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  • DW October 11, 2013 at 1:53 pm

    Two auto related crashes in less than five months! I think anyone would be hard pressed to be convinced that biking in traffic is safe. I know a few people that have been seriously injured on their bike with an auto and they just don’t have the ability to separate the thought of biking in traffic without their past trauma. Sometimes people can get past this, and sometimes not. A better question for Chris may be-Should I keep trying to convince my girlfriend of riding her bike or give it time?

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    • 9watts October 12, 2013 at 7:40 pm

      well, statistically she may have already accumulated a lifetime of right hooks/crashes, so it may be that at this point the odds of getting smashed again are so small that she should, you know, keep going.

      I don’t know what she would consider alternatives (to biking), but as someone who doesn’t have a car I would bike/keep biking regardless. I *might* take the bus more, but most of the places I go/want to go and the cargo I haul the bus wouldn’t work anyway.

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  • Bike Commuter October 11, 2013 at 1:57 pm

    This street has a bike lane which makes it one of the unsafe areas. Bike lanes are not great for bicyclists unless the police start enforcing bike lane laws. The only good that they do is allow you to pass stopped vehicles quickly and get hit in doing so, and to allow vehicles to pass you while ignoring the fact that you exist. I ride downtown and find that I am safer on streets without bike lanes where I take the lane. The cars then have to deal with me the street rather than ignore me in a bike lane. The most hazardous part of my trip is on 14th NW where there is a bike lane. I routinely have to slam on my brakes to avoid a car turning in front of me or moving into the bike lane while looking for an address, texting, or playing with their coffee cup in their lap. Riding down Glisan is much easier and safer.

    Maybe we should stop riding in the bike lane and start riding in the middle of the travel lane until vehicles start respecting bike lanes and police start enforcing the law. Its hard to get traction with our government when the mayor of Portland says that it is ok to run over bicyclists because not everyone has bike lanes and understands how they work.

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    • trikeguy October 11, 2013 at 3:09 pm

      I couldn’t agree more – bike lanes provide a false sense of security for many.

      In fact I *do* ignore the bike lane in a couple of places (where I can easily keep pace with traffic and I believe the lane is far more dangerous than the vehicle lane – such as SW Main east of 4th)

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    • spare_wheel October 11, 2013 at 3:31 pm

      “Maybe we should stop riding in the bike lane and start riding in the middle of the travel lane…”

      Works for me…most of the time.

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  • Jason October 11, 2013 at 1:57 pm

    I have to agree with the author. “I should say, I believe it can be safe if you are always very alert and vigilant.”

    I have been hit by a car making an illegal turn (the car, not me) and ended up with over 50 stitches. Now I ride around assuming every car out there is a possible accident to avoid. It takes this vigilance to be able to avoid future accidents.

    Also, how is the crash index calculated? A linear TREND line completely ignores the data that shows there is an increase of reported bike crashes (and thus an increase in crash index). This data doesn’t conclusively say anything. Where do most of the accidents occur? How does the number of bikes crossing Portland bridges correlate with total commuters in Portland?

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    • was carless October 11, 2013 at 4:27 pm

      THIS. Its how you ride a motorcycle as well: everyone is trying to kill you!

      However, it is stressful and/or gives you an adrenaline rush when trying to maintain that level of vigilance.,

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    • Jonathan Gordon October 14, 2013 at 11:14 am

      I’m guessing the index is per capita. So even if the number of crashes increases, if the proportion of bicycle use outpaces them the trend line will go down. You can kind of think of it as relative position of the red dot (# of crashes) to the grey bar height (bridge traffic, which is a loose proxy for ridership).

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  • matt f October 11, 2013 at 1:58 pm

    I’ve noticed lately how much less car traffic there is around town just a little bit before or after rush hour. For example at 7am there is hardly any traffic around Hawthorne but near 8 it’s packed and the people that are driving are in a rush. So if there is any way she can bike more during the non-peak driving times and go out of her way to take good bike routes that will lessen the chance of getting hit.

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  • spencer October 11, 2013 at 2:09 pm

    one must be 100% vigilant 100% of the time to avoid ‘most’ collisions. This is how most the worlds people DRIVE and RIDE. One must always be checking blind spots, listening to brakes on cars, listening for old POS american cars (that have blind drivers), and one must always be ready to dive right or left as needed to avoid a hook.
    I’ve never felt safer as a ped or cyclist than in ROME and NYC, which most say have notoriously bad drivers. I find OREGON drivers to be completely oblivious to their surroundings and if we as “people on bikes” ride the way Oregonians drive, WE’LL ALL END UP DEAD.

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    • Granpa October 11, 2013 at 2:29 pm

      Spencer is absolutely correct. Your girlfriend did nothing wrong, so don’t feel the victim is being blamed, but drivers are so bad in this country that one must attend to both their own safety and compensate for the lack of attention given by others.

      She should turn off and pocket her devices, keep her ears clear, be alert and be rapt with attention. It can become an almost Zen experience to focus intently on the here and now.

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      • Bill Walters October 11, 2013 at 3:34 pm

        That’s right. Let’s face it: In our present setting, getting around unscathed by bike can be, not an extreme *sport*, but a rather extreme *practice* — maybe a little like a martial art. And if that’s true, the implied need for rigor and discipline is not everyone’s cup of tea.

        I would dispute the original post’s assertion that very many riders go every day without incident. I’d say it’s unusual to go even one day without witnessing a close call, experiencing your own close call, or recognizing the beginnings of a close call and shutting it down in advance.

        And that’s really the crux: Nearly all the risks out there come down to predictable patterns that you can recognize and thwart. Learn them, from your close calls and others’, quickly and thoroughly. Get a helmet-cam so you can review “game tape” (and because if the cam is obvious (like a GoPro), others on the road treat you better).

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        • spare_wheel October 13, 2013 at 11:38 am

          I often go for months without a close call and I ride like Roger Geller’s worst “person who cycles” nightmare.

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          • Bill Walters October 14, 2013 at 9:31 am

            Ah, good for you! You must be a master of the discipline.

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      • JRB October 11, 2013 at 4:22 pm

        In 20 years of riding nearly every day in Portland, I’ve been involved in a lot of close calls, but only one collision with a motor vehicle, which was entirely my fault. I’m sure that’s partly due to luck, but I also to my defensive riding skills.

        I would try to be really sensitive because I wouldn’t want to imply any fault on her part, but I would try to educate her in defensive riding. Similar to driving be prepared for all contingencies, particularly somebody doing something stupid because they don’t see you. For example, you can avoid most right hooks by NEVER assuming that a car that could hook you is going straight.

        I think the baby steps suggested by others are also in order. We all know the feeling of vulnerability that comes with sharing the road with motor vehicles. Start by accompanying her on some easy rides on safer streets and work your way up so she can incrementally rebuild her confidence.

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    • JV October 11, 2013 at 3:29 pm

      A minor point – but regardless of what we do in life, we ALL WIND UP DEAD. Such is the way of nature.

      But to your main thesis, I agree that biking in places where there are actually more hazards to watch for (from both the bike and car operator’s perspective) seems to increase safety as there is not a sense of complacency. Even for as much as people point to Europe as an ideal cycling paradise, one of the things I noticed most biking in Amsterdam and Berlin is that there are a lot of hazards due to the sheer number of pedestrians, mopeds, cars, and other bikes. This creates a sense awareness in all users, and makes things like right hook accidents less likely. I think what we are getting at is that while many of us enjoy riding bikes, we don’t want to die doing the thing we love. We would rather die at some later time, if possible.

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  • Todd Hudson October 11, 2013 at 2:20 pm

    Buy your friend one of these:


    You can get them at Bike Gallery. It is one of the best safety investments I have made.

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    • jbloe October 13, 2013 at 8:38 am

      Mirrors are great. I do not ride without mine. The problem is that they won’t help prevent or avoid someone turning in front of you.

      Some lady turned into me and then blamed me for her almost hutting me. No blinker. No warning at all. She appeared to be intending to go straight but then suddenly turned right. I was quick and lucky.

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  • o/o October 11, 2013 at 2:20 pm

    I was got hit by a car while I was walking across the 5 lane street. The walk light was on my side. The driver turned right into my path. I broke my leg. I had a surgery and stayed overnight in the hospital. Anyway, I was a bit overly paranoid/freaking out of cars coming too close to me for a while afterward. I did not stop walking because of the collision. Now I am fine but with a bit more alert. Most of time I check behind before I go across an intersection or driveway. Give her time and encouragement. Maybe you go riding with her for a while till she feels comfortable again to bike on her own.

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  • Mitch October 11, 2013 at 2:26 pm

    What does the “bicycle crash index” mean? How is it calculated?

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    • Daniel L October 11, 2013 at 3:14 pm

      In this case it appears to be the number of reported crashes per 10,000 trips over a bridge. Calculated by: (number of crashes) / (bridge traffic) * 10000

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  • AndyC of Linnton October 11, 2013 at 2:52 pm

    Man, if I have to watch another Netherlands bicycling video I’m going to cry…at any rate:
    Encouragement! Maybe remind her why she was riding in the first place, there had to be a good reason, right?
    You wouldn’t stop eating chocolate cake just because you had one or two bad pieces would you?
    It’s a lot to over-come, I know, and it will probably take some time. My girlfriend was hit twice in a year, but got back on because she realized how much she loves to ride, still, even in mixed environments.
    And hey, we’re all out there with her using those same roads, so come back in, the waters got some sludge, but it’s mostly fine!

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  • Erinne October 11, 2013 at 3:04 pm

    Don’t ever trust that a car without a turn signal on won’t be turning. There’s a good chance they will. Portlanders hate turn signals.

    That’s not helpful for encouragement, but good advice to heed. When in doubt of a car drivers’ motives, slow down. And look for their eyes in the side view mirrors to check if they are looking for you, or if they’re texting or eating or something else instead.

    Also, maybe she can buddy up with someone else riding the same way for awhile for her commute? I’d also agree with previous commenters that not riding on roads with bike lanes is generally safer. Bike lanes only give the illusion of safety. If there is any way she can change her commute to include more neighborhood greenways or side streets, that would be good. But I used to live in NoPo, and I know that if she was riding on Interstate, there are probably few alternatives for her through that section (except Greeley! Even worse!).

    And group rides can be a way to make riding seem fun and safer again. Easy Riders have started hosting monthly rides again–this month’s is on Sunday, which may be too soon since she was recently injured. But that or other groups are a good step toward greater confidence.

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  • Monica October 11, 2013 at 3:14 pm

    Right hooks suck and I wish we lived in a place where we did not have to worry about them. That said, I would definitely work on the defensive riding–it’s not a 100% guarantee by any means, but it helps a lot. I’ve listed below some of what I’m teaching my 9-year-old as we commute together. While I’m all for our rights as bike commuters, my greater goal is that we stay alive and injury-free. For your girlfriend, this is what I’ve learned in 5 years of year-round commuting:

    1. Turn signals are only ONE indicator of what the car MIGHT do. Sometimes the driver has just forgotten to turn it off when driving straight, and sometimes they don’t signal when they turn. Watch for other signs like:
    -Rearview mirrors. Sometimes you can see driver’s eyes in their mirrors. If they are looking toward the right, chances are they are going to turn there. Hold back so they don’t right-hook you.
    -Wheels. When you’re going slow, watch people’s wheels. Sometimes you can see them start to turn and you can stop suddenly so they don’t hit you.
    -General erratic behavior. Any time you see someone slowing down, looking around, swerving, etc. it means they are either lost, confused, or distracted. Stay away from them, even if you have the right-of-way.

    2. Assume that if they have out-of-state plates they will try to right-hook you. They are more likely to be lost and distracted (see above) and they aren’t used to looking for bicycles on their right.

    3. Get a loud horn (I like my Airzound, ugly as it is) and use it to give people short little “alerts” if you think they might not see you. Just waive like you think you know them when they look up at you.

    4. Make eye contact with drivers when you come up beside them on the right. I’ve been known to give a big friendly wave to get their attention if they look obviously distracted while at an intersection (and less likely to look before they turn right).

    5. Stay alert yourself. If you must listen to music, put the earbud in just one ear so your ear closest to the street is free to listen to the changing motor speeds and upcoming traffic beside you. Get used to looking around, frequently. In addition to noticing beautiful trees and architecture you’ve never seen before, you’ll see someone coming toward you in time to get out of their way.

    6. Ditto everything above about lights, reflective gear, etc.

    Stay safe everyone!

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    • spare_wheel October 13, 2013 at 11:42 am

      0. Take the lane.

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    • El Biciclero October 15, 2013 at 5:24 pm

      One addition to number 1.: while everyone is generally whizzing past you, listen for the set of tires that sounds like it is slowing down beside or just behind you. That driver is probably going to turn–do a shoulder check.

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  • Mike October 11, 2013 at 3:35 pm

    I don’t think commuting by bike is safe. That being said, I don’t feel it is any more dangerous than riding my motorcycle or even driving my truck.
    Maybe we shouldn’t try to convince people it is safe – instead convincing them that there are very serious risks but that the rewards outweigh the risks.

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  • Mindful Cyclist October 11, 2013 at 3:46 pm

    Slow, re-exposure to riding on the streets again. With phobias (especially ones that seem much more rational because of experience), the last thing that is going to work is throwing out statistics about how it is safe and how she just happens to be “unlucky” (which in many ways it true–I ride nearly every day and I have yet to be right hooked).

    Ride on the bike blvds on weekend days. Put the bikes on the max or the Thule rack and go down to the Springwater. Validate her feelings of fear and apprehension. If she says “enough,” that means enough. Put the bikes on the nearest bus and head home or do not stray too far from home.

    She will hopefully learn slowly that it is not dangerous to ride on the streets and she may learn a few tricks about how to avoid right hooks and other accidents.

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  • Travis October 11, 2013 at 3:55 pm

    I do not feel safe riding up Williams during rush hour. Bike lanes sandwiched between street parking and two lanes of heavy traffic is brutal. Portland’s most popular bike routes are also some of the scariest during certain times of the day. Best advice is to ride defensively, make eye contact whenever possible, and when speed is not an issue stick to the side streets where lanes can be taken legally. Lately, I’ve come to these terms: the side streets are more enjoyable for commuting and “rides” are more enjoyable outside of city central (east or west). It is a challenge to keep to a safe speed in the city. But most drivers assume all cyclist are going 12-15mph.

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    • Blake October 11, 2013 at 5:04 pm

      Agreed and I don’t know whether or not the changes they are making will help or not, but they need to get them in place sooner!

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  • was carless October 11, 2013 at 4:34 pm

    I wouldn’t try to force someone back on a bike if they don’t want to or are apprehensive. Maybe just pleasure riding for awhile? But I think it is selfish to push someone on a bike if they have had a really bad experience. Best way to get people riding is to show them how much fun it is!

    That being said, sounds like she needs to learn how to pay attention to her surroundings better. I think there are bike commuter classes, no?

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  • Mike
    Mike October 11, 2013 at 4:46 pm

    I agree that regular cycling survival takes assuming that you are low on the food chain, rights of way and what’s fair doesn’t exist in the universe, and one must assume the most defensive posture you can. Bike items such as rear view mirrors; signalling (even over signaling!) both peds and vehicles; reading front tire motion; seeing white back up lights; seeing red brake lights and why they are occurring; getting and keeping eye contact with others; and staying on guard taking nothing for granted. Sometimes, it just takes plain stopping to avoid conflicts. You’ll ride away safer.
    If you aren’t comfortable utilizing these tools, take it easier until you get the skills to participate safely, but, don’t stop riding…..

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  • Steve Scarich October 11, 2013 at 5:30 pm

    I have been a bike commuter all my life, over 50 years of bike commuting, and, if a friend asked me if they would be safe bike commuting in Bend, Oregon (or Portland or Eugene, etc.), I would tell them NO! You will not be safe. I ride with a front and rear blinky light and a bright red jacket, and yesterday, within 4 blocks, I had two drivers pull out right in front of me. One was in a roundabout, and even though she saw me and I was yelling at her, she refused to yield. The second lady slammed on her brakes half-way into the intersection, and apologized profusely. I’m sorry; if you decide to bike commute in a big city in America, you are not safe. You might never have an accident, but your odds of getting hurt are much worse on a bike than in a car. I don’t know about your odds of being in an accident, but I was hit head-on on the highway last Winter in my car, and both of us walked away unhurt. Either of yesterday’s events, if I had not taken evasive actions, would have resulted in serious injuries to me.

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    • spare_wheel October 14, 2013 at 7:45 am

      “but your odds of getting hurt are much worse on a bike than in a car”

      link please.

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      • Mike October 14, 2013 at 9:06 am

        My own data shows that I have been injured twice in 10 years of intermittent commuting of bicycle.
        In the 19 years I have been commuting by motor vehicle (car, truck, motorcycle), I have not been injured.

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        • spare_wheel October 14, 2013 at 2:04 pm

          personal anecdote ≠ data

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      • Steve Scarich October 18, 2013 at 9:08 am

        What I meant was that if you are in a bike accident, you more than likely you will receive some form of injury. In a car, a fender-bender or similar accident rarely leads to injury. In fact, I was in a head-on highway accident last winter in my SUV and neither I, or the occupants of the other car, were injured at all. Of course, a lot more people are injured in car accidents than bike accidents, due to the dramatic difference in miles driven/ridden.

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  • marcusn October 11, 2013 at 7:09 pm

    One of the thoughts I try to keep present when I ride in Chicago, or suburbs, is simply this: “I am invisible” — and I assume NO CAR CAN SEE ME. seriously changes my riding for the safer (knock wood).

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    • Greg October 16, 2013 at 10:26 pm

      I want to give this 5 thumbs up.
      When I learned to ride a motorcycle, I was was given the advice “No one can see you. Presume everyone wants to hit you.” That has saved my bacon more than once.

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  • Maria Cahill October 11, 2013 at 7:39 pm

    One way to avoid getting right hooked is: instead of looking for a turn signal, watch the front tire. This will often be an unconscious expression of which way the driver is intending to go.

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  • Chris Sanderson October 11, 2013 at 8:25 pm

    I also wonder if speed and size is a factor. Since I am pulling around cargo, I am a bigger object in the road, and am better seen. I also ride pretty slow, and find that reduces the number of incidents, since I am not riding the same speed as people in cars. I think that going slower helps me better anticipate what others are doing in their cars. I know that’s not too practical for the average cyclist, but that’s my experience.

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  • Brian E October 12, 2013 at 8:33 am

    Maybe cycling in traffic isn’t the best choice for some people. Everyone has their limitations.

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  • PJT October 12, 2013 at 10:04 am

    Sadly, I have to agree with the “assume you have a target on your back” approach to riding. It has kept me safe but has also taken some of the fun out of riding for me. Hope we can find a way to make it both fun and safe in the future. Hate to see anyone give up riding but can completely understand her concerns. Hope she is on the mend!

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  • Mossby Pomegranate October 12, 2013 at 10:24 am

    I think it’s as safe as you make it. But ultimately there is no such thing as a 100% safety guarantee when we are out there among two ton vehicles “piloted” by drivers who are more impatient and distracted than ever.

    Even with my careful route choices I still have had my share of close calls and even been hit once. Fortunately I was okay but it destroyed a bike I loved.

    Personally I find some of the bikeways to be very dangerous in that they lull people into a false sense of security. My particular route of choice puts me on both the Going and Klickitat bikeways. I’m amazed at the amount of stop sign running on the cross streets and the occasional angry drivers that don’t like me impeding their ability to speed up the bikeway as a traffic bypass (NE Going).

    All you can do is stay alert!

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  • bendite October 12, 2013 at 11:52 am

    My advice to avoiding right hooks is to not pass cars on the right if they have the option of turning right. I flex on this rule if all the cars are at a standstill, and even then, I’ll slow to about 6 mph just in case. I slow down significantly even if the driver is giving me the right of way with space and a turn signal. Looking at the cars front wheels for intentions is also a good idea. Try a route that has the least on-street parking, too. The psychological hurdles are more up to the individual to find what works for them.

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  • Jon October 12, 2013 at 3:31 pm

    I’ve been riding, racing, and commuting in this town and others for 25 years. The only bike/car collision I had was 23 years ago. I’ve had a few close calls. I have to echo what many people have said:
    1. Always be aware of what is going on. You can never zone out when riding a bike in town.
    2. Never pass a car at an intersection. If you are lucky 50% of drivers use signals and it is too easy for them to take a right turn in front of you.
    3. Be extra careful around cross traffic (side road, drive ways, intersections). Almost all the accidents I’ve seen happen took place when a car turns right or left into the path of a bicycle.
    4. Don’t waste your time looking behind you unless you are changing lanes. As long as you are visible there is nothing else you can do about traffic behind you. Keep your eyes on what you can avoid in front of you.
    5. Know your routes. Legally I can ride on pretty much any road but there is no reason to be dead right. I don’t ride on 39th, 82nd and many other very busy roads with no shoulder.
    6. Avoid riding after dark. Never ride after 10:00pm. There are far too many impaired drivers after 10:00pm and it is not worth it.

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    • El Biciclero October 16, 2013 at 9:33 am

      RE: #4– My advice would be not to waste time doing a shoulder check unless you plan a lateral move. However, I frequently glance behind me using my mirror, which can provide valuable information. I can see when someone is drifting into the bike lane/shoulder, or tell when someone who is about to overtake me has a right turn signal on. I can avoid doing shoulder checks when there is obviously something just behind me; I only look over my shoulder as a double check when the view in my mirror is clear. Although I guess they’re not for everyone, I heart my mirror.

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  • Terry Nobbe October 12, 2013 at 4:46 pm

    I have to agree with Jon except for the fact he says nothing about daytime bike lights. I’ve been cycle commuting for about 35 years and I ALWAYS run a bright blinking red tail-light day or night. I also use a basic LED style headlight when I feel at all insecure (cycling during night/ daytime periods or in unfamiliar places). I’m not crazy about bike lanes especially since I’m a student of John Forrester though I use them judicially 95% of the time. I prefer to “take the lane” when I have that option. I have no problem with riding at night because I have and use very effective front and rear lights. I’m a former League Cycling Instructor.

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  • Tourbiker October 13, 2013 at 6:52 am

    Start with the trails around area. Get the skills sharpened and confidence up. Without a Doubt, super bright lights front & rear.

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  • spare_wheel October 13, 2013 at 11:56 am

    People who bike in northern europe are typically highly skilled cyclists. In my opinion, most who cycle in PDX are on the opposite end of the skill spectrum.

    My advice to the person who was right hooked twice is to take a class (or two):


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  • Alan 1.0 October 13, 2013 at 2:21 pm

    I recall a comment on BikePortland, seems like in the past several months, with links to studies and data showing that each hour spent riding a bike added to life expectancy, while each hour spent in a car reduced it. I’m searching for it but no luck so far. Anyone have a pointer for that comment or the links in it?

    (I’m not saying it’s the answer for Chris Muhs’ girlfriend, although it might help. Perceptions about safety and danger aren’t the same as facts about them, and even facts like those don’t account for differences among individuals.)

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    • Barbara October 14, 2013 at 10:00 am

      Exactly! People feel very safe in their cars, yet it’s the number one death reason for people under 40 and we have 30,000 people dying each year in their car. And that doesn’t even take into account the dangers of a sedentary lifestyle. Perception of danger is weird. People are afraid of airplanes, but the most dangerous part is the drive to the airport. People are more afraid about things that they feel is out of their control. So as other commenters said before, restarting biking slowly again on low-stress routes as well as proactve riding and visibility is a good start. Unfortunately, you constantly have to second-guess car drivers in Portland.

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  • Scott October 14, 2013 at 12:01 pm

    Work with her on methods for identifying and approaching problem areas. Infrastructure and a bike friendly city help, but total awareness is the only thing that can really help keep you out of trouble.

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  • maxadders October 14, 2013 at 12:54 pm

    Hey Portland: it’s okay if you don’t bike.

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    • bendite October 14, 2013 at 10:39 pm

      Worst advice ever.

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    • Scott October 15, 2013 at 8:51 am

      If that was the topic then you would be right. But the topic is getting someone back on a bike. You have a very low reading comprehension.

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  • Hilary October 15, 2013 at 2:59 pm

    I agree with most of the above suggestions about education, encouragement etc. but I would like to add: respect her decision. If she decides that she does not want to continue riding her bicycle, you’re doing a disservice to her by assuming you know what she needs better than she does.

    I’m a bossy, avid bike rider and advocate, but I’m also female, and us ladies get told tiresomely often what’s good for us. I’ve had some close calls. After some of those, I’ve almost made the decision to give it up. Some days, the stress outweighs the benefits, even with all my knowledge and strategies and statistics. My partner, also an avid rider, said he would support my decision either way. I understand what it is, how it feels to love biking everywhere and how good it is to have people who love doing it with you. I know it comes from a good place, that you want her to enjoy this thing you enjoy. But true enjoyment comes from freely choosing the activity, not feeling obliged or pressured to do it. All you can do is set an example.

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  • jd October 17, 2013 at 9:42 am

    Convincing her that it’s perfectly safe all the time is not actually good for her. Treating cars like their drivers are all stupid *and* drunk, on the other hand, has kept my right hooks to 1 in 15 years (I had let my guard down at a particular intersection).

    She could be forgiven for wanting to take a lot of time off.

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