Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Please Be Kind….to Motorists

Tammy Metzger, a multisport coach and owner of Tempo Multisport, and Sunday shop ride leader for the Intermediate group, has written some useful advice for coexisting with motorists in our increasingly busy city roads. She's agreed to split these up into a few blog entries we'll post here over the next few weeks! Thanks Tammy.

We’ve all seen the “Please Be Kind to Cyclists” bumper stickers, and support this misson of this organization. While this is an important message to get out, many cyclists would do well to remember kindness works both ways.

This is the first of a series of blog entries in which I’ll cover how cyclists can better coexist with motorists, and by doing so, can make the road safer for yourself!

According to the League of American Cyclists, over 700 cyclists died on US roadways in 2008, and (get this) over 40,000 were injured! 99.9% of motorists do NOT want to harm a cyclist (excluding JoeBob and his cousin-brother in their pickup truck!). Yet, when a motorist doesn’t know what to expect from you, the possibility of hitting you scares them. And anger typically follows fear. No one wants to face an angry motorist, least of all a cyclist. So let’s all do our part to Please Be Kind to Motorists.

Common mistakes made by cyclists:

• Riding unpredictably (not “holding a line” in traffic)

“Hold your line” simply means that you ride in a straight, predictable line. As you pedal, your bike should move forward in a straight line, not veer from side to side. If you’re doing the later, work on learning proper pedaling technique so that you aren’t simply focusing on the push down part of the pedal stroke. You may also be carrying too much tension in your arms and shoulders, which is transferring to your handlebars, making you unstable. Work on keeping equal tension all around the pedal stroke, with a relaxed upper body, and soft elbows.

It’s also important to practice keeping this straight, predictable line while removing one hand from your handlebars. Signaling, looking over your shoulder for traffic, and eating/drinking on the bike all require you to remove a hand from your bars. If you don’t practice this beforehand, you could end up in the lane of traffic unexpectedly. Find an empty parking lot, and practice riding along the painted lines while removing a hand to signal, take a drink from your water bottle, etc. Mastery of this skill will increase your safety on the roads, and make riding with you much more enjoyable.

• Riding in the middle (or on the wrong side!) of the road

Finding the safest place to ride depends on the environment (how wide is the road, how fast traffic is going, etc), but riding over the yellow line (into traffic) is never a good idea and is just as illegal for cyclists as it is for motorists. There are a surprising number of people who do this on group rides. Why? Because they are not comfortable riding with the group, and feel too “boxed in.” Get comfortable, attend a skills clinic, and work through it, not around it. There’s more than your own safety at stake.

As you turn a corner on your bike, remember to follow the same line you would if you were in your motor vehicle. Stay wide before the turn, and come into the new lane exactly where you ride. Cyclists often cut the corner, going blindly around it into the oncoming traffic lane of the next road. Experienced cyclists know to start wide, and come in tight. If you have a chance, get out to watch some criterium racing at The Driveway on Thursday evenings and watch how the Pro/1/2 field takes a corner.

Stay tuned for further blog entries. I’m passionate about keeping all of us safe out on the roads. Please share your comments, suggestions, and observations and pass this information with anyone you know who rides a bike.

Be safe out there, and have fun!
Coach T.

Tammy Metzger is a multisport coach and owner of Tempo Multisport, LLC, which offers a multitude of skills clinics for cyclists and triathletes, as well as private training sessions. She holds a Master’s Degree in Sport & Exercise Psychology, with an additional concentration in Sport Science & Nutrition, from the University of Texas at Austin. Her undergraduate degree in Exercise Science & Wellness was obtained from Bastyr University in Seattle, WA. Tammy has been a certified USA Cycling coach since 2005. She can be reached at

No comments: