In sport, you will often hear the commentator say that the game is a game of inches, meaning the littlest things can make the biggest difference. I totally subscribe to this theory when applied to road cycling.
As a smoker, advertisements about cancer concerned me but now as a cyclist, the regular reports of cycling deaths and my own close calls constantly remind me that there are always risks with getting off your butt, getting out on your bike and sharing the road with drivers.
I used to joke that “why should I exercise, I could be hit by a bus” and now that I am exercising, that reality is often front of mind, except it’s 4x4s, SUV’s and provisional drivers.
As a rider, there are basic ways to deal with risk:
– ignore it and keep moving
– don’t go out at all or
– continue riding and minimize the risk,
and because cycling has giving new life to this old body, there is really only one option and that is to keep riding and minimize the risk. Yet I understand how some people are too scared to go near the road.
Therefore my motto is that “it’s the 1% that could make the difference” where the 1% difference could be between being on a bike or being in an ambulance….
I have noticed is that the more experienced riders carry less, and that includes lights. This for me is a risk and I hesitate each time I consider going out without lights during the day because it seems so often that the flashing light on the front is the one that stops cars turning in front of me. I guess it’s why commuter riders also use lights because impatient drivers in the mornings pay less attention and need to be alerted.
On the other hand, I think experienced riders reduce risk because of their speed and experience plus they ride in groups, but it doesn’t make them immune, especially to those who turn in front of you. For me, my slower speed and the fact I usually ride alone no doubt creates some frustration, but for each rider it is different.
There are really so many variables to consider when considering how best to manage risk and they are to do with location, time of day, traffic volumes, road conditions, your experience, your confidence, your mood and who you ride with. Unfortunately, you can’t change the fact that sometimes drivers are stupid and you have to accept because sometimes riders are stupid too.
So I have put together some thoughts for you on how you manage risk and the 1% choices you make:
- do you stay closer to parked cars or move over into the lane with the traffic?
- do you carry lights and wear bright clothes to be seen more?
- do you ride closer to the gutter where it’s dirty to be further away from cars?
- do you avoid main roads, especially in peak hours?
- do you ride on freeways and high speed roads?
- do you ride when you are angry or stressed?
- do you run red lights and pedestrian crossings?
- can you maintain concentration levels and stay aware?
I know I take risks sometimes. I know sometimes I even get a thrill from it. But I don’t want an epitaph that says “he died doing what he loved doing” – I’d rather it say “he lived a long and fruitful life…”
So when you ride, consider the little things, don’t be arrogant, maintain concentration, treat every driver as if they are an idiot and do the 1% that could make the difference.