Experience Brings Results

Good will may trump indignation in reducing bicycling accidents

Remember when you were a kid in school and your class went on a field trip? Almost invariably your teacher would issue the reminder that while you were out and about you weren't just individuals, but representatives of your entire school.

It was a good way to keep the horde in line in public. But it also pressed home the importance of being aware that your actions leave a lasting impression on those who see them. And in most instances, it's bound to serve everyone better if we all act responsibly. That is, be an ambassador -- and a good will ambassador at that.

This is a message and a practice that many leading figures in the bicycling world are promoting these days. Noting that injury-causing crashes involving cyclists and motorists are on the rise in Portland, we figure it's worth noting here.

While Portland has a justified reputation for progressive support of cycling, experts suggest that adopting the attitudes and behaviors of ambassadors would serve bikers well in making things safer.

What that might look like in practice is offered by Colorado cycling athlete and lawyer, Megan Hottman. Her perspective is one rooted in the reality that in any collision between a biker and driver, the biker will suffer the worst. So Hottman not only talks the talk, but also walks the walk -- or pumps the pedals, if you will.

Her tips include:

Don't clump. When riding in a group on a road, don't mushroom out. That goes for when you're moving or stopped at an intersection.

Be gracious. Acknowledge that the road is a shared route. Recognize your motorist neighbors and be an ambassador. Smile and wave at drivers sometimes, especially when they make the effort to give you wide berth.

Signal all your intentions. If you are planning to change lanes, clearly signal what you have in mind. If you come upon a right turn lane but plan to go straight, ride on the far left side of the turn lane so that drivers behind you know your intent.

By being a mindful friend, rather than a reckless fiend, Hottman says fewer vehicle-cyclist accidents will result.

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