The Importance of Defensive Cycling

It was such a senseless tragedy; a rider now paralyzed from the waist down after being hit by a car. While the car driver was clearly at fault that didn't change the outcome of the accident. Most spinal cord injuries are, sadly, permanent. Hopefully we can learn from what happened and try to avoid the same thing from happening to us.

What makes this accident so tragic are the circumstances surrounding it: The rider who was hit was descending a short hill. He wasn't exceeding the speed limit, but was going fast enough to start catching two cyclists ahead of him on the road. He caught up to the two riders just as those two riders took a right turn.

The accident occurred because a car caught up to all the riders at about the same time, and seeing the first two riders turn right he assumed that the third rider was part of a three-person group and would also turn right.

The problem is that the third rider was planning to go straight at the intersection so when the car turned right the driver struck the cyclist.

The car driver made an assumption that the three riders he saw on the road were part of the same group; he assumed that since the first two riders were turning right the third rider would do the same.

This unfortunate situation was an accident. It wasn't road rage. It wasn't malicious. I strongly believe that the car driver was 100 percent responsible for what happened, but there was no intent to harm.

What we cyclists can learn from this very tragic incident is that car drivers will make assumptions. Right or wrong, these assumptions can have serious consequences. Cyclists should always be cognizant of how they are being perceived by car drivers and ride defensively. Be careful out there.

Bruce Hildenbrand is a freelance journalist covering cycling and a host of other outdoor-related sports. Find the latest news, rumors and more on his Active Expert blog. He splits his time between Mountain View, California, Boulder, Colorado, and Europe.

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