Playing Defense

In the last few days, I’ve had a series of absurd encounters with motor vehicles.  I came through them all unscathed but they have given me pause, especially considering that they mostly happened in zones where there should be no motor vehicles to begin with.

Green paint and world class infrastructure is great, but it won't keep you safe.

Green paint and world class infrastructure are great, but only you can keep yourself safe.

The first happened on the Ogden River Parkway  just west of the 20th Street overpass. There was a Jeep driving down the bicycle path.  I suspect he was accessing the little lake in this area, but there are no signs warning cyclists and pedestrians that motorists might be present.  I came upon him quickly and was surprised to see him.  I’m not sure if he was supposed to be there or not.   I suspect he was, but it wasn’t obvious at the time.

The second incident happened just to the east of this area.  This time it was a guy on a motorized scooter.  I know for a fact he had no business being on the trail but I suspect he simply didn’t care.  I also had two motorists ignore stop signs and pull out directly in front of me while I was traveling at speed on local roads.

I’m seeing more and more of this sort of thing and it was driven home again last night with the terror attack in Nice, France which occurred in a pedestrian-only zone where the last thing those present expected to see was a truck barreling down on them.

I found myself thinking about this today while cycling along a side path.  Cars were whizzing by at 55-60 mph just a few feet away.  There was no barricade separating me from them.  I’d ridden this route many times previously and always felt safe, but this morning, for whatever reason, I found myself thinking about how easily someone could veer off the road and onto the cycle path.

It’s not something to worry about or obsess over, but I do think we should be aware of our surroundings while cycling.  Whenever and wherever we are on a bicycle, we have to pay attention to the risk factors present around us.  This is obvious when on roads, but it’s just as important  when we’re on infrastructure reserved for the non-motorized.   In fact, it’s probably even more of a concern here as we’re  also likely to encounter dogs, families with young children and other cyclists of all abilities.

Cycling remains one of the safest ways to get around, but ultimately we can better ensure our own safety by paying attention and being defensive while on the bike.  We can’t afford to  assume that everyone else is going to play by the rules and do what the law requires of them, but we can take the steps necessary to mitigate those risks.  It doesn’t cost us a thing, and it allows us to become better cyclists in the process.

Have a great weekend!



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