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Linn County Leader - Brookfield, MO
Walking and bicycling for transportation, fitness, and fun
The Five Layers of Crash Prevention
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About this blog
By Rachel Ruhlen

My bicycle is our second car. I love to bicycle in all weather, for all distances, and on all routes. Bicycling has brought so much joy to my life, and I want to share it with anyone who is interested. I will use my soapbox to tell you about the ...

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Bicycling and Walking Around

My bicycle is our second car. I love to bicycle in all weather, for all distances, and on all routes. Bicycling has brought so much joy to my life, and I want to share it with anyone who is interested. I will use my soapbox to tell you about the joys, the freedom, the benefits, and, yes, the challenges of bicycling and walking for transportation.

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Lane Control (video by Commute Orlando)
Commute Orlando
Lane Control (video by Commute Orlando)
By Rachel Ruhlen
Jan. 3, 2013 11:06 a.m.



The Smart Cycling program developed by the League of American Bicyclists teaches the five layers of crash prevention.

1. Control your bike. 83% of bike wrecks don’t involve a motor vehicle. Learn the common pitfalls and how to avoid them. Allow an arm’s length between yourself and the edge of the road, to avoid debris and unexpected obstacles like animals.

2. Obey the law. In half of car-bike collisions, the cyclist was not obeying a traffic law.

3. Discourage drivers’ mistakes. Just like defensive driving, you can discourage drivers from making common mistakes by choosing where and how to ride. A key concept is to control the lane with an assertive lane position, which also makes you more visible to drivers.

4. Avoid drivers’ mistakes. For those mistakes they make anyway, there are a couple maneuvers you can learn—and practice!—to avoid a collision.

5. Wear a helmet. Practicing the four principles above prevents over 90% of bike wrecks. The helmet can save your life for the few you can’t avoid.

These principles are based on studies and statistics. Many bike safety programs, especially for kids, start and end with “wear a helmet”, and bike safety debates are full of helmet wars. Of course I wear a helmet and encourage everyone to do so. However, the focus on helmets detracts from the steps that, based on the data, will have a much bigger impact on bicyclist safety.

If I were to advocate only one practice that would make bicyclists safer, the way some people latch onto helmets, I would choose “lane position”. Ride on the right side of the road (in the direction of traffic), but not at the far edge. Keeping a healthy space between you and the right curb is the majority of the First and Third Layers of Crash Prevention.

 Take the lane

image from "Lane Control" animation by Commute Orlando

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