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Stopping at an Intersection

I am now finished my final exams for the semester so I have a lot of free time to kill, so the other day I decided to sit on a patio at a busy downtown street and watch the intersection. Intersections are tricky for riders as it is where various users of the road all interact with each other. Statistically, intersections are also where most cycling collisions occur usually as a result of poor visibility or unpredictable behaviour. Below are a few techniques on approaching and navigating an intersection safely.

Approaching an Intersection:

-When approaching a stop sign or a red light glide to the intersection and slowly/gradually apply the brakes to come to a stop. Slamming on the brakes will wear out your tires, brake pads and rims quickly and may result in skidding which is especially dangerous in rainy/snowy conditions.

-Shift down one or two gears as you approach the intersection that way you are in a lower gear ratio when you begin pedaling again. Far too many cyclists stick to the high gear that they were on which means they will be struggling to bring themselves up to speed or they find themselves weaving around to maintain balance while they attempt to gain speed for momentum. Hammering on your pedals to gain speed is not only a waste of energy but can slow you and others behind you.

-If there is a vehicle waiting at the intersection hang back a bit so that you are not in the driver’s blind spot. There’s no point in squeezing beside the driver unless you are making a right turn and it places you in an uncomfortable position as you are boxed in if the driver is attempting to make a right turn. It’s best to either be slightly ahead or behind a vehicle in the same lane as pictured below rather than be caught in their blind spot.

Photo courtesy of the City of Toronto

Waiting at an Intersection:

-Put your left foot down instead of resting your right foot on the curb. It’s very tempting to rest one’s foot on the curb but doing so places your bike closer to the part of the road where debris such as glass accumulates and where there are sewer grates. By putting your left foot down you not only keep some distance away from the curb but it also gives drivers behind you the perception that there is much less space in the lane so they will not be tempted to squeeze beside you. Squeezing is dangerous since you enter their blind spot and vice versa which increases the chance of getting a right-hook.

-Look around you, especially behind you. Take the time to look at what other road users are doing or preparing to do as the driver behind you may be signaling to make a right turn or gun it when the green light shines. Also watch for pedestrians who may be straggling behind while crossing the street or trying to make a bolt for it as the light changes. You are still operating a vehicle even while stopped at a red light so try to be aware especially at an intersection.



Posted: April 28th, 2010
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Filed under: How to
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