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Sharing the Road

While out riding the other day, I saw a motorcycle pass a bicycle at a railroad crossing. So what made that a significant event; one that caused me to remember it and to write about it? I hear you saying, “What’s the big deal? After all, we pass slower moving vehicles, including bicycles, all the time.”

What caught my attention was where this passing action occurred. Many bicycle accidents happen at railroad crossings. Often the front wheel of the bicycle catches in the groove of the tracks causing the bicyclist to lose control and fall over.

"What potential problems might we be able to avoid by staying out of hazardous situations?"

Knowing that crossing a railroad track is a dangerous endeavor for someone riding a bicycle means that we may not want to pass the bicycle at a grade crossing. The motorcyclist provided no room for the bicyclist if he were to fall. He wasn’t ready for the possibility of it happening. Had the bicyclist spilled while crossing the tracks, the motorcyclist would have been surprised by the “unexpected.”

Realizing the possibility that the bicyclist could have problems crossing the tracks, the motorcyclist might have been better off timing his approach to the tracks so he wasn’t there at the same time as the bicycle. Using the throttle makes adjusting speed easy to ensure there is a separation between vehicles at the tracks. That way, if the bicyclist has a problem with the tracks, the motorcyclist is either already past the tracks or has time and space to respond.

These are the kinds of things we should be thinking about as we ride. What potential problems might we be able to avoid by staying out of hazardous situations? As we approach that narrow bridge, can we time our crossing so we are not sharing the bridge? Can we cross it between oncoming vehicles so we are alone on the bridge with limited space cushioning?

What about passing that car on the expressway as we approach an on ramp? The possibility exists that the car might move over to allow the merging vehicle to enter the highway. Because we are often hard to see, the results may not be what we would want them to be. Perhaps we would be better off to delay our pass until after the on ramp.

I know it may not always be possible to avoid all of these situations. The more we think about where we are and what we are doing, the less chance we have of getting caught by these “unexpected” situations. The more we expect the unexpected, the more enjoyable our ride will be. Don’t share the road if you don’t have to.

Ride Smart! Ride Safe!