Ride Safe: Best Practices For Cycling Safety Tip #2: Look Them In The Eye!
You've probably heard it said before or experienced it first hand yourself: even if a cyclist has the right of way, in a showdown between a bike and a car, the car will almost always win. You know it's true. Ditto for when you are off your bike, when you are a pedestrian. This tip is simple and can quite literally save you a lot of pain and agony. So, here it is: Look the other person in the eye and make sure they see you.
Whenever I'm at a four-way stop on my bike, if there is a car at the stop with me, I always look the driver right in the face and wait until I know they've looked back at me, until I know they've seen me. I'd rather they get annoyed at having to delay an second or two as they wait for me. Heck, I'd rather let them go ahead of me even if I have the right of way: if they haven't seen me, let them go right ahead, ignorant of the fact that I'm there. I'd rather make it home alive even if I'm five or 30 seconds slower than I should have been.
Works For Pedestrians Too!
I hinted at this at the beginning and I had the opportunity to test out a variation of this rule just last night. I'll set the stage for you to make it simple:
- As I write this, it is late October which means we already have more hours of darkness than daylight so my evening run took place in the dark.
- I run through some older, established neighbourhoods that have big, mature American Elm trees that obscure streetlights enough that pedestrians, runners included, can be difficult to see. I try to make it a habit to run with caution.
- As a ran towards an apartment building parking lot, I notice a pickup truck parked so the back of the truck is butted up close to the edge of the sidewalk.
- The truck headlights were on but it is dark enough I couldn't see if there was anyone in the vehicle.
- When I got to the edge of the entrance of the parking lot, I stopped right where I was. I decided to wait until I knew whether there was anyone there and to make sure that they saw me.
- Immediately, the backup lights come on and the tires spin on some loose gravel. The truck reversed to exit the parking lot. They hadn't seen me at all. I'm pretty sure they didn't even look as I was wearing light coloured clothing and I was still pretty visible under the streetlight.
- The driver rolled down the window to apologize. His truck was already sitting on the sidewalk, right where I would have been had I kept running past the parking lot.
An apology wouldn't have gone very far to fix any broken bones but I guess, in retrospect, I can appreciate the fact that he apologized. At the time, I said something like "You didn't see me at all, did you?" Given that he could have injured or killed me, he hadn't seen me because he hadn't even bothered to look. At the time, I didn't think I owed him any appreciation. I can only hope that the fact that he nearly hit a pedestrian might cause him to take a look around before he drives backwards over a sidewalk.
Proceeding with caution only might make your run, ride or walk home a little slower but at least you'll make it there safely. Stop, look, then go.