There was a recent story over on NewsCarsonCity.com about a girl that got hit while riding in a Carson City bike lane. Although bike lanes give cyclists room to ride on the road, especially for those riders that don’t like being part of traffic, they must still be vigilant. Possibly more so, since they are riding outside the flow of the auto traffic. The driver in the news story above simply didn’t see the cyclists and pulled out in front of her. This is typical…driver’s eyes are trained to look for other auto traffic, not the slower moving bicycle off to the side.
The picture above is of East Musser Street near the capitol building. Although there is not heavy traffic on this street, there is much going on. What should a cyclists be watching for in this picture? There is a parking lot on the right, with people filtering out between the cars to cross the street. There are car doors that could open in a cyclist’s path. There is a cross walk and street coming in from the right that are both obscured by the parked cars. Traffic ahead and behind. Tourists and office workers frequently cross here. This section of road reminds me of the old 80’s video game, Frogger.
So how does a cyclist stay safe on a road with so many random things going on? Arleigh Jenkins, aka Bike Shop Girl, recently acquired the Commute by Bike website, and allowed me to republish this article I wrote back in 2008. Here are some tips to keep you safe on the road.
The SIPDE Process: Five Steps to Keep you Safe
Originally published on Commute by Bike , January 2008
Years ago, I occasionally commuted by motorcycle. In some ways it was a lot like bicycle commuting. I was the little guy, and very vulnerable without the protection of a steel cage, air bags, or seat belts. At times I felt like nobody even saw me! This vulnerability was accompanied by high speeds on the highway, and being part of traffic in the city. Although my motorcycle commuting days didn’t last that long, I learned some valuable traffic skills that I still use when cycling on the road.
I took a weekend long motorcycle safety class, and one thing they stressed heavily was the SIPDE Process. As we ride through the city, there are hundreds of things going on around us. In a single city block there may be pot holes, car doors opening, pedestrians crossing the street, traffic from the rear, and traffic exiting parking lots. The SIPDE process helps you deal with the unpredictable nature of urban cycling. Here’s the breakdown of the SIPDE acronym:
- Scan – Constantly scan the environment around you. If you focus on only one thing, like a pedestrian crossing the street, you may miss other hazards like the person getting ready to open their car door next to you.
- Identify – As you’re scanning, identify all the potential hazards. “Filter out the noise”, and identify what’s important. Don’t forget to identify potential problems approaching from the rear as well!
- Predict – You’ve identified the potential hazards, now predict what the outcomes will be if certain scenarios play out. Focus on the worst case scenarios. You may be able to swerve around a pedestrian, but probably won’t survive tangling with a garbage truck. Prioritize accordingly. Cover your breaks with a couple fingers to minimize reaction time.
- Decide – Decide on a course of action that you would follow, should one of the scenarios you predicted plays out.
- Execute – Execute the course of action you decided on.
As cyclists, we have better than average motor skills than most, so naturally we do a pretty good job with the Decide and Execute parts of SIPDE. Where we run into trouble is the Scan, Identify and Predict portions. These are skills that take experience, practice, and constant attention.
It’s very possible that better Scanning, Identifying, and Predicting may have prevented the accident mentioned at the beginning of this post. Since we cyclists are so vulnerable, we must never take for granted the actions of those around us. Never assume that cars are going to follow the rules or properly signal their direction. Sometimes people just change their minds at the last second. Use your SIPDE, and stay safe on your commute!