The driver looked directly at me as I stepped into the crosswalk at First and Jackson and rolled through his right turn without stopping. Guess that red light was just a suggestion, huh, buddy?
Failure to yield being one of the top causes of collisions, this driver’s behavior didn’t come as a total surprise. What saved me from what could have been a tragic — possibly fatal — encounter was that I made eye contact. It told me that he knew I was there and he didn’t give the hindquarters of a rodent.
I learned the importance of eye contact when I took the League of American Bicyclists Traffic Skills 101 course taught in Spokane by Eileen Hyatt, a League-Certified Instructor who served on this organization’s board at the time. I’d been riding to work at WSU Spokane for a while (having met with Eileen early on as my Bike Buddy who helped analyze a good route and reminded me of the rules of the road for bicycling). Eileen assured me that I’d still benefit from the course despite my experience.
She was right, and one of the best tips I took away was always make eye contact. Coming to a turn, look at the drivers coming toward you. Look at the pedestrians stepping into the crosswalk. Turn your head while waiting at a red light, make eye contact with the driver behind you, and smile. That way he/she knows that you know there’s someone waiting behind you as you start to turn your cranks coming out of a dead stop and you’ve provided that little bit of human connection that takes you out of the “speed bump” classification.
Special note for riding around big rigs of any kind — RVs, semis, pick-up trucks, commercial vans: Position yourself where you can see the driver’s side-view mirrors. If you can’t see them, the driver can’t see you.
When you look, you get to see if the people you see actually see you and acknowledge you, and you increase the odds they’ll adjust their behavior accordingly.
I’m especially attuned to this because the closest I ever came to getting hit by a driver was when she turned her head in my general direction but her eyes didn’t actually do their work. Because I was looking at her, I knew this and had time to adjust and prevent a collision.
This evening as I left the office and rolled my bike along the sidewalk toward the same corner as this morning’s crosswalk encounter I made eye contact with a driver waiting to turn left into the lane I’d be entering with my bike.
This time the driver saw me and held position rather than hitting the gas and trying to beat me into the curve. Thanks, Driver #2. The eyes have it.
Day 23 in the 30 Days of Biking, 30 Words, Nearly 30 Pictures series
- Traffic Skills 101 courses coming up 4/30/14 and 6/11/14 in Spokane
- It Pays to Pay Attention, on Bike Style Spokane
- Mindful Driving, Mindful Biking, and “Accidents”–Part I
- Mindful Driving, Mindful Biking, and “Accidents”–Part II
30 Days of Biking
- 30 Days of Biking: Take the Pledge to Show WA Bikes!
- Our Social Media Is Buzzing about 30 Days of Biking
- 30 Days of Biking, 30 Words, 30 Pictures: Day One–Fun
- Day Two: Flexibility
- Day Three: Color
- Day Four: Racing
- Day Five: Weather
- Day Six: Dates
- Day Seven: Left
- Day Eight: Leadership
- Day Nine: Outdoors
- Day 10: Snohomish
- Day 11: Home
- Day 12: Friends
- Day 13: Sounds
- Day 14: Driving
- Day 15: Taxes
- Day 16: Blogs
- Day 17: Magic
- Day 18: Sunshine
- Day 19: Cookies
- Day 20: Purpose
- Day 21: Aches
- Day 22: Habits
- Have you taken (or taught!) a TS101 class? What did you take away from it that changed the way you ride?
- Know about other classes besides the ones coming up in Spokane? Share them in the comments for others and give us the details for our events calendar. We use that as our reminder for social media promo — happy to help people get their eyes on your Washington state bike events!