I have been spending all my time, it seems, reading on bike forums and researching saddles and various other things that are essential as I wait for my bike to be built. I also read about 15 bike blogs a day, I’ve signed up for a “cycling with confidence” class, and I’ll likely take the 2nd set of classes as well, after this set is done.

It wouldn’t have occurred to me to do this, but when I took a bike safety class last month, the guy mentioned it. “You’d learn all this on your own, just from getting out there and biking, but you’ll shorten the learning curve considerably by taking the classes.”

That sounds good to me. I think it will be helpful to have a sort of mentor or tutor to mimic, as well as riding in a bit of a herd, to get extra comfortable with all that it means to ride on the road in traffic. More experienced cyclists are in less danger of accidents, or so the statistics say.

A week ago Monday a young woman was killed riding her bike in DC. She was in a bike lane, and a garbage truck turned right, completely running her over. This is what is known as a “right hook”. It points out two things – that bike lanes still require vigilance on the part of the cyclist (even bike lanes that don’t put you in danger of being doored by parked cars) and that drivers of cars don’t often understand how to make a right hand turn when there is a bike lane.

To be honest, I didn’t know for certain myself, but someone from the Washington Area Bike Association explained it really well – the bike lane is the right-hand most lane, and while cars are not permitted to drive in the bike lane, they are actually required to merge into the bike lane in order to make a right hand turn.

So when the garbage truck turned from the right-most car lane across the bike lane, it was essentially the same as anyone making a right hand turn from the left lane of a street that has 2 lanes going in the same direction.

This “right hook” is one of the biggest dangers for cyclists.

Getting doored is an even bigger danger, and is perhaps the biggest argument for “taking the lane” when riding your bike. Acting predictably, being visible, and not putting yourself at risk of parked cars, these are ways to stay safe, and riding a little bit to the right of the middle of the lane is the best way to keep yourself safe. Even though, when you first get out there on your bike, it seems a bit scary. Still, no matter what rude and ignorant people might yell at you out the window, bikes are 100% legal on the road. Not smooshed up in the right gutter of the road, but on the road. Bikes are vehicles, by law.

Anyway, though there aren’t actually many cyclist deaths, too many of those that happen are from cyclists getting doored and thrown into traffic, or from the infamous “right hook”, such as what killed Alice Swanson in DC a week ago Monday.

She’d been riding to work only 2 weeks. Unfortunately, I do think that if she was a more experienced cyclist she would have been more aware of the potential danger of the garbage truck, and maybe it could have been avoided.

Though I’d already planned on taking these road riding classes, it really does highlight for me how important it is.

I’ve read other places that mentoring new riders is a great way to increase their safety as well as make it more likely that they’ll keep riding.

So, yes, I’m obsessed with all things bikes of late. It will be so much better once I am able to actually start my bike commuting rather than just reading obsessively about it. Soon!

In the meantime, I believe I have found a way up that gigantahill that isn’t quite so direct and steep. I have to test it out. Tomorrow, I believe.

And thus this entire hot and sticky weekend, I’ll pretty much end up outside. Great planning on my part!