There have been several accidents and at least a couple of fatalities in the Portland area involving bicycles. The two fatalities involved riders in the blind spot of a truck preparing to make a legal right turn. Amid the calls for new laws I have a few observations gleaned from three decades of commuting, the last eight involving twenty miles both ways sharing the road with trucks and very large pickups and SUV’s.
Assume that you are invisible to every other driver on the road. You may be driving a neon yellow hummer with Oregon colored cheerleader pom poms, but drive as if no one will notice you. The big rigs with the sign on the back that says “if you can’t see my mirrors, I can’t see you” are there for a reason.
Never assume that the driver behind you will stop for a yellow light. Remember you are invisible and he or she may be not paying attention. Or may be paying attention, and still be an idiot. Actually, if they are riding your bumper, don’t assume they’re going to stop for a red light either. Try and leave yourself with someplace to go, just in case. Go through the intersection or change lanes.
You may have the right of way, but never assume that any other driver is going to honor that. Remember you might as well be invisible to the other drivers. And if they are driving a jacked up pick up, you might just be invisible. I’ve dealt with so many of those drivers who never seem to look down, Or to the side, now that I think about it.
I know the rules of the road favor the bike riders. I also know that they don’t have to have a license to be on the road. They were written when there were fewer trucks, huge pickups and SUV's on the road too. And any suggestion that licensing bike riders might be a good idea, at least in this neck of the woods, provokes an outpouring that boils down to “we don’t need them we're doing you a favor by not using any gasoline.” OoooooKaaaaaay, no license. Personally, I think if you're going to share the road with me, you should have a license too, but that's just personal opinion. But, how about proof you’ve taken a safety course? One of the first lessons when I took driver’s ed was a physics lesson. A vehicle of x weight, traveling y speed, needs z number of feet to stop. Simple and scary. Especially when you are smaller than almost anything else on the road and virtually unprotected. In a contest with anything that has a motor, the person on the bike is going to come up the loser.
And frankly if you’re going to wear dark clothes, have no lights, and ride a bike at dusk or after dark, you don’t need to pretend you’re invisible. You are invisible.