“What I saw on Google streetview was a divided four lane highway, with left turns and a median that the cyclist could have used to confirm his judgment of the highway traffic when he got half way across. It is difficult to judge the traffic on the far side of a four lane road, and using that median could have kept that cyclist safe. He apparently failed to use an advantage (small size) that would NOT have been available to him had he been driving a Ford Ranger.
"THAT is the lesson we as cyclists should absorb unless we wish to become victims ourselves. Suppose the motorist IS distracted, the task remains the same for the cyclist – operate so you get to your destination safely, without close calls. Distracted motorists merely make that task a bit more urgent.
Posted 24 Aug 2010 at 6:33 pm ”
There are ways you, as a cyclist, can reduce your risk of such a collision. One way is to establish a reference mark, such as I describe here for purposes of making crossing the Alliance Gateway Freeway eastbound lanes safer. The reference mark is very handy because there’s lots of traffic along Alliance and I have to cross it every day, so I’m highly motivated to accurately judge the traffic gaps. Another way to make crossing a major street safer is to learn how long it takes to cross big streets, and how quickly oncoming traffic will be upon you.
|Table 1. Simple Time Guide to Cross Lanes|
The second element is how quickly an oncoming motor vehicle will intersect your path. Conveniently, many streets include reference marks such as telephone or light poles that can be used as a rough guide. Telephone pole spacing varies, but 100 to 125 feet is typical. For safety’s sake, we’ll assume 100 feet.
Table 2 shows how many phone poles away a car needs to be to give the appropriate time window if the poles are 100 feet apart. In each case, I have rounded partial seconds DOWN to the nearest full second. You will note that if you want a really simple rule of thumb, just figure that an oncoming car will travel one telephone pole’s distance each second. That’ll be safe for city streets, and will be a reasonable guide even for getting across higher speed roads. If your street has periodic driveways, you can create an equivalent table simply by measuring (rough measurement will do) how far apart they are and knowing that:
time in sec = 0.681818 X (number of features) X (distance apart features are in ft) / (car speed in mph)
|Table 2. How Fast the Cars are Coming at You|
If I apply this to crossing a seven lane road such as Davis in North Richland Hills, I know that it’ll take me 5 to 6 seconds to get across the far lane. If a motorist is coming along at a clip of 40mph, I know that if he is 4 telephone poles away, it’s not going to be safe to try to cross in front of him. Because I like to leave extra margin, I’d probably want a bit extra if I were going to cross – the driver might be going faster, or I might miss a shift. As a result, I'd probably only cross if the car was 6 poles away. This'd give me clearance even if the driver were bombing along at 60mph. On the other hand, if the traffic is two lanes away from me, I can cross if the oncoming motorist is 4 telephone poles away because it takes me only 3 seconds to cross that lane.
All this math has an added side benefit. Counting how long it takes to cross various streets builds the traffic senses and seeing how fast cars are traveling also sharpens the sensibilities. Of course, all the finer points will vary for you, just as they do at various locations along my commute route. KNOW your motorists! It is one reason why, when I fell on Monday, no motorists became involved with me afterwards.
UPDATE FOR MATH-CHALLENGED CYCLISTS WITHOUT CALCULATORS
If you like things REALLY SIMPLE, just make sure that oncoming traffic is more telephone poles away than you have lanes to cross. No math needed. Just see that oncoming motorist is far enough away that you can cross without turning into a pancake. This is not about absolute calculation precision, but about using available visual references to guard against a misjudgment by yourself. You'll get better with very little practice, and it won't slow you down on your commute by a single second or cost you a penny. Actually, it'll probably get you to your destination a smidge quicker - without close calls.