The Smith System for cyclists?

When I took Driver’s Ed in the mid 70s, they taught us the Smith System, which included these five fundamental rules of safe driving:

  • Aim high in steering
  • Get the big picture
  • Keep your eyes moving
  • Leave yourself an out
  • Make sure they see you

Seems to me that these rules are even more important for us city cyclists.

While I’m riding, even through residential areas with little traffic, I’m always trying to “get the big picture,” which means to be aware of every object moving around me–front, back, left and right–rather than focusing exclusively on the most menacing vehicle headed my way. I develop a feel for where everything is headed somewhat like how Patrick Mahomes knows at all times the whereabouts of the other 21 men on the field.

“Leave yourself an out” is also playing on a loop in my head while I ride, especially when coming into an intersection or riding along a line of parked cars. If that car runs the light, am I prepared to take evasive action? If that car door swings open, do I know that the adjacent lane is clear so I can swerve to avoid being gored by an open door?

Commuting on an e-bike that averages nearly 20 mph on city streets is not a relaxing experience, nor does it have to be terrifying or unnerving. I like to think of it as exhilarating. By the time I get to work, I’m fully alert and ready to go.

2 Comments

  1. Have you explored How To Not Get Hit By Cars at bicyclesafe.com? Some of it is obvious, but I learned some great tips on that site that I use every time I ride in traffic.

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    1. We weren’t aware of that site, so thanks for the reference! It has been added to our Cycling Links page. I particularly like the recommendation to “ride as if you were invisible.”

      Like

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