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Suppose a car is going to collide with you. What can you do to minimise the consequences?

By collision I mean that it may be intentional or an accident. Anyway I am looking for tips on how to act in this kind of situation where the other vehicle probably has much larger total energy than you.

Suppose someone is about to drive over you when you are riding a bike, what is the best way to avoid this happening? During work time I see people driving too many times at too high speed up to pedestrian crossings, for example. Even though I am using lights and reflector vests they do not really help with this kind of situation.

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Would "crash" be a better word than "smash"? Or maybe "collide", as in "Suppose a car is going to collide with you." –  freiheit Jun 17 '11 at 23:17
    
@feiheit: thanks, fixed. I did not use the term "collide" initially because I do not want to presuppose non-intentional collision. Suppose someone tries to drive over you when you are riding a bike, what is the best way to avoid the happening? What is poor with this question? During work time I see people driving too many times at too high speed to zebras, for example. Even though I am using lights and reflector vests they do not really help with this kind of situations. –  user652 Jun 18 '11 at 3:21
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12 shots of whiskey and you won't feel anything. ;-> –  Moab Jun 27 '11 at 2:21

5 Answers 5

up vote 11 down vote accepted

I'm going to answer the "if a collision is going to happen" question, not the "how do I prevent collisions", because that's addressed already. What advanced cycling skills are useful for a commuter or city rider? and Techniques for minimising injury when falling or crashing? both have safety tips. Although a more general "safety equipment we should all have" wiki might be handy.

I'm also going to assume they're not actively trying to hit you. Although since about 1/3 of fatalities involve a drunk driver this may not be entirely correct.

Collision from the rear

Despite being one of the most feared collisions, this is also relatively rare (although disproportionately fatal) at about 1.4% of fatalities. If it's going to happen you're almost certainly better off riding off the road to avoid it - crashing into something at bicycle speeds beats being crashed into at motor vehicle speeds.

Collision from the side

If someone is going to drive into you from the side I really don't know what you can do. Lifting your legs above the impact zone or even jumping onto the vehicle might help, and at least reduce the chances of you being crushed underneath it. My focus would be on quickly deciding whether to brake to avoid it, or sprint to avoid it. Then do that. Avoiding the crash is always the better option.

Crashing into something

This usually happens when a motorist turns in front of you or crashes into something in front of you. The cliche "superman" crash, where you fly over the car leaving your bike behind. As with motorcyclists, the best advice is to jump, because if your legs hit the handlebars and break you'll be in a lot of pain for a long time. Better to jump over the car, land on the other side and lose some skin. I've done this a few times and cracking a bone in my shoulder is the worst that's happened.

The advice in the linked questions above is definitely relevant here. Wearing reflective and highly visible, abrasion-resistant clothing will help, as will cycling gloves and decent shoes. A helmet is also handy. I have dynamo lights that don't turn off and a blinking red light on the back of my helmet that I often use in daylight as well.

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what about if you have SPD shoes? Do you need to jump with the bike? How would you practise jumping over cars with and without bikes? I was once on a zebra when a young suit guy during work hours was about to drive over me (he actually sped up straight to me, no idea why), I rocketed almost pedestrians and eventually landed to a tree -- not nice but luckily I had just installed disc brakes, they really helped in this occasion. I forwarded the new question elsewhere, here. –  user652 Jun 19 '11 at 16:42
    
In a crash, release the SPDs. Staying with the bike only works if it will protect you in the crash and it won't. Rarely a motorbike can protect the rider, but usually not. This is why you see riders sliding behind their bikes in racing crashes... better to have the motorbike hit any obstacle first. –  Мסž Jun 19 '11 at 22:12

I have thought about this on several occasions, mostly at dusk with average quality lights on my bike and a car over-taking another car in the opposite lane. Yep, that is the 70 mph car heading straight at you, not looking for a bike, or even having the imagination to expect a bike coming the other way...

I am alive today so therefore my up-until-now secret strategy has clearly worked (and yes I am touching wood immediately). Therefore I will share it with you.

In normal life I am not a God-fearing Christian. In fact I have no imaginary friend of the omnipotent and omniscient nature lurking in some imaginary place somewhere above the sky (former schoolmates at GCHQ excepted). However, when I detect an 'incoming launch' (my secret phrase for a rather-large-and-heavy tin-box coming directly my way at Highway Code defying speed) I suddenly become religious. I utter 'Oh my God' and, in a blink of an eye, what was to be certain tragedy is magically avoidified. 'Jesus please save me' also works if my memory serves me correctly, but I am not sure of any other vocabulary that the skygod understands. My advice is to stick to one of those two phrases - I am living proof that this method is fool-proof.

As a student I did lose a very religious friend to a tin-box with a heavy accelerator pedal. To this day I am lost for words regarding the loss of a coursemate that was so able, talented, decent to people and a cyclist. In my opinion his loss and the loss of others taken away by the tin-box people is harder to come to terms with than how other people 'make it upstairs'. No logic or reason can explain it and why there is no penalty of significance for the evil-wrong-doer in the tin box. 'Did not see you, mate' hurts, doesn't it?

Anyway, faced with this loss I was not sure about whether or not my religious conversions at time of imminent death was really needed. All I could assume was that my former friend had given up on his faith at the time he needed the skygod the most. Maybe he said 'bloody hell' or something like that, rather than one of the two secret phrases that are known and guaranteed to work. Well, that can be the only explanation as I see it, the most logical, reasoned explanation anyway.

Actually I have travelled quite a few yards on car bonnets, with the scars and smashed laptops to prove it. These were the occasions when things happened so quickly that even in slow-motion shock I did not have time to utter the magic words, but somehow got off lightly (i.e. alive). Somehow I never seem to bounce back onto my feet like the movie actors do after their ultra-violent scenes. I almost enjoy concussion and how people go weird on you, sending you off to A+E where they shine bright lights in your eyes and don't let you watch teevee (never understood that bit).

During the soul-searching after an incident, where, obviously the tin-box person was entirely in the wrong, I have actually came to a realization that I could have done things to make things different.

The importance of a bright front light cannot be under-estimated. The importance to assertively handle junctions cannot be under-estimated. The importance of making eye-contact with other road users cannot be under-estimated. The importance of not skirting round the outside of a roundabout in a cowardly manner cannot be under-estimated. You cannot show weakness or deference to the tin-box. You cannot afford to have loose clothing get caught in moving parts.

So yes, there is a lot you can do to avoid the almighty killing machine that is the tin-box. Some of it is psychological approach to riding, the rest of it is getting bike and hi-viz together.

Off-road mountain biking is a useful proving ground for accidents and their mitigation. One strategy that works surprisingly well is to take a direct hit, head on, wheels straight with no glancing-blow nonsense. Accidents seem tidier that way and the automatic response of sticking hands out works better as the crash is both wrists in mega-agony rather than one wrist broken.

To conclude, don't forget the magic phrase and whatever you do, do not end up like my former college friend - people on SE might miss you, not to mention your mum and everyone else you know.

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eye-contact is very important, I have never had a accident-prone situation this way (ok not counting a crazy taxi driver speeding up to me during work hours). It makes the gvt-subsidised-killer machines less accident-prone, at least so I fell because the only accident-prone situations I have had have been with no eye-contact to speeding cars. –  user652 Jun 19 '11 at 16:36

Well, I have been on many crashes and survived all of it without having not more than few scratches.

@moz's answer mentions about jumping at the car, when it is about to hit you. Haven't tried the side jump yet though. But it is true, it has saved my life many times, usually I end up at the back of the car, due to the car's speed, but I dodge the fatality quite clear.

But you will not always except a low height vehicle like cars, what about trucks, or buses, coming at you with a speed of 70 Kph?

Well, for big trucks with large wheels, is considerable easier to try to go underneath the truck itself, rather than trying to escape from it. Did this once, I fell down on purpose on my bike, by front handle bars and rims were toast, but I lived.

One of the biggest things, that has helped me escape these crashes is I Don't FREAK Out. If you freak out, you are as good as dead. But, as the adrenaline, rushes through your body, and time virtually slows down ("BRAIN reacts faster actually"), you think of yourself and chances to protect it. Dont think about meshing up a expensive bike, and avoiding injury. If you can't take few bruises on your will, surving a crash is highly unlikely.

Crashing on turns, is really scary. But the best move here, as you see crash coming on, jump out of your bike from the back and fall towards the side of the road.

Sometimes, sharp turns can also avoid big crashes. Once, A bike was heading towards me in an unimaginable speed. I really didn't have much time to think. So, I followed basic instincts are tried to take a sharp turn(I just leaned my body towards left side, the best I could). The bike slammed on me, but due the angle I was in, the force ejected me from the bike and pushed me to the sideways, even my bike, wasn't that bad.

However, My scariest crashes are not these. The busy roads. If you luckily survived a crash and are still breathing, there will another crash waiting for you immediately. So, whenever you are down on the road, the best chance you have is, rolling to a safe side (Dont get up, and freak out the driver, they can create a larger accident instead). Watch the approaching vehicle and roll sideways to safetly, continue dodging the vehicles, till you reach the side ways. (I haven't tried this one though, saw it somewhere, I freaked the driver and created a bigger mess).

I have a lot of things to tell, but first lets see, how much was my answer helpful.

BUT STILL THE MANTRA IS

DONT FREAK OUT

THINK

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Man, how are you still alive - dogs, cars! Good thing, though. I have only several times fallen on a busy road and always my first reaction has been "where is the sidewalk, I need to roll the hell out on the sidewalk!!!!!" –  Vorac Nov 15 '13 at 16:01
Shout!

for those who cannot whistle loudly, particularly. Not bad idea to get some extra adrenaline in this kind of situation, it is your life. So what if you did get dead, you can at least get some extra adrenaline in the situation. Have fuN!

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Learn to whistle loudly and be prepared to do so when approaching a dangerous spot (intersection, recently-parked-car-whose-door-could-open-any-time, etc.). The trick is to start whistling before you need to so you don't waste time finding that sweet-spot; When the need actually arises, all you need to do is crank up the volume.

This has worked for me many times and I estimate I am personally responsible for avoiding 10-15 accidents involving myself or others simply by whistling.

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what is the loudest way to do it without hands? –  user652 Sep 9 '11 at 16:42
    
@hhhh I know of two ways to whistle without hands, one where your lips form a tiny "O" which I use to whistle tunes and such, the other where my tongue comes in contact with my lower lip and lets a small amount of air pass between it and my upper teeth... This one is much louder. It's hard to explain in a comment but a google search should give you some tips. I personally started to learn WITH fingers and progressively removed one finger at a time. Ultimately, the fingers help place your tongue, so if you can remove them and keep the same tongue shape, it should work... Good luck! –  Shawn Sep 9 '11 at 18:39

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