Saturday, February 9, 2013

Look Out for those Mirrors!

Photo credit: Ram Trucks
I was driving home from work when I realized I followed an SUV with unusually large side mirrors. Dangerously wide if you're riding a bike. These are the kind that stick out at least 12" and are often used in conjunction with horse trailers, motor homes, or likewise elongated rigs. The mirrors are necessary safety equipment, especially for a clear rear view of the roadway. They are also handy for backing up.

But as a cyclist, these long-armed extensions scare me. Unlike a dump truck or large delivery vehicle where mirrors are positioned higher out of cyclist's direct path, these are right at eye level. If you travel country roads like I do, these vehicles take up a whole lane. To be fair, drivers are generally cautious, especially when towing a trailer full of animals. And at slow speeds, to not upset cargo. They wait behind me until it's safe to pass. Besides, any extra space taken up by side mirrors is negated by an even wider trailer.

Photo credit: etrailer
But occasionally, when a vehicle comes up behind me, sans trailer, and inches past, the driver forgets to account for mirror width. I've felt the brush of their closeness—whether it was the wind or the actual mirror, I'll never know. It left me sweating, with a queasy stomach. By then I'd pulled off the road until I stopped shaking and recovered my wits. Justifiably, I was angry. Angry with their stupidity. Angry that they didn't care or possibly know how close they'd come to forcing me into the gutter.
Photo credit: Online Towing Guide

There is one particular red truck and trailer combo that always passes uncomfortably close and has become my nemesis. It's a good thing they drive fairly slow. I expect them and usually pull over or make sure and hold a straight line until they're safely by. I've thought of calling the company (it's large with numerous vehicles), but by the time I remember the license plate number and get to a phone I've forgotten.

That's why I'm thankful that I'm armed with my own rear view mirror. And while I can't always be super diligent—continually focusing behind could lead me to veer too far to the left or right, creating another kind of danger—I can listen for approaching vehicles, glance in my mirror, and take necessary precautions. In the city where traffic noise is a constant, this technique is not as useful. For my commute, it could save my life.


  1. It's worth calling the company even if you don't remember the licence plate number Annie, as they may know which if their vehicles is in your area at that time and be able to identify it.

    1. Thanks, Vicki. I'll do that next time.

  2. I've gone back and forth about whether I want or need a rear view mirror... I started using one again this winter and I must say I had forgotten how useful they can be. My problem is that I spend a little too much time looking in it as opposed to up and ahead.

    1. Yes, they can be quite useful, but I suppose it depends upon your situation and type of rider you are. I find them indispensable; I can't look over my shoulder without wavering and feeling unstable. On the other hand my husband hasn't used a mirror for several years. He says he'd rather use his senses.


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