The Single Witness Suicide Swerve (SWSS) is a derogatory term coined by cyclists to describe the scenario reported by drivers who have been involved in a certain fatal crashes involving a cyclist. Reports from these incidents almost invariably contain language to the effect that the cyclist unexpectedly swerved in front of the motorist. The resulting collision being witnessed by only one individual – the involved motorist. By extension, the cyclist must have had a death wish, because their actions led directly to their death.
When scrutinized, these claims almost never make sense – though, sadly, they do tend to stand as cause. The more realistic explanation is that the motorist was not paying attention and hit the cyclist. In the absence of additional witnesses and reluctance on the part of the investigators to pursue other contributing facts, the victim becomes the instigator of their own demise and the motorist gets off with a free pass. Truthfully, how many people are going to admit they were responsible for the death of someone else and willingly be subject to the consequences? Better to implicate the cyclist as being the cause; besides, they are unable to defend themselves.
Contributing causes likely also include cyclists riding at night with insufficient illumination, riding too close to the edge of the roadway or darting out from driveways or intersections. Excepting the latter case, the motorist still bears the burden of the responsibility. Even so, the cyclists may be partially to blame in some situations, though certainly not all.
The majority of these fatalities can be avoided by simply employing vehicular principles when riding a bike on the road. Novice and inexperienced cyclists often ride too far to the right. Like most motorists and law enforcement officials, cyclists tend to misinterpret the meaning of “as far to the right as practicable” to mean something akin to as far to the right as possible. In so doing, they position themselves too close to the curb, often in shadows, but always reducing their conspicuity.
In his oft’ quoted monograph on the subject, John Franklin recommends a default alignment roughly in the center of the lane. Terming this the “primary riding position“, this practice affords the cyclist greater visibility to other road users. Competent, experienced vehicular cyclists understand this philosophy and embrace it. More specifically, most competent, experienced vehicular cyclists tend to adopt an alignment to the right hand side of the left third of the outside lane as a rule. Always taking full control of the lane when legally allowed will result in greater respect from other road users. The more conspicuous one is, the safer one will be.