(See update below: “Back to reality”) Joe at the BikingToronto blog has an excellent summary of 8 strategies he uses to deal with traffic on his daily commute. He put in a lot of work on this and it's worth a look and a read.
You're probably familiar with most, if not all of these; I've read them all before, except one, at one place or another but it's always good to review. A couple are controversial, especially the debate between “taking the lane” or “staying way the hell to the right.” Another of his secrets is a pretty good piece of common sense.
Briefly, the 8 are:
1. Knowing that drivers don't want to kill you will give you confidence in traffic;
2. Ride in a straight line;
3. Play by the rules;
4. Avoid the “stoplight squeeze;” don't move all the way to the right to rest your foot on the curb, or lean against a utility pole;
5. Signal sensibly;
6. Take that lane;
7. Make them think you're unpredictable: if you look over your left shoulder, many drivers will think you're going to swerve that way;
8. Ride with others.
As for #7, the key word is making the motorists “think” you're unpredictable if they're passing too closely on a narrow piece of road. Don't do anything stupid, just keep the drivers on guard.
Joe prefaces by saying there is another “secret,” which is to bike a lot. He says he uses the same commuting route and gets to know the traffic patterns better. Another confidence builder.
I'd just amend that to say “avoid complacency.” Stay alert and vigilant. And don't flip off any errant motorists.
Back to reality
After I filed this, I checked my news feed and ran across this item from right across the lake in Seattle. A 17-year-old lost control of his car, ran up onto the sidewalk, struck and killed a bicyclist.
On the sidewalk. Just as I was putting the finishing touches on this piece about how to stay safe, a cyclist who wasn't even riding in the street was killed by an out-of-control car.
With some irresponsible people behind the wheel, no where is safe.