Monday, June 22, 2009

Bike Safety

A man was killed on a bicycle over the weekend. Several co-workers said they thought of me but assumed it wasn't just because of where the crash was and it would have been an odd place for me to be at 1am. I don't know anything more than what was said in that article but my condolences to the family.

It's never nice to blame a victim but if you're traveling, walking, bike, motorcycle, or car then you need to be aware of whats going on. If you're walking you're going slow enough that there is almost always plenty of time to react. I'll come back to bikes. On a motorcycle you know you're at greater risk than in a car, you can go just as fast (most motorcycles are very fast to accelerate) and are considered an equal to a car in terms of the law, one of the big dangers is from reduced visibility. A motorcycle is quite small in a rear view mirror. Another issue with motorcycles is that contrary to what many who ride them think, a motorcycle does not stop or turn as well as a car, well a sports car. Cars on the other hand are quite safe, which is their greatest danger, people become too comfortable and complacent while driving. And finally Bikes. Bikes are kinda weird, they're too fast for the sidewalk but not quite fast enough for the street. So first off stay off the sidewalk, it's dangerous and illegal if you don't believe me about the danger just think about crossing a street, are the people in cars looking for cross traffic in the street or on the sidewalk?

So how about some basic bike safety. First if you are riding at night you are at significantly greater risk, but their are some simple things you can do to reduce those risks, first USE LIGHTS!!!! If I was driving a car down the road at night with my lights off and got t-boned would anyone have sympathy for me? Hell no. So if you're riding a bicycle at night on the shoulder of the road without lights then you're insane. Follow traffic laws, at least most of the time. If I'm sitting at a red light and can see clearly both ways up the street I might not wait for a green, when I come to a stop sign, I slow way down, but if no ones coming I'm not going to hop off my bike just so I can hop back on. Once I get clipless pedals I really won't want to stop if I don't have to. But I think I'm quite sensible about when I wait for a green and when I don't, the short of it is I don't want to get hit by a car. One thing I'm not good about is wearing a helmet, I know I should but they're uncomfortable and I'm vain. The best retort to that was a friend who said, "yeah its hard to get laid wearing a bike helmet, its even harder to get laid if you're drooling on yourself." Considering the fact that on a bike I'm not just putting my safety in my own hands but in the hands of every idiot who drives past me, I probably should wear it. Some other advice, be assertive, a bike has every right to the traffic lane as a car, if you act like a second class vehicle you will be treated like one. If you get in the proper lane and demand respect you'll get it. That doesn't mean riding in the middle of the lane pissing everyone off but if you're turning left then get out there. I only have to make one left of significance on my way to work and its on a fairly busy street, also one of few places in town with a bike lane, so I stay in the bike lane till I'm about a block or so from my turn and start watching traffic behind me, as soon as their is a good break I quickly get in the middle of the lane, get up to a good speed and give a hand signal, I keep cranking and then just turn, or wait if their is traffic coming the other way. First thing in the morning barreling down the road with a big rig gaining on you beats coffee every time. The important thing in all of that is to make your intentions clear.

If you're on a bike, be careful, and if you're driving, be considerate. And if you think I'm being a dick by swinging further out into traffic than I need to to get around that parked car costing you an extra 7 seconds on your ride home, I'm just leaving room in case a car door opens, catching a door has to suck.


Richard Keatinge said...

Good points here, but the helmet is one thing you really don't need to worry about. The figures don't show that they work - helmet laws have stopped a lot of people cycling and have done nothing for head injury rates, see Robinson DL. No clear evidence from countries that have enforced the wearing of helmets. BMJ 2006;332: 722-5. It appears that helmets break easily, but don't absorb the impact, see the engineers quoted at A broken helmet has simply failed, and the widespread anecdotes on the theme of "a helmet saved my life" seem to owe more to wishful thinking than to science. As for "a car ran over my head", see the pro-helmet site If a car goes over your head, I'm sorry to say that you won't be sitting up and praising your helmet. The only known connection is that helmets have strangled a few young children who were wearing helmets while playing off their bicycles.

I no longer wear a helmet and haven't pressed them on my children. I do check that their brakes work and that they have a good idea of the rules of the road.

rob said...

I used to hate car abuse when I rode my bike regularly. That was years ago though... and cars were bigger and more fearsome.