As safe as taking a shower with...
Rules of The Urban Road
Beaterbiking is a way of life in which you are in control of your direction and let the roll take you there, where you propel yourself, where you map out geography by ease, flow, and stress levels, where you shrink your ecological footprint, enlarge your world, and build patience, surety, and confidence. Urban beaterbiking is a fairly single sport, where you set your own pace and direction and basically meditate.
I've heard folks tell me that they are scared to ride bikes in the city. Too much traffic, scared of cars, not seen by anybody, being yelled at by passing cars and pedestrians. I respect those things and also know that car drivers feel the same about urban driving.
Everybody has heard the statistics about bathroom accidents are more prevalent than airplane fatalities. I put down a bathmat in my tub. That's all I need for safety. Of course, in a bathroom, ya don't have to worry about the other guy as much as on a bike. I believe that urban biking can be safe for you and other travelers.
As a regular traveler (and unapologetic list maker), here’s Dave’s List of Safety Tips for Urban Bikers.
1. Wear a friggin' helmet. Shave your head if you worry about helmet hair. One bike accident will cure anyone of helmet-phobia, trust me.And I have come up with some Rules of the Road for Urban Bikers that I think may apply to beater biking:
2. Consider the car. Big bus and truck drivers are more careful drivers than SUVs (don't know their own bulkiness) or small cars (Napoleon complexes).
3. Be visible at all times. Make sure drivers see you in all ways, especially at intersections. Believe that nobody sees you and drive defensively.
4. Be more aware at intersections (most accidents happen there). Step up lateral, fore and aft observations when approaching. Don't cheat the lights. Don't hesitate and confuse drivers.
5. In complicated situations, get off the bike and walk it to a safer location. At the very least, figure your path out before you take the plunge
6. Improvise when presented with difficult biking ground (back alleys, one block over, sidewalk if less than a block, etc.)
7. Defer to the sprayed-on spandex speed demon....they're more likely to get in an accident than you. Speed kills and they are only saving minutes on a trip and increasing danger.
8. Watch the head of the driver and the wheels of the car.
9. Watch the road for glass and gravel. Any debris is likely to accumulate where car tires miss...stuff that can puncture a tire.
10. Be within a mile of a bus or train, unless you want to carry your bike 5 miles due to a flat tire.
11. Be polite whenever possible. You are modelling good biking citizenship. Cutting off cars, speeding through intersections, yelling at drivers and banging on sides gets you bruised and hoarse.
12. Don't do diagnostics or repairs on your bike while riding on a busy street. If you attention is occupied, you will swerve.
13. Take an ID, a phone and an emergency number to call. I recommend taping it on the outside of the phone or creating an entry for ICE (In Case of Emergency). I actually created one named !ICE, so it's at the beginning of my address book.
14. And lastly, aim for peaceful coexistence rather than contentious road entitlements.
1. Wear the right clothes. Anything comfortable for you, a helmet, and gloves. If you worry about helmet-hair, I strongly suggest a stationary bike. Gloves? Try falling off the bike and you understand why.[note: all bicycle safety pictures can be found at Bicycle Blunders, a serious bike advocacy site maintained by Fred Oswald in Ohio. We highly recommend you take a look]
2. Arrive at your destination more relaxed than you left. That means avoiding stressful situations, take breaks, and enjoy the journey as a form of therapy.
3. Be connected to your surroundings. Take in the sights, smells, and sounds. Only a fool uses a cellphone or has earplugged music on a bike.
4. Stress is contagious, so avoid stressful people. I mean the nervous driver, the screaming fratboy, or the spandex-sprayed Lance-Armstrong wannabe; they may look good on a bike, but that doesn’t mean that they can cheat lights, cut you off, or yell at cars. I refer to those folks as “frayends.” If I find myself pissed off at the behavior of these toxic folks, I get off my bike and away under a shady tree, take 10 deep breathes to the tune of Bobby McFerrin’s “Don’t Worry, Be Happy.”
5. Take a self-check regularly. Is something sore? Are you thirsty? Are you out of breath? Is the bike making noises. Simply stop and take care of it. Being an iron-man is not the point of beater biking.
6. Speed kills, steady heals. Don’t go fast, stop at the lights, and know that you’ll get there eventually and easily rather than frazzled.
7. Have a good map. Many times the road conditions or your mood require changing the route mid trip. Experimenting takes away the boredom and keeps the beater biking experience fresh.
8. Civility and smiles win the day. Give your face a break, it takes fewer muscles to smile, and it reminds people that they are confronting a beater biker, not a bike. I wave cars through, let the whales [CTA buses] pass me by, and work for peaceful coexistence rather than Darwinian survival. Have a stock phrase to use against road-ragers: like “Have a Great Day!” It confuses the hell outta the other guy when you are smiling and wishing them well….nothing like a good mindsnap to shake ‘em up.