Thoughts on Bike Safety

July 17, 2008 at 6:38 pm Leave a comment

Sometimes equally frustrating to all the bike-blind or bike-hostile motorists in existence is–yes!–bicyclists themselves that deliberately disobey road rules with a cavalier attitude. Now, let me just say that I’ve been guilty on a number of occasions of committing small traffic violations when I thought no one was looking or the situation otherwise seemed safe. I’ve been known not to stop at stop signs when it’s completely obvious that nothing is coming for miles in the other direction. Now and then, I ride on sidewalks when there is no bike lane and, between congested lanes and parked cars, riding on the street is patently unsafe. I’ve even “jaybiked,” for lack of a better term, when slow traffic makes going all the way to the next intersection to cross seem unnecessary. Still, I like to think anyway, I do this sort of thing as conscientiously as possible, making sure that I’m not imperiling others or myself. Some behavior on bikes is not only dangerous but more evidence to those unsympathetic with bicyclists that we are an irresponsible lot.

While I don’t think this is true of most bicyclists, it is still all too uncommon. Needless to say, flying full-on through a red light at a busy intersection, attempting to ride while juggling large coffee drinks and/or other unwieldy items, or making a call while weaving through traffic are some of the more unwise choices I’ve seen cyclists make. Riding with headphones on also seems troublesome. Indeed, many auto drivers have the radio on, so this would seem fair enough for bike riders. Still, most drivers are able to hear other sounds on top of their radio music or chatter. Noise on headphones all but precludes the ability to hear traffic, environmental, or other noises of interest to the cyclist. I can’t speak for others, but I know that I feel tremendously disadvantaged with this sensory deprivation. I save my mp3’s for the BART ride.

I do more head-scratching when I see so many riders, even those whose first mode of transit is the bike, ride in heavy traffic without a helmet. I don’t know if this is a sort of libertarian “let those who ride decide” attitude or there are people who are afraid they look “uncool” with a helmet. I know no helmet is foolproof, but it’s SOME protection for one of the most delicate regions of the body, and not wearing one makes about as much sense to me as the refusal of some in cars to wear seat belts. Anyone that can give me a good reason for not wearing a helmet, other than laziness or vanity, is a better man/woman than I.

Also, please, please, please don’t ride after dark without lights. I know a guy who does so without even reflectors. That’s just plain suicidal.

Sorry, I don’t mean for this to sound preachy. I hope I haven’t put off any of you. As stated, I have a less than pristine record myself. I just don’t understand deliberate unsafe decisions in an already far too dangerous riding world, be they by drivers, cyclists, or pedestrians.


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