An friend pointed me to a site with some very graphic
pictures (really, don't click if you have a weak stomach), telling me to
be sure to wear a helmet when I bike. I always wear a helmet, but it got me
thinking about one of my pet peeves.
When I'm out on the street around here, I see a lot of people on bicycles.
That's good, I think the bicycle is an underused vehicle in the United States.
But a lot of cyclists behave very dangerously. Many cyclists don't wear a
helmet, and there's just no excuse for that. Helmets are cheap, and seriously
reduce the chance of a fatal accident while biking. If one of your limbs
smacks into concrete at 15mph you will probably break something, but that's
not fatal. If your head smacks into concrete at that speed it might be very
bad. And if you get hit by a car, that car is likely to be going a lot faster
than 15mph. The Bicycle Helmet Safety
Institute has some good information.
People ride bicycles at night without lights or even reflectors. $30 will get
you some excellent lights at REI.
If you shop around you can pay much less than that. A cyclist in the dark is
just really hard to see, especially when you're doing 40mph on a road with no
traffic lights. Either get lights, or don't ride your bike at night.
Lots of people (but mostly kids) ride their bicycles on the sidewalk. I don't
have a big problem with bicycles on the sidewalk, as long as they give
pedestrians the right of way. But when you're crossing into the street from a
sidewalk, you need to be really careful. Motorists check for pedestrians on
the sidewalk when they turn at an intersection. When they do that, they're
really just looking at the sidewalk about 10 yards from the intersection. A
cyclists goes much faster than a pedestrian, with the result that the sidewalk
may look empty to a motorists who turns, only to hit a bicycle that came onto
the road from the sidewalk.
Then there are people who bike on the wrong side of the road. In the United
States bicycles should travel on the right-hand side of the road. Biking on
the other side might feel safer because you can see oncoming traffic, but it
is much more dangerous. This is also most obvious at intersections. Imagine a
cyclist going straight, with a car coming in from a side road. The car will
look for traffic on his side of the street on the left, and on the other side
of the street on the right. Meanwhile a cyclist going the wrong way will be
approaching on the car's side of the street on the right, which is not a place
where cars look for traffic. Unless the driver is particularly alert, the car
and bike will collide.
Bicycles are vehicles, with exactly the same rights and responsibilities as
cars. If you ride your bike like you drive, you'll be fine. A little extra
care doesn't hurt, because even if you have the right of way, the cyclist
always loses when there is a collision with a car. Ride on, but be safe.