Posted by David Barish on December 10, 2012
Some “gallows talk” descended upon the ChainLink today. The question is what do you do when the news about cycling starts to make you think twice about your personal safety:
I will admit it. I am starting to get a bit bikeanoid. Perhaps its this forum. Perhaps its the news media. Perhaps its the seemingly increasing volume of stories about carnage on the road. Perhaps its because I have been leading one of the local Rides of Silence. Perhaps its me. Perhaps its the drivers. Perhaps they are out to get me…
…Following the discussion about a ghost bike today and then reading a story of yet another cyclist seriously injured finally got me. How many of us have rationalized to ourselves, “I know what I am doing on my bike. I don’t know about THOSE riders but I’m safe.” It seems that more and more we read about exeprienced cyclists, riders just like you and me, who are being hurt or worse on the roads.
I have a gift certificate to REI. I plan to get a vest, a bell, a new mirror. I recently upgraded my light. I’m getting bikeanoid.
I don’t want to lose my edge. We all need that confidence to ride urban roads. We have to know what we are doing and be able to do what we know without hesitation We can’t flinch. We can’t be scared. We can’t be bikeanoid.
I know I have been one of the annoying safety nerds on this board. Those posts came from somebody who thought he knew better. Maybe it doesn’t make a difference. Maybe its just a lottery that we can’t control. Maybe all that safety crap will not do me any good. Maybe that truck is just waiting for me. Maybe I should forego the vest etc and get myself something more fun. Maybe I’m getting…bikeanoid.
Ride safely friends…or @$#& it just cut right through, it might not matter. 🙂
My take on this is that the writer is showing exciting signs of appropriate awareness about the situation that faces every cyclist. I would wish for far more of this kind of thinking than the general “Happy Talk” that descends on the cycling community from “on high”.
Reply by Deet 6 hours ago
i know how you feel…
Reply by Beans 6 hours ago
I go through all this every day. I wish I felt safer out there but I don’t. Not everyone follows laws, etiquette or common sense.
I have every right to ride my bike but I understand the risks when I ride with automobiles. I’ve been hit a couple of times – cars hurt.
I take it day by day.
Please be careful out there.
Reply by Lisa Curcio 3 hours ago
When Dottie Brackett gets hit by a car after stopping at a stop sign and yielding to two cars, I am not sure it is bikeanoid. My philosophy is I could be hit by a bus crossing the street in the Loop. I would rather be doing something I enjoy if I am going to be hit by something.
Reply by Jennifer 37 minutes ago
Dottie Brackett got hit by a car??? Nuck futs, if she’s not safe, no one is.
Soldiers in combat zones talk this way about their daily experiences. It has a very valuable purpose. It makes you aware of just how dangerous what you are doing is. And armed with that knowledge you take precautions to the extent that you can in the hopes that your preparedness will make a positive difference. There being no “silver bullets” you know that when your number is up, it’s up. But nevertheless you continue to prepare by doing the things you believe will save your life. And since you are generally “in country” with fellow soldiers you have to be looking out for them and they for you. We teach our soldiers to “never leave a comrade behind”.
Strong Reasons To Avoid “Bad Behavior”
The fact that your particular route to work has no protected bike lane is not an excuse for running red lights or blowing stop signs. In fact if anything is true it should be that avoiding that kind of behavior is your way of looking out for others on the roadway that morning or evening. When you strap on bright lights front and rear you are trying to keep not only yourself safe but others riding, walking or driving around you. And they owe you the same courtesy and preparation.
The one true “bad guy” in the transportation world is “inattentiveness”. Not paying attention is what costs lives. Doing things that surprise people around you is like foisting inattentiveness on them. By not being predictable you divert their attention from something else which can be a cause of an accident. This is the chief reason police offer up strings on cyclists to help reinforce the need to be predictable.
If we as cyclists are unwilling to adhere to basic traffic laws then we should certainly not complain when motorists or pedestrians do the same. We should simply shrug and say that “stuff happens” and move on with our lives. But when we stop and take the time to register our outrage on the ChainLink’s “Missed Opportunity” thread we are by so doing admitting that basic traffic laws are important and should be obeyed.
When we complain that some pedestrian or automobile driver did something illegal with regards to the bike lane or is perhaps speeding or passing on the right or whatever, we are saying loud and clear, “scofflaw behavior is wrong!” That is a step in the right direction if we then reflect on our own adherence to that dictum. If we avoid being self-critical then we are by extension hypocrites.
When we stop and think about all of the myriad things that can go wrong on any given day we are on the bike and trying to get from Point A to Point B our first thought should be, “how is my behavior in aid of everyone getting to work safely?” If by failing to carry bright clothing for the ride home in the dark we are putting someone at jeopardy (including ourselves) we need to take that extra moment to bring the right clothing.
The same thing applies to carrying and using lights, reflectors, brakes, a helmet and even thinking to use hand signals and reflective gloves for night riding. If we find ourselves making excuses that cycling should be a “pure unencumbered activity” when we fail to dress ourselves or out bikes properly, someone needs to help us think that fallacy through to its consequences.
If even “safety conscious riders” can be injured then how much more diligent should the rest of us be when out and about on bikes? We should be honest about our chances of injury. That in turn should spur us to avoid shortcuts that could cut short our lives.
Some Sobering Facts
According to a recent article in the Washington Post:
Deaths behind the wheel of an automobile fell last year to the lowest level since the Truman administration, but there was an increase in fatalities among bicyclists, pedestrians, motorcycle riders and big-rig truck drivers, according to federal figures released Monday.
And then there was the tragic injury that befell a cyclist out here in the suburbs:
Berwyn police have yet to release detailed information regarding an accident in which a bicyclist was struck by a truck at the intersection of 26th Street and East Avenue at 5:15 p.m. Dec. 3.
Meanwhile, the Stickney-Forest View Public Library District has set up a fund for Adult Library Services assistant Justin Carver, who library officials said was the man struck while riding his bicycle home to Oak Park after work Dec. 3.
According to the library’s website, donations are being accepted at the circulation desk and staff are asking patrons to keep Carver and his wife, Kim, in their thoughts and prayers.