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Copyright 1991 - 2004, Jeff Napier

Bicyclists Unite Against Tyranny

The Consumer Product Safety Commission rates bicycles as among the most dangerous products in the home. They seem to think that people can get hurt on bikes.  So, what are we going to do about it? We're going to fight. That's right. We're going to fight back! How are we going to do that? I have some suggestions. 

1. We will remain constantly aware, and think clearly about our vulnerability in traffic. 

Motorists are often in a sleepy mindset in which they simply don't even see vehicles smaller than other cars. Think of yourself as invisible, and always have a backup plan. Remember, you don't want to get into a fender-bender when you don't have any fenders.

2. We will ride in a way that motorists, pedestrians and other bicyclists can understand and expect, which generally means following the law. 

The laws are pretty sensible. For instance, you don't usually see cars tearing along the sidewalk. Why? Because they'd take out unaware people walking out of the front doors of stores.  Ride with traffic. In the United States, all traffic moves along the right side of the road except for idiots. They use the left side. Why is this so important? Imagine a car at a stop sign who is going to make a right turn. He looks to his left to see that no one is coming, and then he pulls out. He never looked to the left. Oops, there goes another idiot. There are other similar situations. A driver in a parked car looks in his mirror before opening the door, but never in front of the car. Can you think of other situations where staying on the right helps prevent crushed metal? 

3. We won't ride our bikes when we are drunk, on drugs, or less than fully alert. 

You know about drugs and drinking. But did you know that you can be too sleepy to be safe? I had a friend who hit a parked car and bruised his knee because he fell asleep in the middle of an intersection! 

4. We will be as visible as possible.

Wear colorful clothing. Buy a colorful bike. Consider a flag if you have a trailer or a recumbent bike. Do whatever it takes to help the motorists see you. Think about whether you want to ride at night. Many more motorists are chemically or emotionally impaired at night. Some drivers don't see well at night. Wet streets can be especially dangerous since the reflections can compete with real images, confusing the motorists. But, if you insist on night riding, or if you don't get home in time, you need reflective equipment and blinking lights.

5. We will remember than 70% of serious bike accidents do not involve cars, and so we will also ride sensibly off-road.

6. We will wear our helmets. 

A woman once came into my bike shop and told me about her condition. She looked normal enough. But she had been in a bicycle crash without a helmet. She hit her head on the curb. After waking up in the hospital, she seemed fine except for one thing - from which she has never recovered. She can no longer distinguish one item from a group. She cannot go shopping. If she is looking for detergent, for example, she'll see all the boxes of detergent on the shelf at once. She cannot pick just one box. She cannot see just one - can't even imagine just one when she sees that whole shelf. If she is in a room with other people talking, she cannot hear you. She hears everyone at once. She was an ordinary person. This could have happened to you, unless you were wearing your helmet. 

7. We will frequently tell kids, in a way that they can understand, about bicycle safety.

Kids don't really understand what it is to be seriously hurt. They also haven't yet had the practice in decision-making that helps adults stay out of danger. So, not only should we really drill kids (in a fun way, if possible) about the dangers, we should illustrate it with things they can relate to. For instance, "if you break your arm, your whole summer will be ruined." To a child, that is much more real than "you could get killed." We should watch the kids closely. In my opinion, a seven-year-old should never ride a bike alone or even with other children of the same age. Just because a child usually makes the right decisions doesn't mean he always will and in the case of bicycle safety, just one wrong decision can change that child's life forever.

8. We will teach other adults about bicycle safety.

My own sister was in a bicycle accident. The guy who hit her was also on a bicycle. He was riding on the wrong side of the street, cut obliviously through an intersection, and smashed directly into her. No one told him about rules #1, #2, #4 and #6. If you'd like to direct others to this web page, that would be great. The address is Bicycle Repair Guide and More

OK, that's it! - Jeff

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