The Desegregated Cyclist/Ian Brett Cooper
Cycling Advocacy and Education/Fred Oswald
Model Municipal Bicycle Code/Fred Oswald
Reforming Bicycle Traffic Laws/Fred Oswald, et al
The above links are just a few among the many I've discovered in the past 72 hrs of looking up information on bicyclist rights and responsibilities. What an incredible amount of information on this broad topic. Included in this topic are: the rights of bicyclists to ride on all roadways, uniform code for all vehicle operators (bicyclists and drivers), questionable data about bike lanes/bike paths/segregated bike lanes, discriminatory bike laws, helmet safety/laws, plus other issues I was completely unaware of.
Here's a map of the U.S. that shows how States are rated by their bike laws:
Wow! This is without a doubt a topic that is aptly covered by my firm belief that "no good deed goes unpunished". So many ideas, thoughts, beliefs, concepts...I am even more dazed and confused.
Whenever I'm in a quandary as a cyclist regarding a situation and what's the safest, most realistic option/s I have, my humble belief is to go with what I know and have found works for me. Below are a few things that I believe are true and not just for me. Get on a bicycle and ride...these will be important to be thinking about:
- WEAR A HELMET. Should helmets be made mandatory? No offense here, but, please, think about your head and your brain. Damage them and you're hosed, brothers and sisters. After working in several trauma centers in my career, I've seen the results of not wearing a helmet and it is NOT pretty. Personal opinion? Subjective? Yes. But the injuries I've seen cyclists sustain by not doing this very simple thing...putting on a helmet...are impressive. And devastating. So, you don't want to wear a helmet because it makes you look geeky? Well, a brain injury will make you act that way, too. That is if you survive the crash.
- DON'T BE STUPID. Remember that mass + velocity + stupidity does not result in pretty pictures. While riding a bicycle, remember how much you, the bicycle, and the gear you may be carrying weighs (mass), as well as how fast you may be traveling (velocity), add to that a level of stupid that will get you hurt, seriously, and you understand what I'm saying here. When riding a bicycle, remember that you're not driving a tank and have a bit of respect for the M + V + S of those in fast moving vehicles that weigh a LOT more than you do. Let this be your guide. No, you cannot outrun that car.
- BE CONSISTENT. Ride with traffic. Follow the rules of the road. If for no other reason than understanding that all "drivers", vehicular/bicycle, etc., have a fairly reasonable awareness of these rules. Should you be required to ride a bike lane or bike path, pay serious attention while on/in these. Be alert to where you are on the lane/path/etc. Look to see how cycling in the lane or path or whatever might very well put you in a dangerous situation or force you to do something that's incongruent with the rules of the road. Look for those who aren't following commonly understood rules of the road. Don't worry. You'll see them. They stand out in a crowd. Believe me. Look for intersections. Look for driveways. Look for those who may cut you off at either of these places. Look for doors opening in front of you. Drivers assume THEY have the right of way...and/or don't expect to see a cyclist there because it's not the rules of the road thing they'd expect.
- IF IT MAKES YOU NERVOUS, DON'T DO IT. Simple. To the point. But everyone sees it differently. Selective inattention. Yes, it's a real thing. Ask the person who stepped over the police tape, walked into the rear prop of a DPS helicopter, broke said prop with his upper body, and, in the process, said prop chopped off said person's arm. God damn! I have never forgotten that. Selective inattention. So, even if you think you're not going to do something stupid, realize that, by having said that to yourself, you just made a stupid assumption.
- OPEN YOUR EYES. LOOK AROUND. TAKE YOUR TIME. Seems simple doesn't it? Don't be in a hurry. Check out your environment. Count to 10. Breathe. Open your eyes...and LOOK AROUND. So easy to type. So difficult to do. And that's when people get hurt.
- TIME IS ON YOUR SIDE. Well, we all run out of time eventually. Happens everyday. What I mean here is...just how important is it to get wherever it is you're getting to a few minutes sooner than you were planning on? Ooooh, I'm late. Ooooooh, everyone is there already. Ooooooh. Oooooh. Well, just shut up. Count to 10 and realize what's important here. Alive or Dead???
- OTHERS WILL ALWAYS DO SOMETHING YOU DON'T EXPECT, SO EXPECT IT. Self-explanatory, eh? Well, I don't know about you, but I always act like everyone else on the road, whether I'm in a car or bicycling, is STUPID and it was a crime that they were ever allowed to get behind the wheel or the handlebar of that vehicle. To help smooth this over with others, I try not to tell them that to their face. I have. But I try not to.
- BE SEEN. This is a difficult one because everyone out there wants to be cool, you know? I am grateful to be old enough not to care too much about this. I wear BRIGHT colors and, when touring, I put a large American flag on a pole that is attached to the rear rack of my bike. Do people look at me and speak about how weird that guy is? What I care about is that other drivers SEE ME and are then able to ask, "Just how weird do you think that guy is, Joe?". Here's a photo so you can see the geekiness of this:
- USE A MIRROR. I realize that people think they don't need a mirror. Would you drive your car without a mirror? Well, use one on the bike, too. They're great at helping me SEE behind me, see what's coming up, and the visual, without having to turn my head, helps me decide what I need to be doing on my bike. Find one you like. My preference: the mirrors that attach to my helmet or sunglasses. Really prefer the helmet mounted ones. I mean, what if you're not wearing your sunglasses? With the helmet, the mirror goes where my eyes go. They do take a bit to adjust to and companies will try to convince you that a large mirror is required. I disagree. Any size mirror works. Large ones will obstruct your view to a degree. Try one out. Inexpensive.
A tune to exit with. Time to get dinner started. "Bicycle Race" by Queen with Freddie Mercury on lead.