Friday, December 31, 2010

The Basics of Street Cycling

This is not intended as an exhaustive article on the subject.  However, it should cover the basics as stated.  These should be commonsense, but you know what they say about commonsense.  Despite the resistance to the notion, a bicycle is a vehicle.  It should be ridden like one.  There are commonsense exceptions I happen to think apply, but most rules should apply.  The reasons folks are hesitant to treat bicycles as vehicles are safety and speed.  Bicycles do not have the ability to accelerate like motor vehicles and they do not have the armor to protect them like cars.  Thus, cyclists are often afraid of traffic and motorists are annoyed by bicycles.  The trick to cycling in the streets is simple, act like a car and stay out of the way. 

Ride with traffic, not against it.  This seems to be a problem of immigrants and delivery folk, who are often one and the same.  It is difficult for me to know why, though I assume there are trust issues.  In other countries traffic may be somewhat lawless and perhaps one can get run over with impunity.  It may also just be the shortest path between two points.  Either way, it is a very unsafe behavior.  Imagine a car going down the wrong way on the street and the attendant dangers--they are a little less for a cyclist, but only a little less. 

Wear reflective or bright clothes, especially in the dark--too many neglect to do this.  Use lights as the law demands.  These cannot be insisted upon enough.  They cause a cyclist to stick out, which is exactly what is desired.  Motorists may not cyclists, but they will generally not run you over for the hell of it--heck they don't do it to pedestrians and they are ever so much more annoying.  The difference between them and you is only one thing--in urban areas pedestrians are expected.  Cyclists are not as expected and if they are not visible it is worse. 

The other reason to ride as much like a car as possible is predictability.  Driving is reflex and based on predictable assumptions.  When cyclists ride erratically it throws a monkey wrench in everything.  The roads were made for cars and bicycles are guests.  They do not pay for the roads and I am not proposing that they should.  To do so would kill the momentum cycling has gained in recent years.  Insisting on accommodations leads to insistence that cyclists pay for infrastructure--infrastructure that is really unnecessary.