the TAO of CHANGE

a boots-on-the-ground view of the change that's a-foot

Posts Tagged ‘bicycle safety’

Bicycles are cars, too.

Tuesday, March 17th, 2009

by Tao Oliveto, Carrboro, NC

My leg is getting strong again and I am back on my bike, commuting around town, enjoying the new Spring weather. But, in my exuberance and glee, I found myself tempted to forget that there are rules to the road – and cars are not the only ones who need to follow them.

Like other cyclists, I like to complain about drivers who don’t share the road respectfully or carefully. When I first started riding my bicycle to work in another busier city, I proudly (but also rebelliously) wore a black t-shirt which – in big white letters – said, “ONE LESS CAR”. I just wanted “a little respect” and maybe some admiration, but perhaps should not have been shocked when I instead received a couple drive-by epithets.

Still, it would be nice if there was more communion between cars and bicycles and I think it’s time for cyclists to bear some of the burden. If you ride like I used to, you don’t always stop at signs or lights. You only occasionally signal a turn or lane change. Maybe you hop on and off the sidewalk, or take a shortcut around a corner through a parking lot. All these things may make you feel like a real road warrior, but they also put you and others in danger. And they certainly don’t help the wobbly relationship that already exists between riders and drivers.

Granted, cars kill cyclists, not the other way around, but copping an attitude as a rider won’t move us towards a more bike-friendly world. If you want to brush up on bike safety and etiquette, this is the best source I’ve found. More here on urban cycling. Of course, always wear your helmet, lose the headphones and sacrifice speed for caution.

PS. If you like that t-shirt, it’s still available from the San Francisco Bicycle Coaltion at sfbikes.org.

Bicycle Safely, Bicycle Safety – it’s worth the ride

Thursday, October 16th, 2008

by Tao Oliveto, Carrboro, NC

I’ve been biking a lot more this year and I’m pretty happy about it. Daily commutes downtown, to stores and services like the bank and post office. To the coffee shop, to visit friends, to social events and my legs think nothing of those miles these days, which feels good, too. I’ve learned more about the right gear to get around conveniently and feel more confident.

Hmm, Confident? Cocky may be more like it. Ride a lot and you can begin to get a bit too headstrong about traffic – after all, I’m on my bike to rise above this carbon-emmitting mess, right? Well, not really. When you are on a bicycle, you ARE traffic. Although I wouldn’t say I’ve had any  truly close calls, I have caught myself taking chances for no good reason – you know, crossing at a red light because there are no cars in sight, riding through a parking lot to turn a corner, hopping onto the sidewalk and back onto the street when it seemed more convenient. Fortunately, I woke up – before I caused an accident. I now ride with my bike AND my head in the right place.

Of course, there is much that can and should be done on the driving side. Drivers education programs and testing should include important information when it comes to sharing the road – a big part of the safety equation. More and better-designed bicycle lanes, intersections and shoulders will go a long way towards creating harmony in the way we get around.

Still, there is a lot of good news for cyclists in this comprehensive article on Safe Streets, by Alan Durning, where he reminds us that not only is commuting by bicycle safer than you think, but “Not Pedaling Can Kill You”. Whether you ride now, or are considering it, this article is a must-read. Because the truth is, when you look at facts and figures, bicycle commuting is actually safer than any of us think. Statistics show that while bicycling is increasing, crashes are not. Bicycling is also safer that getting around by foot – pedestrians are 3 times more likely to be killed by a motorist per mile than cyclists.

Much of cycling safety seems to depend upon the rider – one survey shows that 80% of bike wrecks involve falling or colliding with something other than a moving vehicle. (Come to think of it, my only significant wreck was with a mailbox.) For more on this, read The Art of Urban Cycling: Lessons from the Street, by Robert Hurst.

If you’re still a cycle-skeptic, or a risk-taking rider, read the full article where you can wrap your head around the information above and much, much more. It could get you into a more fit world and body and help you keep both wheels on the ground.



THE TAO OF CHANGE [the way of a better world]

brought to you by The Change, a strategy and design agency with an agenda to change the world