Monday, January 7, 2008

"Broken"

I just finished reading Bicycle Magazines article "Broken" (Jan/Feb 2008, by David Darlington).

http://www.bicycling.com/article/1,6610,s1-3-12-16637-1,00.html

This article freaked me out a bit. It is the detailed story of a handful of crashes between cars and bikes in Northern California; most resulting in death, or severe disability. 7,000 riders die each year in car/bike crashes. Damn.

Two things are amazing to me when considering this.

First:
With all the talk and politics of Global Warming, Conservation, Dependence on Oil, there is still very little political importance given to bicycling. I am very sceptical when it comes to global warming and man's affect on the global temperature, but good grief, just about everyone has a bike in their garage. Most people hardly ride and it's not because they wouldn't like to or don't have time to it's because they are not foolish enough, like the rest of us regular riders, to ride in traffic!

I have just about every store, restaurant, or activity within 3 miles of my house. I could easily bike to most of my errands and even have bike transportation for my whole family if we all needed to go, but I rarely go anywhere with my kids around our house. There are few bike lanes on the roads, the sidewalks are hit and miss, and I do not live in a high biking area so drivers are not use to seeing bikes on the road.

Where there are bike lanes on a road they don't start or lead anywhere. The closest road to my house with a bike lane recently removed a portion of the bike lane when a new Walgreens was built. This section of the bike lane was removed because they couldn't have people turning into a Walgreens across a bike lane. Think about this ... you're riding up this road in a bike lane and the lane just stops: what then?? Do you just stop riding and turn around?? It's almost like they are saying, "Well at least if you get hit by someone turning into Walgreens, you weren't in a bike lane!" If anyone asks why I believe in small government, all I have to do is use this story as an example of why 'government think' doesn't work.

My community, like many others, is spending money on more and more bike paths that also lead to nowhere. Personally, I love riding on bike paths. I usually don't even mind the joggers, or walkers, that also use many of these community paths. But these paths have the same problem. You either have to ride through traffic to get to one, or you have to load your bike, drive to the trail head, and unload your bike just to ride. They also usually don't connect the housing community to the business community.

The only option for many bikers is to ride on high traffic roads. This is perfectly legal in almost every community in the country and the bike has as much right as the car to be there. However, many drivers don't want to share the road. Even on my local rides when riding on the right side of 2 lanes running in the same direction, cars will not move to the other lane. In busy traffic times this is somewhat understandable (although still doable), but even on a Sunday morning with no other cars in sight, cars have buzzed right past me.

THIS IS NOT ROCKET SCIENCE! When new roads are going in, put a bike lane in. When new business developments are going in, require the developer to connect to local paths, or at least create a path to the closest neighborhood. Encourage people to use their bikes in the community and provide bike racks everywhere. There is so much money being spent and made on all of these highway and roadwork spending bills, you can't tell me there is not enough to make the roads safer for bikes.

Second:
Get a freakin' helmet on yourself and your kids! A helmet is the number one way to save your life in a bike accident.

I don't know how many people I talk to say, "Oh, I just ride around in my neighborhood. I never go on the busy streets. I don't need a helmet." That's bull. A few months ago the house of a friend of mine got run into by a car. They live in a subdivision with 25 mph speed limits and a car smashed right into their family room. Guess how fast it was going?? 90 MPH! I know many of you would say, "If a car hit me going 90 mph, I'd be dead anyway," but with a helmet on your chances of survival are still many times greater.

Just this past fall a saw two examples of reckless biking involving kids. The first example was three kids riding against traffic on a 45 mph, 4 lane road; soft shoulder NO HELMETS. The second example was three kids probably about 12-13 again riding against traffic on a 50 mph road, NO shoulder and NO HELMETS.

-- riding with traffic or riding against traffic is a debate I get into allot with people. When I was younger I always thought it made sense to ride against traffic so I could see what was coming. After taking various engineering classes dealing with Force and Potential Energy, etc., I realized that if I hit that car head on, my head was probably going right through the windshield. If the car hits me from behind, it still would be bad, but there is also a chance I could get thrown off to the side, a much better option. ALWAYS ride with the traffic. --

How does a group of kids end up riding straight at me on a 50 mph road with no shoulder without helmets. I wish I could say they get yelled at all the time to wear their helmets, but in that situation it's probably the parents. It's time to teach or kids how to ride safely. It's time to set a good example when we ride as parents by wearing a helmet, following the rules, and not taking extreme chances when riding our bikes.

7000 dead each year. That's nuts. The Ride of Silence is a worldwide event each year organized to honor those cyclists killed or injured while riding. You can check it out at http://rideofsilence.org/main.php

With a melon the size of mine, I cannot afford to ride without a helmet. Mucho Grande (my helmet) has been with me since I started riding (or at least some version of him). I will pray for your riding safety this year and always. Please wear your helmet!

Big Mel

1 comment:

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