Every time I hit the streets on my bike, whether it’s commuting to work or riding downtown, I always get the sick feeling that I’ve forgotten to do something:
-Fill tires with air
-Check rider-side air bag
-Update last will and testament.
Regardless of how well I think I’ve prepared for my ride, taking into account every possible safety measure, I’m convinced there are legions of Motorist Muggles hell-bent on killing me and my biking brethren by any means necessary.
When I was learning to drive, my father drilled defensive driving into my head to the point that we rarely left the driveway during raccoon mating season in fear that I would back over a couple of coons in mid-copulation. He ascribed to the paranoid tract of the Defensive Driving School: “Now son, assume every vehicle is out to hit you and you will be prepared for the worst-case-scenario.”
I apply the same principal when bike riding, with a few slight modifications: “…Assume every vehicle is out to hit kill you and your you will should be prepared for the worst-case-scenario two-tons of reinforced fiberglass trying to mow your ass down.” Therapist Bob thinks I’m being too paranoid, but between you and me, I think he secretly wants to see my body splattered across the pavement.
To help remind the Four-Wheeled Muggles that it is not open season on bicyclists, this week is nationally recognized as Bike to Work Week (BWW). However, Carbon Footprints Without Borders, contending every week is BWW, does not recognize any perimeters placed on the reduction of one’s emission of greenhouse gases.
This is my second year participating in BWW, and I’ve learned a few lessons from my rookie years, which I’ve applied to this year. With this in mind, I would like to impart some advice, hoping that you, dear reader and potential BWW convert, will not follow in my carbon footprints and make the same mistakes I did.
1. Preparation is the Key
This should go without saying, but I had to say it anyway. I will skip over the obvious (e.g., a bicycle) and focus on the three most important elements of biking attire: bike shorts, helmet and child bike trailer (no kid necessary). True, biking shorts may not be the most aesthetically pleasing to the eye, but on a pragmatic level they may one day save your life. Ask any proctologist.
Wearing a helmet should be a no-brainer, but Americans have always harbored a libertarian streak and choose to ride without helmets, thus grasping the delusional reins of freedom’s last ride. Whenever one of my sons spots a bicyclist or motorcyclist not wearing a helmet, he asks: “Dad, why aren’t they wearing a helmet?”
This prompts my patented response: “Well, son, it appears they don’t have any investments to protect.”
This year I’ve added a child trailer to my bike not only to haul all of my work stuff but to serve as a safety buffer as well. Hopefully, the Four-Wheeled Muggles still clinging to the premise of the seminal film, “Death Race 2000,” may think twice about taking me out, thinking I have a baby on board. Although this defensive strategy doesn’t pan out in some Death Race Leagues, which award more points for running over babies.
Death Race 2000 Car: "Double bonus: A biker pulling a child. Yummy..."
I’ve even considered putting a baby mannequin in the trailer, preferably a clown reminiscent of the one in “Poltergeist,” to help fend off would-be Vehicular Homicidal Maniacs.
2. Avoid Reading Online Comments Responding to Articles about Biking
I’m perplexed and shocked by how many people out there, especially in the anonymous abyss of cyberland, harbor deep-seeded animosity toward bikers. Reading these comments will only serve to exacerbate any fears a biker may have about being run over by a road-raged motorist, whose life may have been inconvenienced by having to temporarily slow down for a biker.
Here’s a sampling from last year’s Bike Haters during BWW (responses originally posted to various articles on the “The Des Moines Register’s” (online)):
Jules 1965 wrote: In the town where I live [Carroll, Iowa}, I have to tell you there are some days I would just love to tap a bicyclists and hope they fall over.…use the trails or get off the streets and roads as I don’t need to be hitting you accidentally of course…
SSF: But of course… “Four Wheels Good, Two Wheels Bad!”
Bloghead wrote: If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a thousand stinking times: Bicyclists do NOT belong on the roads with 10,000 pound death traps…
SSF: So who is driving or trapped in these death traps?
Moreover, shocktheallah wrote: …You fools want to mess with 4000lb vehicles, then expect the consequences….
SSF: “Four Wheels Good, Two Wheels Bad!” (sinister laugh here)
Given this wrath, bicyclists can only hope these commenters’ mothers don’t ever let them out of the basement. Better yet, they should stay locked up indefinitely, but for humanity’s sake, they should be allowed a monthly conjugal visit form the Geek Squad to have their computers fully serviced.
I’m not quite sure where all the animosity towards bikers comes from, but it appears that the hatred is spawned by anecdotal evidence of a biker who did not obey the traffic laws, therefore all bikers are evil lawbreakers.
Jules1965 wrote: They don’t belong on the streets with cars, especially if they are not abiding by the rules of the road. There is always one cyclists in town who seems to think he can go through every stop sign there is and I’m waiting for the day he gets hit…
SSF: Now Jules1965, lest we forget the wise words from our predecessors:
“He who hath not committed a moving traffic violation, cast the first 10,000 pound death trap.”
3. Plan Your Route Safely, not Geometrically
In the geometric world, the shortest distance from point A to point B is a straight line, but this doesn’t always translate well in the bike world. For bikers, the quickest route is not always the safest route, especially since most of the main arteries are packed with 10,000 pound death traps on wheels, looking for a quick fix to suffice their blood lust.
5. Take the Pain
Unless you are already in decent physical shape, you will feel the pain, especially you know where. It’s best not to think about it and whether you will ever have the capability to reproduce again.
Appendix A: BWW by the numbers (in Iowa):
Number of commuting miles pledged: 61,464
Estimated gallons of gasoline saved: 3,414.70
Estimated amount of money saved on gas: $7,136..65
Appendix B: Lone Bicyclist of the Apocalypse Index (That’s Me)
Number of pledged miles: 48
Estimated gallons of gasoline saved: 2
Estimated amount of money saved on gas: $4.30
Anticipated Four-Wheeled hit attempts: 5
Anticipated unsolicited gestures from passing motorists: 13
Total carbon footprint reduction: Priceless
Anticipated legal fees for defending myself in Mastercard parody lawsuit: Priceless