Rookie and rusty cyclists hit streets ... and hospitals Mike Schatz figured it was the right thing to do. Horrified by his first $70 trip to the gas station, Schatz drove to a bike shop last month, plunked down $2,500 on a new touring bicycle and began two-wheel commuting from his Grant Park home to his office in West Midtown.
The pluses included conservation and fitness as well as frugality--until the morning he went airborne above traffic on West Marietta Street. Hit by a car, he broke both elbows. Afterward he asked himself, "This is what I get for trying to save the environment?"
Cycling advocates say this could be the Summer of Splat on local roads. Take the area's dearth of bike paths, add aggressive Atlanta motorists, then toss in bikers who haven't been on the roads for decades. Presto — the buns are busting all over town. "We're seeing more people getting hit" by cars, said Dr. John Xerogeanes, chief of sports medicine at Emory's Orthopedic and Spine Center. "There are people crashing and people having trouble because they're starting to ride their bike in the city." ( Read more.)
Granted, Atlanta is not a bicycling friendly city, ranked by Bicycling Magazine as one of the three worst in the U.S. However, Atlanta is not alone as a city with residents eager to escape the clutches of the gas pump pirates. Many of these fossil fuel refugees are flooding into bike shops and emerging as novice bike commuters. So it's appropriate to post on bicycling safety. The following is a very brief, very basic summary from the safety chapter of my new bicycle commuting book, to be published in November by Adams Media.
Know your bicycle. The best way to improve your bicycling safety is simply to bicycle more. Take your bike to a quiet street or park and practice riding. Learn how your bike handles: how it stops, accelerates, turns, and shifts. Gaining confidence in your bicycle handling skills will greatly improve your safety. Keep it working. Many bicycle crashes result from equipment malfunction. Keep your bike well-maintained and you will avoid many problems.
Pre-ride inspection. Before you ride, give your bike the " ABC Quick Check": Air, Brakes, Crankset, Quick Releases. Make sure your tires are inflated, brakes are good, chain is in the chainrings and cogs, and that quick releases are closed.
Be seen. Ride predictably, with traffic, where drivers can see you. Stay in the traffic lane, maintain a straight line. Never ride against traffic; wrong way cycling is extremely dangerous.
Be heard. Communicate with motorists, pedestrians, and other cyclists with hand signals, bell, and horn. Make eye contact with motorists, to be sure they see you. Smile when motorists yield the right of way.
Be assertive. Timid riding invites abuse. You have a right to the road. Claim it. Define your space. Don’t be bullied.
Be alert. Watch for hazards: potholes, debris, open car doors. Anticipate. Be familiar with your route.
Speed kills. Going fast on a bike is thrilling. But don't ride at a speed beyond your capabilities. Ride in control at all times.
Be smart. Obey traffic laws. Or the law of traffic. Know your limits.
Bicycling is safe. Sedentary couch potato lifestyles kill far, far more Americans than pedaling. What other suggestions do you offer new bicycle commuters?