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Protecting brains is what counts, not statistics

New bicycle helmets
Image by prayingmother via Flickr

A Wall Street Journal article headlined The Bike Helmet Wars cited some interesting statistics but overlooked the most important point of the discussion.

It isn’t about numbers.

Say you’re a parent and you and your children don’t bother with helmets as you ride the trail. One of the kids slips on some wet leaves and crashes, hitting her head on the concrete.

Her brain could be injured pretty easily, maybe permanently and devastatingly.

Do statistics matter now?

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Jogger dies after collision with bicycle rider

On dallasnews.com this morning is a story reporting the death of the jogger who was injured in a collision with someone on a bicycle the other day.

It is a sad, sad reminder to all of us.

Be aware of your surroundings. Among other things, that means being able to hear other traffic on the trail or on the road, whether you’re running, walking, skating, bicycling or driving a car or truck.

Cyclists have as much responsibility to maintain control as anyone else. Pass as safely on a trail as you want motorists to pass you on the road. Slow down if that’s what it takes to avoid hurting somebody.

You can avoid collisions.

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Warning: Knuckleheads on bicycles, others on foot

You may recall reading here that it’s best to assume all drivers are drunk and stupid when you’re out on a bicycle.

trail cycling

After reading a story on dallasnews.com this morning (thanks for the link, @beautifulbicycl), it seems appropriate to add:

  • When you’re running, assume that someone fully capable of ruining your day (or worse) is closing in on you – a knucklehead on a bicycle, for example. Some will warn you, and you might hear them, and some won’t.
  • When you’re riding a bicycle and about to pass someone else, assume that person is not paying attention and is very likely to walk, run or pedal right in front of you at the worst possible moment.

Don’t assume that everyone else on the trail is courteous and alert.

In other words, be ready for anything.

Two months pass without charges for cyclist’s death

This white bike was chained to a post in Oxfor...
Image via Wikipedia

Still waiting.

It has been 61 days since the July collision that resulted in Susan Desotel’s death.

No charges have been filed, and police are still waiting for results of toxicology tests.

Charges won’t help Susan, of course, but they should be filed – and soon – to show that careless driving that takes a life will not be tolerated.

C.R.’s Bicycle Safety and Driver Alertness Month will end this week.

The public awareness it was intended to promote needs to continue.

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The hazards and joys of night bicycling

You’ve certainly noticed by now, if you’re a Northern Hemispherian, that we’ve had fewer and fewer daylight hours lately.

While in reality the Earth goes in an orbit ar...

Image via Wikipedia

In a couple of days, in fact – around about September 23 – we’ll experience our annual autumnal equinox, when the days no longer last longer than the nights, and the darkness begins to rule.

You know what that means, right?

If you’re not prepared to bicycle in the dark, you’re going to miss out on some fun.

Nearly anyone can ride a bicycle in broad daylight. Only those bright enough to adorn themselves with a little reflective material, and their bikes with headlights and tail lights, can pedal safely into the night and the wee hours of the morning.

A few tips for those who haven’t already tried this:

  • Slow down, particularly when you’re riding on an unlighted trail. Since you can’t see as far ahead as you do during the day, and not very far at all off to the side of the trail where scary things wait to jump out in front of you, slowing down gives you a little more time to react.
  • You won’t see many runners, skaters and walkers pushing strollers on a trail in the middle of the night, but don’t assume they aren’t there. Stay alert.
  • Also be ready to encounter and dodge any dim-bulb cyclists who are out riding without fresh batteries or even entirely light-free.
  • Assume that every driver on the road is drunk and/or stupid. (This might be a good rule for daytime cycling, too, by the way.)
  • Enjoy the cool, quiet feeling of privacy and freedom that makes night cycling a unique, exhilarating experience.

Pedal on.

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What makes cyclists do dumb things?

Some questions in search of answers:

  1. Can cycling clubs “police” themselves to change members’ behavior, as suggested in a column in the Orange County Register?
  2. What makes some cyclists think they’re in a peloton that can run stop signs with impunity, as this other story describes?
  3. Why do so many people roll right through controlled intersections just any old way they please?

Those articles turned up in my daily Google alert, reminding me of what I saw just last night in a few short minutes parked by a bus stop. Unfortunately, such sights are all too common:

Most people driving cars were also talking on cell phones. More than a few made what has come to be known as an “Idaho stop,” which is not actually a stop at all and we weren’t in Idaho. None of the cyclists I saw actually came to a complete stop at the four-way stop, either, and at least one didn’t even slow down.

A few thoughts on those three questions:

  1. I hope so, but I’m not optimistic. Even if well-organized clubs can clean up their acts (a challenge akin to herding cats), those are the people who tend to be most knowledgeable about riding in traffic. Many who need to be educated do not belong to these clubs.
  2. My theory is that it’s the same phenomenon of unthinking selfishness that leads people to text or talk on the phone while driving. It isn’t malicious, but thoughtless and careless.
  3. See No. 2. Add as a possibility that they don’t know any better.

All of those situations might be improved through two of the “5 Es” of the Bicycle Friendly Community program: Education and Enforcement.

Exercising some simple common courtesy would go along way, too.

What’s your solution?

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CEMAR trail work a positive, if a bit late for some

As some Eastern Iowans just learned, it’s a good idea to pay attention to what’s going on in your neighborhood.

You won’t be surprised like they were the other day, as explained in this story about a Cedar Rapids recreational trail being built behind their back yards.

And no one will have to spend their time putting on yet another informational meeting.

The initial reaction of some to this “news” that has been around for years was like so many others that people have when something changes: This is a bad thing.

They couldn’t be more wrong. In a November 2008 post that has gotten a lot of attention over the past few days, I pointed out some of the benefits:

More people who live in the NE neighborhoods will pedal, walk or skate to those connecting trails rather than drive to them, as many do now. They’ll spend time and money downtown. When CEMAR is completed all the way to Marion, it will be an even more valuable and attractive link in our trails network.

Since Mrs. Smith and I decided to set our sights on Colorado a few months ago, I see as I re-read that post that something else I said has some new meaning:

The trail can’t get done soon enough.

Still, it’s a good thing, people. Enjoy it when it’s done. Maybe we’ll come to visit.

Pedal on.

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