Wednesday, May 21, 2008

drivers and cyclists, please be careful.

last weekend mamacita called me when i was getting ready to go to the farmers' market. i had overslept, so i was in a hurry, but when she told me she was calling from the emergency room, i had all the time in the world to find out what had happened. mamacita and her partner had been riding bicycles when a car overtook them and turned right, directly in front of her partner (who had absolutely no time to react, and who slammed into the car, flipped in the air, and landed flat on his back in the road.) he's going to be okay, but he spent the entire day in the emergency room, busted his helmet, and is taking serious pain killers right now.

a couple of weeks ago a dear friend was hit by a police officer. his bike was totaled, but he's going to be okay.

today a bicycle messenger in san francisco was hit by a truck. he was pronounced dead at the scene.

if you ever ride or drive, please be careful.

drivers, look for cyclists. you won't see what you aren't looking for. cyclists belong on the road too. use your turn signals. make eye contact. give cyclists some space. don't honk. it's really startling (cyclists don't have windshields to absorb the noise.) above all, remember that every cyclist is someone's baby. imagine that the cyclists you see are your kids. do you always need to pass them, or could you relax and give them some more room?

cyclists, wear your helmets. every single time. they don't always save your life every single time, but neither do seatbelts or airbags, and they're still worth using, every single time. look for drivers. run a brake on your fixed gear. you don't have to use it (i rarely use mine), but you should have it. ride predictably. use lights when you ride at night, a red blinking one on the back, and a white one on the front (blinking or not.)

if you usually drive, ride a bike once and awhile. pay attention to how the cars make you feel and how drivers interact with you. remember these feelings when you return to your car. should you be doing something different?

if you usually bike, pay attention to cyclists when you're in a car or on a bus. are they being safe? considerate? do you ride like they do? should you?

i want to stop writing about bike accidents. like other kinds of accidents, they'll keep happening sometimes, but especially as we continue running out of oil and baking our planet, we all need to work to make cycling as safe as possible. cycling is an environmentally and economically sound mode of transportation, great exercise, and in the top five most enjoyable physical activities on earth. but it needs to be safe.

we're all just fragile bodies. the strongest bones and tendons and muscles in the world are no match for bumpers and asphalt and curbs. please, be careful. please.

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