Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Give Those Bikers a Break!

Hey, kids, looks like the annual summer ritual of cars hitting bicyclists has started already. IPD reports an unidentified man was hit and killed riding his bike overnight on the southside. Now, I drive a car, too, and know how easy it would be to miss someone on a bike (or even walking) at night. I'm guessing he had no lights. Plus, it was 2:00 a.m. And why is he unidentified? Because he had no ID.

If you ride a bike, make sure you're very smart about it. Sure, it's a driver's responsibility not to hit you, but you can be just as *not dead* by making smart riding decisions.

* At night, make sure you have lights on your bike. Headlamps if you ride at night are hugely necessary, and I even recommend one of those flashing lights for your seat post pointing and flashing behind you. You can get small kits that easily come on and off for night and day use.
* Make sure you ride smart. Obey traffic laws and all that, but try to avoid streets that are very narrow with heavy traffic. Adjust your routes accordingly. I've been known to ride on an unused sidewalk or two if the street (or drivers) were a little scary. Don't be too right and dead anyway.
* Make sure you wear a helmet. Yes. They look dorky. Yes, you look like a big, adult goober. However, you will be alive if a car hits you. And don't discount operator error. The worst bike accident I've had as an adult was due to a "braking error" and luckily, I was wearing a helmet, or it would have been my head cracked and not the plastic.
* Don't wear headphones. I've been known to listen to NPR from time to time on the Monon trail, but even with only one ear bud in, it's a significant distraction. You must know what's going on around you and you can't do that with headphones on a bike -- especially on a city street.
* Stay to the side of the road. Yes, I know what they say in driver's ed, but a bicycle can't really handle a lane on its own. Stay to the side, let cars pass, and look out for car doors opening as you pass. BTW, bike lanes in Indy are pretty useless regardless of how city officials tout the city as bicycle friendly. It's kind of pointless to have them downtown if they let cars *park* in them.
* Don't ride impaired. This may seem like a no-brainer, but um, don't ride your bike drunk. At two in the morning.
* Always carry your ID when you ride. If you don't carry your ID and are hit by a car, the hospital staff will have a really hard time figuring out who you are (not to mention whether or not you have health insurance.) If you're in an accident, you'll need it for the police. And a mobile phone is helpful, just in case. (I carry my driver's license, keys, $5 in cash, and a mobile phone in a small plastic ziplock bag in a tiny case just under my seat post every time I ride.)

I'm all for placing blame on car drivers when necessary, but as bikers, we have a responsibility too. Be a safe rider and smart rider, especially if you ride at night. Hopefully, this will the only bicycle fatality we see all summer.


At Wed Jun 07, 11:45:00 PM, Anonymous indyness said...

And be sure to visit the IPD South District's Bike Rodeo this Saturday, June 10 from 11am to 1pm at the South District HQ, 1150 South Shelby Street


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