Over the course of the semester, I’ve tried to cover the eclectic diversity of bicycle-related issues, from cycling history to my own two-wheeled predictions to new bike laws and beyond, but there’s one issue I’ve yet to touch that brings the entire community together ‘- and that’s the issue of bicycle safety.
There is a rather distressing debate going on among cyclists about whether or not to wear a helmet. In my opinion, on these insane streets of Boston, one should never hop on the bike without strapping on some head protection. Of course there are many excuses for choosing to ride bare, such as, ‘I’m a good biker without it,’ ‘It makes me feel invincible therefore I’m more dangerous,’ ‘It blocks my vision,’ ‘It messes up my hair and makes me look like a tool.’ But the bottom line is you only have one ‘- very fragile, very important ‘- skull. And how much of a tool would you look like with a shaved patch on your head and a row of bloody stitches?
Let me also put it this way ‘- how much is being spent on your college education? How much does a helmet cost? I highly recommend you do the math.
For those of you who have ever been to Amsterdam, you’ll notice how almost no one there wears a helmet. You may say, ‘All those bikers out there seem to be doing just fine, look at how much fun they’re having with their flowing long hair and bloodshot eyes.’ Well, it’s obvious that Boston is nothing like Amsterdam, but I like to think one day we might get there. When that day comes ‘- when we have bike lanes and tolerant traffic ‘- maybe I’ll finally leave my helmet at home.
Now the other big issue of safe cycling is how to ride at night. Even more important than wearing helmets is being seen on the road. Without reflectors and lights, bikers are completely invisible to cars. Drivers are looking for lights to evaluate other vehicles on the road, so if you choose to be one of those vehicles, then you better make your presence known: white light in front, red light behind and reflectors on wheels.
Another problem is bikers blowing through red lights and stop signs. First off, it’s illegal, but we all know it’s not a very practical law, and other states even consider stop signs to be Yield signs for bikers. Personally, I feel that if it’s safe for a pedestrian to cross, then it’s safe for me to cross. But disobeying lights draws ire from both cars and pedestrians, who see bikers as unruly pests in the first place. If we want a safer city, there must be compromises at intersections.
For bikers passing stopped cars ‘- watch for doors! Ride at least a few feet out, go ahead and take your lane, and check for idling cars by paying attention to tail pipes. They may suddenly pull out.
And for those who zoom down Commonwealth Avenue the wrong way, against traffic, in the opposing bike lane ‘- you’re hopeless. I hope you’ve got something other than the student health care plan.