Simple Ways to Avoid Death while Biking

October 15, 2007 at 5:46 pm 3 comments

Last Friday I rode my bike to work for the first time in months. It was a beautiful fall day – sunny, breezy and perfect for biking, and it made me wonder why it’s been so long since I’ve ridden. Then I remembered why:

1. I’m lazy and it’s been hot out.

2. I got hit by a car a couple months ago and my bike was totaled. Look:
To the lay eye, this bike probably doesn’t seem that bad off. If you look closely, however, you’ll notice that the front wheel is a wavy as a potato chip, and it’s jammed back against the (bent) bike frame. Apparently this is what happens to bikes when they’re hit head-on by a black Chevy SUV.

The frame was damaged beyond repair, which was a sad realization for me because this bike belonged to my mom when she was my age. Sniff. So I finally got around to buying a new bike last week. It’s a 1973 Schwinn Varsity with brand new breaks and new grip tape (thanks, boyfriend), as well as the seat from my old bike which is plush and comfy. Check it out:
It’s not fancy, but it’s certainly yellow, and it gets me where I need to go.

Riding bikes is the most efficient way for a human to travel, because on a bike it takes very little energy to cover a large distance at a fairly fast pace. Bikes are amazing machines, and it makes me happy to see that more and more New Yorkers are using them for their commutes. But in New York, and everywhere else, it’s important for bikers to protect themselves. Here are some tips that help us stay alive:

1. Wear a helmet for Christ’s sake!

I know, I know. Helmets are geeky, often reminding us of other useful but embarassing gear like elbow pads and braces. They make us feel like small awkward children with disproportionately large heads. Deal. It’s better to have a weird looking head than one with a big crack in it.

This is my helmet:
Isn’t it shiney? It’s made by Giro, and it cost me about $30.

2. Get some lights if you ride at night.

There’s this double standard that always comes up when bikers talk about their road rights and how evil cars are. Often they’ll complain that they don’t have the same rights as cars do, but when it comes to taking responsibility and following road laws they’re just not interested. This is particularly true with running red lights (which I am totally guilty of), and not wearing lights while riding at night (which I am no longer guilty of).

If you put lights on your bike you have a better chance of being seen by drivers and likewise a slimmer chance of getting hit by them. When I got hit, I was wearing a light on the back of my bike, but not on the front, and I got hit from the front. Now I have lights attached to my bike:
I have a white one on the front of my bike and a red one on the back. There are all sorts of options out there, ranging from cheap ($15 for two), to not so cheap (very pricey). You can also get little ones for your helmet and ones that clip on to your backpack or jacket. In my book, the more lights you’ve got, the better off you are. Just remember to remove them from your bike when you leave it locked up outside, or else they’ll get lifted.

3. Ride defensively.

There’s a lot to be said for just looking out and expecting the worst. Also, be alert – don’t wear headphones or talk on the phone while you ride. Keep an eye out for parked cars’ doors, and give them a couple of feet of space just in case someone decides to open their door while you’re riding past.

One of the main reasons why drivers hit bikers is their failure to look for bikes. Drivers generally look for cars, and most haven’t gotten used to the idea of sharing the road with people on bikes. Until others start looking out for you, it’s up to you to look out for yourself, so keep your eyes open and ride defensively.

There. With these simple tips you probably have a better chance of avoiding deadly bike accidents. Enjoy your bike, or get one if you don’t have one already, and if people laugh at you for wearing a helmet, you can simply laugh back at their gaping head wound.  


Entry filed under: clothes, shoes and other goodies (or badies), energy, transportation.

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3 Comments Add your own

  • 1. dominic  |  July 6, 2008 at 5:23 pm

    do you know where your boyfriend got the yellow grip tape? i took a terrible spill and haven’t been able to find some yellow grip tape that is comparable to the tape that was originally on it. if you could help that’d be great.

  • 2. gwen  |  November 19, 2008 at 2:51 pm

    Hi Dominic. Sorry to be so slow about the reply. We got the grip tape at a bike shop on E. 34th St – it’s called Sid’s. I think is also a popular bike site – they probably have the selection you’re looking for. Good luck!

  • […] subway, along with 54% of New Yorkers. When I’m not riding the subway, I’m walking, or riding my bike. Recycling is easy and mandatory here – they even recycle the trash collected on subway platforms. […]


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