Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Dangers Of A Daily Bicycle Commuter

This may strike a few of you as different than my normal blog posts, but I hope you enjoy this all the same, in spite of hyperbole.

Biking is a fantastic way to get around a city. There is no fuel, insurance, or passengers to worry about. It's just you, your bike, the road, AND OH MY GOSH THAT GIGANTIC DUALLY TRUCK.

Here are --- things a daily bicyclist commuter will relate to:

1.) Large vehicles. Usually, these vehicular beasts' tailpipes blast loud enough that you can hear them coming, but considering that they barely fit in their lane, it's not uncommon to have a near-death experience as one passes with a few of it's tires on the white line. (Almost always piloted by a single person, for whatever reason.)

2.) "Bike Lanes". Of course, when I say "bike lanes" I mean that space between the white stripe and whatever gaping chasm or wasteland beyond. Thankfully, these usually come with enough space for your tire, but the space isn't the issue, is it? These also appear in the half-asphalt, half-sidewalk variety. You know what I'm talking about. Split right down the middle, these lanes have something like a small cliff dividing each surface, creating a riding area where you literally cannot stay in the middle without the risk of sliding out.

3.) Debris. Aka, "bike lane obstructions", or, "death". Gravel, trash, branches, sand, nails. Consisting of anything and everything that can cause you to lose traction. Debris is the stuff that tenses you up and makes you feel like you're running the gauntlet even in your pretty little space outside the white line. Often unknowingly housing the next little hazards on this list...

4.) Thorns. Robbers of rubber. Terrors of the tire. Troublemakers of the tube. These little devils can turn a commuter into a part-time bike mechanic. Not always immediately noticeable, you're apt to continue unknowingly until your ride is so jarring you think you're riding a jackhammer.

5.) Sweat. You're always sweaty. Always. It doesn't matter what precautions you take, wherever you're going, you are sure to arrive sodden. Add a backpack to the mix and you've got a racing stripe!

6.) Helmet Head. It's the style that we all share, with hair in bumps that never seem to go away after being superglued in place by your perspiration.

7.) Grease spots. Everywhere. How did they get on the back sides of my hands? We may never know. Beside the almost-permanent chain tattoo on your shin, the mystery spots everywhere on your body make you look even more mechanic-like.

8.) The weather. Do you find yourself checking the forecast enough times per day to be an apprentice meteorologist? I never have considered the weather as much as I do now that I'm a daily commuter.

9.) Traffic laws. If policemen rode bicycles, they would witness more broken traffic laws than a kid playing Grand Theft Auto.

10.) Distance. This becomes a major factor in your plans, as you actually have to calculate the time it will take you to suit up, get there, and change into normal clothes and clean up the aforementioned sweat puddles.

11.) Unsure drivers. Sometimes people just don't know what to do with a bicyclist. Awkward standoffs, ridiculously wide berths around you in the road, you name it. Drivers just don't know how to handle us sometimes.

12.) Death. Everywhere. We live and ride in constant danger, and have to be super-aware in order to stay unharmed. In 2012, there were 726 bicyclist deaths and 49,000 injuries in the U.S., and not all were caused by motorists. We have to be aware every second of any possible hazard. Sometimes bicycling is a scary thing, especially if your area doesn't have decent facilities. We are like 2-wheeled daily daredevils. It's actually kind of awesome.

All that said, why do we bike? For the exercise? Environment? Necessity? For me, it's the silent time. I've recently quit using headphones while commuting, both for safety and for the silent time. Sure, it's a silence filled with motorists and street-sounds, but it's time to think. Sure, it takes longer to get places, but as it's been said, "The road of life twists and turns and no two directions are ever the same. Yet our lessons come from the journey, not the destination."

Have a great day, folks. Be safe.

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