Greetings fellow and aspiring cyclists,coffee checking emails and facebook on my I-phone, I am wondering what bike pack transportable banker chic outfit I will wear. Suddenly I flash on an idea! I will write about bike safety--with my own twist. I’ve certainly learned a thing or two this past month as an “Executive” Bike Commuter.
One evening last week as I arrive at Bikestation after work I see a number of women and a few children settling themselves on folding chairs with Station attendant Errol apparently in charge. I am told by Bikestation attendant Brent the next morning that that was a bike safety, maintenance, and route planning workshop for women under Bikestation's Women on Bikes Program. Ah, now I get it. Route Planning—more and more I find myself referring to the Route Maps at the Bikelongbeach.org web site as I venture beyond my comfort zone on the Ocean Bike Path. I certainly want to avoid those unruly streets without marked bike lanes. Brent hands me a copy of the California Vehicle Code (as it pertains to bicycles). I definitely need that! Why didn't I know about it before?
Why is the workshop only for women I wonder? For further enlightenment I call my friend and "mentor" Andrea White-Kjoss, President and COO of Bikestation. She patiently explains that male cyclists outnumber women by two to one. This is because some women lack confidence about their riding abilities (I remember thinking, “How in the Sam Hill does this derailleur thing work, and how can I operate it at the same time I am trying to balance my bike?”). Many women don't know how to maintain a bike (I wonder, “Isn’t that what men are for?”). Andrea tells me that frequently women are concerned about riding on the roads with cars (“Ya think?”). Some are self-conscience or may experience discomfort (“I had the butt bruises my first week to prove it!”). They may not know how to transport children, groceries and other things (“You can do that?”). Hey, I was all of those women!
I’ve had to learn from the school of hard knocks, and here's what I've learned. (Important Note: my rules are no substitute for the California Vehicle Code, and I recommend that you read it.)
Rule #1. Don't forget to slide your feet out of the pedal straps as you stop before you put your feet on the ground. Otherwise you and your bike will fall over.
Rule #2. Do not insert earphones into both ears and sing "American Pie" full tilt. You won’t be able to hear cars behind you or bikes passing along side—or, importantly, people yelling at you to pay attention!
Rule #3. Do not make a left turn from the right bike lane without glancing over your left shoulder—even if it is your own neighborhood and you feel like you own it so those cars better watch out.
Rule #4. It is suggested that cyclists wear helmets. However, I must admit that I hate helmet hair, and don’t always wear my helmet.
Rule #5. If you are going to wear a helmet (refer to rule #4), you might as well wear a rear view mirror on it even if it does look dorky. (I have attached a picture of me reading the mirror adjustment instructions when I first began “executive” bike commuting.)
Rule #6. Talk to cyclists and pedestrians as you pass them in case they are deep in thought and wandering over the line or in conversations on their I-Phones. Say, “On your left.” And then give them a cheery, “Good morning.” It is really fun to socialize as you ride your bike.
Rule #7. Get lights for your bike—a white one in front and red one in the back. As a point of interest, unicyclists too are covered by the Vehicle Code’s bike safety rules. Without handlebars they are allowed to wear their lights. Presumably they would put the white light on their foreheads and the red light on their rear ends.
And now for the long-awaited story that I promised to share in a future blog (refer to Chapter 12). I am merrily enjoying the scenery on the Bike Path four weeks ago, when I was a biking novice—OK so I still am. My one ear phone and I are, of course, singing my favorite song “American Pie”. I am ascending the hill leading to the Belmont pier in a Southerly direction using my pedal straps for added strength in the climb up hill. I say “On your left.” to two young ladies in front of me who are engrossed in conversation and wandering into my bike lane. As I pass on the left, now grumbling to myself instead of singing, I cross the pier picking up speed on level ground to enter a right turn. As I turn I notice three approaching pedestrians walking up to the pier on the other side and around the corner. They are also walking in the bike lane. I adjust my turn farther to the right as I turn the corner and slow to a stop to avoid them. I lose my balance in such a tight turn which might not have been a problem except my feet seem glued to the pedals. What the ?!*!?!*?.... I topple to the right with my feet still in the straps and hit my bike helmet on the vertical metal posts on the right. I am not hurt, but it is sooo embarrassing.
Two gallant young men who see the whole thing come to my rescue. I am in a very awkward position and unable to move with my feet still stuck in the peddle straps and my body lodged between my bike and the vertical fence. Helpless and laughing uncontrollably to make matters worse, they have to lift me straight up. One guy says, “That bike helmet saved your life!” Sure enough it is cracked. I violated my rule #1, above. Thank goodness I was complying with rules #4 and #6. With respect to #2, I probably should have removed my earphone for better concentration in such a challenging traffic situation. I know it may seem counterintuitive, but this incident is part of my adventure over the past month and I have loved every minute.
Important Note: Bikestation’s veteran cyclist Brent, a classical music aficionado, says that he never listens to music with his ears while riding his bike… he listens to music in his head. Ironically a particular Lady GaGa song is his current on the road favorite. He needs his ears for listening to all kinds of traffic sounds. A cycling novice, I on the other hand, reserve one ear for music.
As you can see, I would have been well served to have had the Bikestation safety and maintenance training or something like it last May when I first got the bright idea to become an “Executive” Bike Commuter. They will be offered in the future and you should watch the website for upcoming workshops at Bikestation.
By the way, I will be going on the Women’s Beach Babe Bicycling Classic from the Maya Hotel in Long Beach to Huntington Beach sponsored by Bikestation on Sunday July 24, 2011. Dear cyclists, I hope our bike paths soon cross. See you out there…
Living bike-friendly in sunny Long Beach, California
To read about adventures in between blogs…
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