Bikers Beware

Watch Out For That Car!!

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Bikers Beware

In 1896 -- a time when Scientifc American ran a regular "Cycling notes" column -- the following item appeared. "Count Leo Tolstoi, the Russian novelist, now rides the wheel, much to the astonishment of the peasants on his estate."

Tolstoi was 67 when he took up riding. This is often cited as an example of never being too old to master something new. It's also a reminder of what the old biking culture was like. In Moscow of 1896, there were estimated to be 5,000 regular bike riders, although only about half had obtained some kind of license theoretically required to ride within the city limits.
 
Around the same time Mark Twain wrote a essay about mastering the high-wheel bike -- known then as "the Ordinary." "Get a bicycle," he concluded. "You will not regret it, if you live." A good joke at the time. It's a little more chilling for riders on the roads in 2012.
 
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Comments

EMAIL FROM DARBY:

Grant Petersen's risk compensation take on bike helmets is refreshing and welcome. His new book about bringing back the FUN in bike riding is wonderful!
Your program was wonderful and so informative. It really got me thinking about how some european countries address bicyclists in that they not only welcome them, but also accept biking as a very 'norm' sorta way of getting around. The thought of not sharing the road with cars, of having bicycle only roads, or building bicycle super 'highways' makes me shiver with excitement for the future of my only mode of transportation (other than BART here in San Francisco ... or the kindness of strangers!).

Long time biker- New Haven

Hi Colin,

I was very happy to hear this particular show but heard it on the second airing so I couldn't call in at the time. I've been biking for a very long time- over 20 years. I got into mountain biking and then for improving my fitness reasons, I took to road cycling. For a couple of years, I even went car-less altogether. Cargo bikes, bike trailers, utilitarian bikes, etc. all are appearing more regularly in the local bike shops and I think more and more people are getting into the idea of biking instead of driving for shorter destination trips. In my experience, I think this issue of "us vs. them" on the road is the most dangerous one for cyclists. I have had the memory of many courteous drivers easily forgotten while having some jerk in a vehicle run me off the road and flipping me off simultaneously. There is a real safety risk to putting yourself on the front lines of the cycling movement in this country. Drivers aren't held accountable for aggressive driving. I have above average bike handling skills from learning a pretty aggressive riding style in the woods yet road riding makes me feel way more vulnerable than the riskiest trails I can think of. It's the person behind the wheel with the mindset "Might makes Right" that makes this so dangerous to me. You talk about the risks of distracted driving, but my experience speaks to a certain demographic that actually has absolutely no regard for the life of a cyclist. I was surprised to hear Bradley Wiggins initial response to the bus accident in London to initially assume the cyclist was at risk. At the same time I know many cyclists that believe the driver is always at fault no matter what. We need to get to a point where we can evaluate each situation as unique and assign fault where it lay. Instead, we have these "us vs. them" prejudices guiding how people respond to the conflicts.

EMAIL FROM JIM:

I am a long time bike camper/tourer and while it was great hearing Grant Petersen on your show yesterday, I was a little disappointed that there was no mention of that particular style of road biking. As you know, Grant designs and builds some of the best bikes for touring and camping made today. Although I'm treated well at my local bike shop in Torrington, they think I'm nuts when I bring in my steel framed bike with a spring loaded leather saddle, rack, and fenders that nearly touch the ground. If the market drives manufacturing, then Cannondale's dropping the last two touring bikes from its line means that the touring crowd is getting even smaller. I'm surprised that more people aren't involved in bike camping. What kind of stories can you tell about a day of riding in a pace line? The spandex on carbon crowd rides too fast to talk while riding, and generally they just go home when the ride is done. Bike camping is a much more social event, and every camping spot has it's own story to tell. If you've never tried touring or camping on a bike, you should.

Another topic that you didn't touch on was the bike path vs road debate. I believe that it is less expensive to improve and widen road shoulders whenever a highway is repaved than it is to build new bike paths. Multi-use paths present their own hazards for bike riders, like dogs, children, and other bikers and pedestrians who are not paying attention to what is around them. And paved bike paths, in CT anyway, generally succumb to roots and frost heaves after a few years and are practically unridable. The path from Collinsville to Burlington is a case in point. The highway, with its wide shoulders is a much better ride there, as is route 22 in New York between Millerton and Copake versus the bike path there. And the views from a highway are almost always more varied and interesting.

Generally though, the program was great. I appreciated your inclusion of the motorists' perspective. There are jerks on both sides of the white line.

EMAIL FROM PENNY:

I try to be cognizant of bicycles on the road and give them room. I have no issues with the folks I see everyday on my commute that are using their bikes for transportation. These riders follow the rules of the road, such as stopping at stop signs and lights, using hand signals and yielding to pedestrians. We do however have a few packs of cyclists in the Middletown/Cromwell area that annoy me. These are dressed in the full spandex regalia; they take to busy main roads at rush hour and don't ride single file. They will roll through stop signs and traffic lights, picking and choosing when they will consider themselves pedestrians or vehicles. If they are truly riding for speed, fun, and exercise, there are plenty of streets with less traffic where they could actually get up some speed. Oh, but then maybe they wouldn't have an "audience".

EMAIL FROM AMY:

I listened to your show at 8pm this evening and wished that I had listened at 1pm because I am a female (apparently there wasn't enough feminine representation on the show today) and I live in South Windsor. I am SHOCKED to hear that SW received a bronze medal for...bike friendliness. In my family, it is an on-going joke about cyclists in SW, highlighted with the "bike lane" created in town...which is only on ONE road and at either end there are two major arteries through town. (The joke being that the cyclists would have to turn around every time they got to the end of the road. My boyfriend used to do Ironman triathlons but has since sold his tri bike and only uses his road bike on the trainer because he truly feels like it is just too dangerous to ride on the road around here. He used to come home all of the time with stories of drivers nearly driving into him, or "playing" with him by pretending to drive into the bike. Also, he feels that there is just too much texting/talking while driving for him to truly feel safe.

I just thought that I would share a POV from South Windsor!
Amy Zima

PS (LOVE YOUR SHOW! And the person's letter that you read on-air yesterday was ridiculous...especially the part of Chion's˜songs. I STILL laugh when I think about her "vegan boyfriend" song. Hilarious!)

EMAIL FROM LOUISE:

Colin! This is a conversation that must continue! I am an avid recreational road rider who follows the rules of the road. Even so, I have been closely buzzed by pickup trucks and motorcycles, had an empty soda can thrown at me by teenagers, and had drivers scream, "get the "F" off the road!" I tried biking to work from Manchester, taking my life in my hands on Silver Lane. The only way cultures change is through repetition. Hearing this message over and over again!

Enjoying a casual bike ride is hard... Seat hard...

The question I wanted to be answered on today's show is - Why can't the manufacturers make more comfortable seats? Everyone has to wear padded shorts to ride. I don't remember having to do this on my childhood bike.

Anthony says:

It seems that for the average person cyclists are these spandex wearing packs of nuts that are at best just strange looking, and at worst unpredictable lance armstrong wannabees.
So when asked if they would support funding for bicycle infrastructure they run the other way.
All cyclists have to be safe, predictable, courteous riders,first to gain the trust of the public.
So called "utility cycling" needs to be promoted as the norm, not racing.
I have raced, its a blast, but not on an open roadway. What is the difference between a pack of 10 or more on a training ride obstructing the road and a young kid doing donuts in his honda accord with an open exhaust? Not much to grandma on her way to bingo.
Possession is 9/10ths of the law. And right now cars have the road and see no reason to share it.

Jennifer says:

Thank you so much for taking my call. I just wanted to add that part of the reason I was asking about female voices is that, like so many other things, cycling tends to have a male focus. During the past few months of the National Bike Challenge I have been the only woman participating in the Hartford area who even makes it close to the top 10 (usually in the top 15). It is a sport for everyone! We need more women riding (safety in numbers). If you are worried about how your hair looks when you get to your destination, consider dread locks. :)

Recumbent Rider Tim says:

Lycra is the PERFECT cycling clothing, once you've had a bee fly up your loose shorts (OUCH!)

DiNotte makes a rear blinker that will remind drivers to give you that 3ft buffer, or else cauterize their retinas!

Crash Camera: Kodak's Zx3 is a great high-def video camera, that's good enough to record license plates, if passing drivers DO something evil.

Darby says:

Grant Petersen's risk compensation take on the bike helmets is refreshing and welcome. His new book about bringing back the FUN in bike riding is wonderful!

Chris says:

Love the show and the topic. I ride for fun and speed. After losing 30 lbs cycling, I think a 55 year old fart like me has earned the right to wear my spandex!

Joe says:

My pet peev bike riders on the wrong side of the road, and walkers/runners walking with traffic while you are riding.

Gina says:

I have to admit I am one of the 1-2% of drivers in ct. who find bicycles annoying. My biggest beef is; if roads are to be shared between autos and bikes, why do bikes not have to have the same safety equipment that cars do? Why don't they have to have turn singles, break lights and horns to give drivers the same courtesy that cars do, before they make a traffic change, rather than just shoot out in front of you when they want to make a left. If bikes were easier to "read" I think it would cut down on accidents and give drivers some insight as to what to expect.
Thanks

Karl says:

I'm the biker (motorcyclist), the cyclist, and the driver, depending on
the day and time.

I am wary of the mantra about how "drivers have to respect cyclists and
cyclists have to respect drivers". It's never as even as that. There is
always an anecdote about the inattentive person on a bicycle, and I can
see those riders from a mile away. They're often usually kids, often
found on the sidewalk.

But to counter, the best way to get attention of an unknown motorist is
to be in a bigger car, and therefore more a threat to them. I say this
because until otherwise identified, the only safe thing for a cyclist is
to figure everyone is a threat to me.

Cordially,
K.

PS While you mention cycling clothing, I must say I've seen quite an
uptick in hi-viz orange or green jerseys worn by road riders in Hartford
suburbs over the last decade. It's not as stylish as some vintage or
retro gear, which LeMond or Indurain (say) won the Tour in, so I can only
assume that it's borne of precautionary safety.

Carolyn says:

Hi Colin, thanks for this discussion!
We have always been bicycle riders, and it is sometimes frightening. My son has had his share of taunting from drivers as have I and my ex. I don't like it when car people scream or throw things at me.
Currently my son rides from Willimantic up to the UCONN campus to class.

Jennifer says:

I am an avid cyclist in the area. I ride with racers (though don't compete) and also ride for transportation. Part of the problem we have with developing a bike culture in CT is that drivers don't use turn signals, obey stop signs/signals, etc. among other drivers, never mind among cyclists.

Michael says:

I don't bicycle but I don't mind it. But, will you please tell the bikers in Simsbury, and probably everywhere else, to ride single file. There is no reason for them to be riding two, three or four abreast down a town road.