Archive for July, 2013

One rider’s road logic

Monday, July 22nd, 2013

Led by the Boston Health Commissions unhealthy over focus on helmet wear there appear to be plenty of non-riders making pronouncements related to the relative safey of boston bike riders. We’ve always maintained what one sees of a bike rider is easily found by car drivers and pedestrians. Boston has a scofflaw culture on the roads, led by our fine police forces that drive (and ride their bikes) with no regard to any traffic restrictions. Anyway, just to make me feel better wrt my scofflawedness, this piece will outline my overall riding logic and how I try to keep safe on Boston’s roads.

I’ve relented in the helmet ‘war’ and I’ve even purchased a new helmet. The statistics surrounding those who get killed riding are too compelling not to wear one in the city. It took me a while, but I like my helmet and it’s been customized so I can wear a hat or not. It has a political message or two on it as well, “I BIKE DOT” “I Voted” being two, so that makes me feel better about succombing to the helmet frenzy. That said, I’ll never wear one skiing since the last 5 folks I’ve seen who died in New England skiing were wearing helmets…

Red Lights: Know your red lights and act accordingly. My main ride between Dot and JP has seen a large number of new lights and Stop Signs. At one count there were 10 more Stop signs and 5 lights added over the last 13 years… There are a few of the new ones I never stop at since they are frivoulous and one-sided so there’s no one coming in on the right side of the road. I do wait to make sure folks coming out the side street see me or get through first if they have the light. A few of those I’ll stop at but if I get a chance to go before it changes I will just to get ahead of the cram of cars as well as to avoid the turning vehicles. Sorry it just makes sense to me. There are also a great number of lights I would NEVER run. I also am┬ávery careful since I inevitably see some motor vehicle run these lights. Four Corners (why isn’t it called 5 Corners?), Washington & Park, Columbia & Washington, and Columbia and Blue Hill are the big four on the way. The new light at Welles is iffy as is the one at Melville. On the way home I rarely run the one at Forest Hills Ave into Franklin Park (never during rush hour). Blue Hill and Talbot I only run if it’s all Walk lights. Codman Square has just changed the light sequence so it is nearly impossible for me to get through without stopping so I run the first one if I can just to pay back all the folks on Norfolk who NEVER stop at their light and pour onto Talbot. They got the light in their favor now and why I don’t know. Talbot and Dot has a sequence that has several options wrt running or not. Riding in downtown Boston has a few lights that I do run at times. The most obvious are the turn lights on Mass Ave. Once there’s no one turning I’ll go straight.

Passing vehicles: I never pass a bus or large truck if they’re moving. PERIOD. Never. I’ll get in front of them and make it impossible for them to pass or I’ll take a lane behind them, but I refuse to pass especially anywhere near a stop or intersection. TOO DANGEROUS. Otherwise I prefer to pass only when a vehicle is stopped in general too. I do pass cars now and again though compared to larger vehicles.

Taking my lane: I often take a lane in an intersection to make sure a vehicle won’t pass me in the intersection. I also signal with my hands very clearly so folks know my intentions. I’ll take a lane behind a vehicle too. At times I’ll take a lane in a long flow of traffic if the sides are too narrow.

Related to taking a lane is riding on the inside line of any bike lanes. I avoid the door zone as much as possible and that also guides some decisions related to taking a lane. If there’s a store and cars that may have people, I’m as far as I can from those cars. The odds of getting hit from a car from behind rather than a door in front are so much LESS it only makes sense. If there’s a line of traffic and I have to ride in the door zone I’m usually going pretty slow. After all, it’s not how fast one goes riding a bike but it’s how little you go zero that makes it faster than driving. I can’t compete with any car for speed, so I don’t try.

Bromides: I’m a pretty noisy fellow and that carries over to my bike riding. I have loud bells and I often yell at cars, people or other riders. Here’s a few of my most usual. “It’s called a side WALK, not a side Ride!” “Ride WITH the traffic it’s safer!” or “Wrong way!” to those Salmon-like riders of which Dorchester’s riders make up a solid majority. To drivers, my favorite is “That was RED!” when I nose out into a newly green light to see someone flying through the changed light. “Hang up and drive!” is another plaint I use now and again.

So that’s about it. I rarely ride the wrong way up a One Way, although there’s a couple I’ve ridden wrong for 20+ years so I’ll never stop. I rarely ride on a side walk until I’m near my destination and cruising for a spot.

Otherwise, the more you know your ride and surroundings the more you can carve out what feels safe for you during your ride. Always defer to cars since they’re much bigger than you. Most of us ride the same roads daily, so if you learn your route and how to be safe on that it covers a lot. When riding a new route err on being conservative and that will stand you well in the safety department.

I don’t think anyone who runs a Stop or a light is doing it because they want to risk their life. They prefer to be faster and ahead of the car traffic. The statistic that says this most to me is the fact that only 3% of all accidents are from cars or trucks coming from behind you, while almost all the rest of the accidents are from you coming onto something or being hit head on or by someone coming out at you. Since you’re out on the road outside you see WAY MORE than anyone in a car and drivers who criticize riders should realize that.