Wednesday, November 17, 2010

How I roll when the light gets low

My sister Amy left a comment on the Bike Garden's FaceBook page about wishing that cyclists would wear light-colored clothing. Of course we all know that lighter colors are more easily seen than darker ones at night, but light colored clothing, in my opinion, simply isn't enough. An article in the December issue of Bicycling Magazine points out that someone in dark clothing can be first recognized as a person on a bicycle at 75 feet, while one in fluorescent clothing is seen at 150 feet. But a person in reflective clothing can be recognized as a cyclist as far away as 260 feet. Reflective material that moves (such as that on clothing) is the most effective for alerting drivers.

I don't ride at night. It's just too scary to me. Turn off the sun, add a driver who is tired and distracted at the end of the work day (or worse, one who is coming home from a bar at the end of a work day), put a cyclist on the side of the road, and you have a potential for heartache.

But now that the time change has rolled around again, it is often kind of dusky when I ride home at night from the office. This is compounded by the fact that this time of day is also when traffic is at its heaviest. So I have a dusk-n-dawn bag of tricks I use whenever the sun is low in the sky. At that hour, I don't need to see where I'm going so much as I need it to be seen. I strap a head light on the bike, turn on my permanently mounted tail light to blinky mode, and don some reflective clothing. Here is the kit spread out on a coffee table at home:

I'm not going to name the brands I'm using, since they are kind of high-end, and I don't want people to think you have to spend your retirement savings to be seen. Head lights and reflective clothing can be cobbled up from inexpensive sources found at your local hardware store. A reflective vest, an led flashlight strapped to the handlebars, and a tail light from your local bike shop all can be had for about ~$10-$15 each--less if you are a true thrift-shopper. 

Monday, November 15, 2010

To my beloved students

I know it's not cool. I know it's a hassle. I know that it will mess up your hair (nobody knows this last one better than I do). But really, the data are in. Your odds of suffering brain injury in a serious bike accident are five times higher without a helmet.

Two of my students have been struck by cars while crossing 19th street on bicycles this semester. It does happen. Both suffered injuries bad enough to send them to the emergency room, though thankfully no head injuries. Only one of them was wearing a helmet, however, which to my mind, is one too few.

Get a bike helmet. Wear it. Please.

In fact, if you are a student of mine, I'll even make you a deal: If the reason you're putting it off is because money is a little tight right now, I'll buy it for you. Just say the word.

For a closing graphic reminder, here's a picture of Walu, following a bike accident on campus (his own fault--no cars were involved*; notice that he is still wearing his hospital wrist band from his trip to the ER). His helmet was dented, but thankfully, his considerably brilliant brain was not:

*His iPhone got caught in his spokes. Yes, you read that correctly. And no, he was not texting and riding. 

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

I may be slow, but I look good

I am slowly coming back into something that resembles fitness. I've been running, cycling, and lifting weights, and my diet, while not perfect, has at least been cleaned up a little. I feel better and I am starting to need to hike up my jeans every once in a while to keep them from slipping down my hips. Even so, I notice that when I do my "time trails" around the campus on my moderately high-end all-carbon steed--the one that weighs scarcely more than a thought--all dolled up and sparkly in my cycling jersey and shorts, I am regularly passed by young men in jeans and hiking boots, riding clunky mountain bikes. 

They are as the freely-flowing wind blowing by, while I am as the ancient holly shrub, all prickly and rooted in place.

It matters not, for with the years has come wisdom, and what I know that they do not yet is that it is style that counts in the race against time.

Actually, I must have known this even in my youth, since that's a photo my brother dug up from my father's archived slides. We're both dressed up for the annual bike parade in Roswell, New Mexico, some forty-plus years ago. Wish I still had that outfit. It would look extra good on my time trials.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Why Walu and I probably will not retire in LBB

My brother Jack and I went to a funeral for a beloved uncle this week up in Long Island. After the services and the reception, Jack and I took our leave and went to nearby Jones Beach:

On our way back, we noticed some cyclists on a bike path that appeared to wind for several miles from the beach back to the nearby town of Seaford, so Jack and I set out to find where the path began. We found it here in the town's Cedar Park, at the Ellen Farrant Memorial Bikeway:

The next day, Jack and I were looking to kill some time before heading out to the airport. He suggested a walk; I countered with a walk along the bike path. He queried the GPS for "bike path" and came up with yet another, only minutes away from where we were staying, The Bethpage State Park Bike Path:

Two paths--two!--within spitting distance of each other.  I mean, Seaford is only 6-7 miles from Farmingdale, where the state park is. How crazy is that? 

Riddle me this: Why should we stay here, when LBB doesn't have the quality-of-life chops to create even one bike path? It's not like we don't have space here. This was in the northeast, where people live on top of each other.

LBB had better pony up on the recreation/cycling issue, or we're outta here.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Radio Silence

It's been a busy week here at the ol' Bike Garden. Not that that alone is enough to keep me from blogging, but it is certainly enough to keep me from doing anything interesting enough to blog about. I had plans to do something this weekend, but a situation has arisen on the extended family front, and so I'm probably going to have to call for radio silence for a few days.

If something fascinating and blog-worthy does occur, however, I promise that you will be the first to hear about it.

In the meantime, don't take any wooden nickels.