Friday, September 28, 2007

Bicycling with First-Year Students

One activity I've never done but that has been recommended to me many a time is to set up a folding chair inside one of my university's many bike traffic circles during the first week of class. Apparently, it's quite a spectacle. To paraphrase an old friend: Everyone loves a bike wreck.

Except me. Because, you see, I am for the most part a bicycle commuter.* And it's really, really annoying when 30,000 students descend on campus at once, most of them on bikes, with 25% of them probably not having ridden a bike since, oh, age 10. It has to be positively terrifying for new faculty who are rejoining the bike culture for the first time since childhood. I often think, "What the hell kind of admissions standards do they have here, really?)

As a public service, I'm sharing my commandments of bicycling. They appear in no particular order of rantiness.

1. Thou shalt yield to bicycles already in the bike circle.

2. Thou shalt always wear a helmet. It will makest thee look dorky, but scars and brain damage makest thee look even dorkier.

3. Thou shalt not ride two (or three!) abreast in the bike lane, and especially not during rush times between classes.

4. Thou shalt not text message while bicycling.

5. Thou shalt only use hands-free cell phone devices while bicycling.

6. Thou shalt keep thy iPod volume low enough to hear bicyclists who call out "on your left!" in order to pass safely.

7. Thou shalt call out "on your left!" while passing another bicyclist.

8. Thou shalt not ride to the far left the bike lane at really lame-o slow speeds. Similarly--because I knowest tis thee who does this--thou shalt not weave back and forth slowly across the bike lane.

9. Thou shalt not run down pedestrians.** Thou shalt in particular yield to pedestrians in crosswalks. Thou art allowed, however, to scowl at pedestrians who act stupidly by, say, stepping off the curb without looking both ways or who saunter casually and diagonally while crossing the street.

10. Thou shalt not ride a noisy bike. Get thee some bike lube and WD-40.

11. Thou shalt not ride thy bike on that particular main drag through downtown for those particular few blocks. Seriously, there are way too many cars, and it's one of the few places in town without a bike lane. It's just not safe, and it pisses me off when I'm in my car.

What are your bicycling pet peeves?

* How bike-friendly is my town? I ride two miles each way to work and on each trip I'm actually on a public street for less than 2 blocks. And there's never any traffic there. That's two miles of bike lanes and university roads with almost no vehicle traffic. And oh? I'm on university property for about 1.75 of those 2 miles. It's an enormous campus.

** A friend of mine was recently hit by a bicyclist while walking across the campus quad, on the grass. Top 12.5% of high school graduates, indeed. . .


Anonymous said...

Awww, I'm missing the running of the bikes this year, having moved to Sac.

Also: thou shalt not wear a hood which cancels all thy peripheral vision

Thou shalt not smoke cigarretes while riding, especially if thou cannot ride one-handed

I admit to giving up wearing my helmet and to being one of those people riding bikes in that stretch of downtown. Forgive me my biking sins, for I have left that place!

Bardiac said...

You have to have a rule about the first rain of the year, to remind people that their brakes just won't work as fast (or at all, maybe).

And one about not even trying to outrun the bike cops!

And one about using a light at night. (I knew a guy who hit a curb head on riding at night without a light; he lost a kidney, as I recall.)

I got caught in Chem circle (do they still call it that) and had to go around twice once. Doh!

Anonymous said...

And you shall take to heart the words which I teach you this day. Teach them diligently to your children . . . .

In other words, it's nice when you put a helmet on your kid--keepin' their brains inside their head and all, but if you don't wear one yourself, you pretty much tell your kid that his/her brains cease to be important after puberty.

Choose [helmets] that you may live, you and your seed!

Anonymous said...

I don't ride very much any more, due to my general laziness, which is a shame since I would ride about 1,500 to 2,000 miles a summer while in my youth. I still get out every once and a while in the suburbs, but most of my experience with folks on bikes occurs now as I sit behind a steering wheel and not handlebars.

But . . .

Thou shalt take a shower for fuck's sake after thou hast done thy part for thine environment and cycled fifteen miles to thy working or studying place.

Thou shalt obey traffic rules when thou art on a narrow road with stopped traffic and there are no breakdown lanes. If thou must touch my car in order to pass me on the right or are generally obnoxious whilst the rest of us await the greening of the light, a vindictive G-d gives us the right to smite you.

Queen of West Procrastination said...

Thou shalt not ride thy bicycle on the sidewalk.

Thou especially shalt not ride thy bicycle on the sidewalk while coasting down a particularly steep hill.

(I'm a pedestrian and I have come so close to being mowed down by bicycles on so many occasions, mainly on SIDEWALKS!)

Debra said...

Oh my god. I love your bike commandments! Texting while riding a bike??!!