One of the websites on my morning coffee web-binge list is the Total Women’s Cycling site based out of Britain. They have a decent mix of coverage of professional women’s events, newb advice, product reviews and commuter stuff. Often I wish they would cut out the stupid “7 things you never knew about biking that will secretly make men fall head over heals for you” type bullshit listy stuff, but otherwise they’re pretty cool over there.

This morning they had an article on bike safety tips for commuters:

Cycling safety tips to banish fears about riding on the road – Total Women’s Cycling.

I came into cycling as a commuter in 2006 in Philadelphia. Philadelphia is a city overrun by bike commuters and yet it is also extremely dangerous and extremely hostile, particularly to cyclists. The problem in Philadelphia is a combination of outdated narrow streets that carry way too much foot, car and bicycle traffic for people to be able to keep their tempers, and almost no enforcement of traffic safety laws. In Philadelphia a cyclists rides at risk of their life.

When I read articles like this one that suggest it is possible to ride on the road without fear, my hair raises. Whenever I rode in Philadelphia I would tell people it was always with “a healthy fear of death.” I don’t think it’s safe for cyclists to be fearless because that would mean they are not awake and aware of the actual danger that they are in. In other words, fearless cyclists should only exist when the roads are well and truly safe for them.

Road rage, potholes, drunk drivers, “arukisumaho” (Japanese for “people walking while looking at their smart phones”), and even patches of debris on the road are all potentially life threatening hazards for a cyclist. A cyclist who isn’t at least somewhat on guard will not be ready to react to these hazards when they do arise, and arise they most certainly will. Fear, after all, heightens our senses and our reflexes to protect ourselves.

There is no feeling quite as wonderful as getting into a flow on your bicycle. There is a place that my bike and I can go to where our cadence becomes steady, our form crisp, our handling rhythmic. There is nothing but us and the steady hum of our tires down the pavement. I cherish these moments on my bike and I wish for all to be able to discover their own. However, these moments are special and I save them for deserted mountain back roads or late nights when the traffic is nearly nonexistent and all the pedestrians are home. These are not moments to be had when sharing the road. When sharing the road, one should always take with them their healthy fear of death. This is the safest way to ride.

Advertisements