Sorry about the absence. I’ve been overly focused on Iran for the last week. Today, 40 of the 86 clerics who choose the next Ayatollah have signed a letter disputing last Friday’s election results. At least 50 cities recorded more votes than people which added up to an additional 3 million votes. Moussavi has called for a general strike starting with the Petroleum industry. The state newspaper in Iran said 457 people were arrested Saturday.
I’ve been obsessed. I get up in the morning and if I have time before jumping on my bike check the Huffington Post live blog of events in Iran. I check that, the NY Times live blog, The Guardian live blog, and Andrew Sullivan after I get to work to see if there have been any major developments I might have missed.
The people protesting in the streets are incredibly brave.
Today, it’s time to get away from that for a little bit. I’ve been riding my bike nearly every day this month. Lets have a talk about bicycle safety.
I’m very lucky. Here in Portland we have the Springwater Corridor and Eastbank Esplanade. I can pedal to work without having to worry about traffic. There is only a mile to a mile and a half where I have to watch for cars. Not everyone is lucky to live in a city that is so bicycle friendly.
I do a fair amount of riding in the street too. I’ve seen a lot of crazy things: Cyclists weaving in and out of traffic, blowing stop lights, darting in front of cars. Motorists trying to run cyclists into parked cars, opening their car door right in front of a cyclist, cursing out cyclists . . .
I’ve been cursed/flipped off a few times and I swear it’s always the same kind of person: overweight, balding, greying, middle aged male, driving a vehicle that looks too small for them. The best was last summer. I was on my way to work (I leave pretty early, usually about 6) riding as closed to a lane of parked cars as I could get. Other cars were going around me. I signal to get into the left lane (it’s a turning lane and I have to turn on the next block to get into the bike lane). There is a car right behind me, riding my ass. I get into the next lane and the middle aged, overweight, balding, greying man driving a PT Cruiser lays on his horn and gives me the finger. I get up to the stop light, he’s in the lane next to me. He rolls down his window and starts cursing me out “You fucking bitch! You stupid fucking bitch! Dont you know you’re only going 5 mph you stupid fucking bitch!” The light turns green and for all the things I want to say to him as he speeds off (maybe if you rode your bicycle you’d be less grouchy, maybe if you ate more veggies you’d be less grouchy, sorry you didnt get laid this morning) , the one thing I do say is “Have a nice day!” and wave.
Never curse out someone in a car who is cursing you out. The car is much bigger than you and there is nothing between you, the car, and the pavement.
With that in mind, here are some bicycle safety tips:
1. There is nothing between you, the pavement, and cars. If you fall, or get hit you will get hurt. You are squishy. You are covered in skin, not Teflon or Kevlar. Skin may be the largest organ on the body, but it is fragile.
2. Wear a helmet. Even if you dont like it (I dont like wearing my helmet). Why should you wear a helmet? See rule 1.
3. If you are in the street you must obey all traffic laws as if you were a car. This means stopping at stop signs, street lights, for pedestrians (even if you have the right of way). Signal, signal, signal! Yes, you can be ticketed just as a car can, for not obeying the rules of the rode. With the economic downturn cities are looking for new revenue streams. Save yourself the hassle of a ticket.
4. Flashing lights. Flashing lights on the front and rear make you easier to see. Why are flashing lights important? See Rule 1.
5. Dont take unnecessary risks. Dont weave in and out of traffic and dont try to beat stale yellow lights. See Rule 1.
6. Try to make eye contact with another driver, especially if you are turning. If you make eye contact with the driver then you know they see you and there is less of a chance of confusion ending with getting squished.
7. Give cars the right of way. See Rule 1.
8. For heaven’s sake, DO NOT take roads you know are going to be busy. If you’re on a bike and the traffic around you is going 45-55, the chances of getting squished really go up. (Rule 1. Remember Rule 1.) I had a friend who was biking from another city to downtown Portland. He took probably one of the busiest roads he could take to get there. Cars were whizzing by at 55 mph or so and he wondered why he almost got squished a few times. All I could say was “I cant believe you rode down Barbur Blvd! No wonder you almost got squished”
9. If at all possible, use bike lanes or take bike paths to go for a ride or to get to where you’re going. (Ties in with #8)
10. Cars do not always look for or see bicycles. Be extra aware for cars and drivers cutting in front of you, opening doors, etc. Not all motorists are retards (only Californians). Even though Portland is bicycle friendly, I do not expect motorists to see me and ride my bike that way.
It’s true. You can ride a bike in a skirt. I dont own a pair of shorts, I dont know how this happened but it did. In the last month I’ve learned a fair amount about riding in a skirt, what length is best, and what fabrics are best for not showing the world your underwear.
1. Skirt length: I’ve found that knee-length or just above the knee is best. The skirt is long enough to hide your underwear (or your neither regions if you’re not wearing underwear). But it’s not so long that it’ll get caught in the tires, gears, or chain.
2. Material: Cottons, linen, etc all work fine. A skirt that is a tad on the heavy side is nice, it prevents the wind from blowing your skirt up around your waist and showing the world your yellow underwear, or your nice fresh Brazilian wax if you dont wear underwear. One of my favourite skirts is thin cotton with a thin cotton or muslin underskirt. It’s great for summer. Not so great for riding. I have to keep pulling it down so no one can see my yellow underwear.
That’s really all there is to riding in a skirt. Mini skirts and tight skirts dont work. I have ridden a bike in a min skirt, but not since I was 11. If your skirt is too tight you wont be able to pedal easily.
That concludes your PSA for today. Keep calm, carry on, be safe on your bike, and with these simple tips you wont have to show anyone your yellow underwear if you dont want to.