Biking in autumn. I love it. The crunch of leaves as you ride over them. The chill in the air. You don’t feel like you sweated out a gallon of liquid at the end of your trek. Yes, it’s a cool 48 degree when I leave in the morning but it warms up to the low 80s in the afternoon. Oh, I love Northern Nevada weather. Perfect weather for long bike rides.
I’ve wanted to write about bike riding safety for a while. I commute 50 miles each week back and forth to my office and I’ve seen a lot of scary things. I don’t intend for this to be a PSA or even preachy but I do want people to read and understand a few things. I know that this blog doesn’t reach the masses and there is only so much screaming I can do at drivers who don’t share the road; but I hope you, dear reader, will take what I write to heart and respect your fellow bicyclists and surrounding drivers while out on the road.
First and foremost: WEAR A HELMET. Make sure you have working front and back lights, as well as check to see if your brakes work (next week, I’ll write more about bicycle maintenance and how to choose a proper helmet).
I don’t own a vehicle. The local bus system is slow (I could bus to work but I’d spend 4 hours commuting instead of a round trip 40 minutes each day). When a driver yells out their window, “Go get a car,” I want to tell, “I’m trying!” Owning a car is a luxury and it’s something I’m working hard to afford. Some people are unfortunately unfortunate not to have that opportunity and are trying the best they can to get to work and live their life. Respect that.
I’m fortunate to live in a town where the police are strict about motorists following bicycle laws. I love my Midtown neighborhood for all its bike lines but when there are no lanes, cyclists and motorists have laws they need to follow. When passing a cyclist, motorists must move into an adjacent lane to the left if possible. If there isn’t an adjacent left lane, motorists must pass with at least three feet of clearance (I’ve seen plenty of cops pull a car over when they didn’t give me the correct amount of space). Cyclists must obey all traffic signs and signals and use their hand signals when turning (see below).Also, drivers may not stop, park or drive on a designated bicycle path or lane- it can be dangerous to maneuver around a car when you don’t have to. And please don’t distract bicyclists. I’ve had so many instances where I almost got into an accident because the driver and/or the passenger was a jerk. I’m cat-called almost every day. I once had firecrackers thrown at me. A couple of weeks ago, someone screamed at me out the passenger-side window and then, stuck their iPhone out their window to film my reaction. Those moments are incredibly scary (and I will take down the license plate number to report the incident).
The great thing about biking around Reno is the comradery I’ve experienced. There are several other cyclists I see on my way to work. We ding our bike bells at each other and exchanges hellos. I’m friends with the guys at my local bike shop. If I ever need bike help, I can go into a Midtown bar or restaurant and someone will lend me a wrench or a tire pump. As Reno grows, my hope is to see more bicyclists on the roads. That will happen when people- both drivers and cyclists- obey the laws more frequently and feel safer.
Each week, my favorite NPR podcast, Pop Culture Happy Hour ends their program with the question, “What is making me happy this week?” The podcast’s commentators then share the best parts of their lives from Sunday ’til Saturday. As I’m trying to live a more positive life and focus more on my own happiness, I started asking myself this question, with hopes that I can happiness everywhere in my world.