Not only are Urban bikers are crazy about biking, but we’re also crazy about how we bike. I learned this last week when I published an article for GOOD.is entitled, “Yell Like Your Hair’s on Fire and 5 More Urban Cycling Tips.”
Our mission for our crazy bike light company is to make city cycling safer, and the original title was “Safety Tips For Aggressive Cyclists” and I intended to share my urban biking battle guide and stimulate a discussion but I didn’t expect such a response. >350 liked/shared the article calling it a “survival guide” and “advice for saving your ass”.
While most people believe you’re free to ride (as long as you don’t put others at risk), a feverish contingency advocate for safe, defensive cycling. And these people hate the way I bike.
Of the many comments and emails I received, I’ve organized comments into buckets, and responded to my favorites. So let’s get the conversation going:
Overall Message: Optimize for Safety, Speed, and Fun
Commenter: “’Imagine if a motorist said, “If I stopped and waited at all the cross walks, red lights, no fun’ – would you prefer they soley trust their judgment and speed/safety/fun optimization?” – ClubAntieTam
Response: On weekends, I am a motorist, and I drive defensively because, unlike my bike, my car is heavy, and not agile. Bikes are not cars.
Tip #3: Bike Lane Will Not Protect You So Take Sidewalks When It’s Safer and/or Faster
Commenter: “NO. Vehicles—be they cars, motorcycles, or bicycles—DO NOT belong on sidewalks.” -SideWalker.
Response: Under this definition, my nephew’s tricycle DOES NOT belong on sidewalk. There’s a monstrous difference in size, weight, and power between a motor vehicle and human-powered vehicle.
Commenter: “Yes, paint is not a magic force field, be vigilant and aware of your surroundings no matter where you are, but riding on the sidewalk? Fail.” -GrandCrewNO2.
Response: Yes, biking fast on crowded sidewalk endangers pedestrians. But who does that? Biking on bad streets kills cyclists. As commenter RobbieFeld pointed out, “Yes I ride on the street, but there are definitely times where it is necessary to hop onto the sidewalk to avoid dangerous situations, or to make a quick turn and avoid more traffic.”
Commenter: “Bicyclists can’t have it both ways, untouchable on the streets and sidewalks” – JColorado
Response: Well put!
Tip #6: Juke Left To Surprise and Startle Cars Into Giving You More Space
Commenter: “Shenanigans! Juking and being unpredictable is a recipe for disaster! Just ride in a straight, predictable, line.” – GrandCrewNO2
Response: My inner monologue reads this is a British accent, making it really hard to disagree. Yes, I’m all for predictability. I take predictable right turns, I predictably slow down, and Ipredictably assert the lane. But when a car crowds me, that’s when I juke left and am unpredictable. It’s supported by British cyclist / psychologist Ian Walker.
And The Greatest Rant Of All
Email: “i don’t know who these righteous f*%+s are. yes i ride aggressively. as aggressively as possible. i run redlights, go up 1 way streets, cut people off, burn cops– do everything that i feel i can safely do. that is why we ride bikes because time and efficiency matters to us. i try my best and succeed at doing all that at no one elses expense. try my damndest to not to put drivers or pedestrians at any danger but beyond that F*%+ YOU. jesus it makes me so f*%+ing crazy how people get all uppity about this stuff. like ANYONE sits at every redlight, follows every rule, sits in traffic ON A BIKE.” -Well Known (will stay anonymous) Bike Blogger
Where do you stand?
Not all of us ride aggressively, including my cofounder, Brad. Should all cyclists ride safely and defensively? Should we wait at red lights, walk our bikes on sidewalks, come to a full stop at stop signs? Or do cyclists have the freedom to ride fast and bend rules if we don’t put others at risk? Leave a comment at the top-left.
Cofounder, Gotham Bicycle Defense Industries