TWO WHEELS TRUCK,
FOUR WHEELS SUCK!
By Kalikiano Kalei
As a committed bicyclist who has used bicycles for both transportation and recreation in a number of foreign countries (for more than four decades), human-powered two wheeled transportation suits my world view perfectly. It also complements my collateral tendencies towards being a neo-Luddite, but that fact is simply a fortuous coincidental factor.
At present, my use of bicycles consists largely of commuting to work by bicycle, since I live only about five miles from my office downtown, at the State Capitol. Departing home at about 0630 every AM, the ride to work takes about 12-15 minutes depending upon several variables that include visibility, wind conditions, and traffic. Due to the north-south orientation of my regular route and the prevailing alternation of morning and evening convective air currents, under most circumstances I face a headwind both coming and going. Rarely does the wind not oppose me on my route, so one gets used to coping with headwinds that routinely range from 5 to 25 mph. I suppose, looked at philosophically, these conditions promote a certain determination and perseverance that help foster physical conditioning effects, but I’ll be the first to admit that a strong tailwind, while rare, is still a lovely thing to experience!
Due to having retraced the same commute route (in bike lanes) every work day for 12 years, it’s a bit hard to wax ecstatic about the scenery of the unchanging urban neighborhoods I pass through, as most of it consists of drab residential house façades; but what strikes me as a bit more interesting than the unremarkable daily scenic backdrops are the other bike commuters I encounter en route.
The bicycle scene in urban Sacramento has taken a long time to germinate and blossom forth, mostly due to the fact that Sacramento hosts a disproportionate number of 'personal motor vehicle' minded people, as well as hard-core car-commuters who cannot conceive of any reasonable alternative to the present one-person-per-car status quo among car commuters. There are also low-riders from the nearby barrio, scores of ghetto-blasting sedans full of hopped-up 'playahs', obese old motorcycle recidivists on tricked out Hardly-Goodsons and legions of house-mouse soccer moms who course the streets in packs (carrying their broods about in oversized SUVs that look as if they’re leftover survivors from a difficult campaign against the Afghanistan terrorists). Add to this mix the hoards of California State Civil Service employees commuting to work in their ten to fifteen year old Chevrolets and the new flocks of econo-scooter riders and you’ve got quite a vast array of highly diverse motorised traffic congestion.
Sacramento is located fairly close to Davis, California, a University of California town that has garnered a (deserved) rep as one of the most bicycle-friendly communities in the state. Nevertheless, despite its proximity to Bikeville USA, nearby LA slurbs-clone Sacramento remains one of the last refuges of the carbon-monoxide and diesel fumes sucking car addict, a Homo Sapiens sub-species whose members actually experience free-floating anxiety if they can’t leap into their cars to make a one block trip to the local store for chewing gum (or drug house for more methamphetamine, ETOH, or ice cream to cure the Maryjane Munchies, for that matter).
The result of this deeply entrenched motor vehicle mania manifested by the Sacramento masses is that those of us who embrace the socially enlightened E.F. Schumacher bicycle ethic as a viable alternative to personal motor vehicles have long been fighting a formidable battle to gain popular credence and metro acceptance of our basic right-to-ride. In a city where bicycle lanes are routinely regarded as convenient right-side passing lanes for motorists who can’t stand to wait a few seconds for the vehicle stopped in front of them to turn left against opposing traffic, riding a human-powered two-wheeler can sometimes be inordinately stressful and productive of a bit more anxiety than a person new to bicycle commuting might anticipate.
Only recently have bicycle advocate groups in Sacramento succeeded in diverting a scant few millions of California’s massive annual highway maintenance budget outlay towards providing basic bicycle infrastructure projects (such as delineating and marking off bicycle lanes), but regardless of these token improvements, riding a bicycle on a city street is still fairly dangerous, as motorists continue to ignore or overlook bicyclists (“But, officer! I swear I didn’t SEE him!”). Despite an increase in the number of bicycles using the city streets now, driver awareness of the presence of two-wheeled traffic in their vicinity remains markedly dim.
In winter, when darkness becomes more problematic due to occasional conditions of rain, fog and lowered visibility, the already debris-strewn bike lanes become substantially more hazardous, as piles of green garden refuse, clipped grass and tree prunings suddenly loom up dead-ahead on short notice, requiring a quick and unplanned deviation into the main vehicle lane for successful avoidance. The point I’m making here is that riding a bicycle in the city is always a potentially hazardous undertaking, no matter whether the cyclist is an old, experienced and savvy wheelman or a bicycle newbie who has just become infected with the ‘save the environment’ cause.
But I digress. Getting back to the commute, even if the physical scenery is typically unappealing and full of urban obstacles to gutter-bunny progress, one thing that does provide a bit of interesting diversion is the wide range of cyclists now using two-wheeled transportation for regular commuting. A few weeks ago I had to take our old truck (a 1977 Chevy C-10 pickup) down to be smogged at a ‘test-only’ shop that fronts my daily commute route, directly across from Sacramento’s oldest and most storied cemetery (the earliest graves in it range back to the mid-1800 ‘Gold Rush’ days). Sitting there in my truck early in the AM (0730) and waiting for the shop to open, I was afforded the unique opportunity of being able to view the passing street traffic. Included in this sporadic parade of vehicles were a significant number of bicyclists, far more than I had actually expected, which was quite a gratifying and unexpected discovery.
Having brought a book with me to pass the time, I found my attention was instead drawn to the bicycle traffic passing in the street’s bike lane. With growing interest I noted that there was actually no such thing as a ‘typical bicyclist’ since when I am on a bicycle myself I don’t usually encounter more than a very few others passing along the same route in the same direction. In my stationary vantage by the smog inspection station, I was perfectly positioned like a radar cop monitoring speeders to see everything passing by.
Very recently a book was published titled ‘The Bike Snob’, written by the author of a popular East Coast bicycle blog (Alan Weiss). In this book the writer references the broad range of different bicycle riders and their preferred mounts that one sees on urban streets today, dividing bicyclists into groups that include what he terms ‘roadies’, ‘fixies’, ‘style cyclists’, urban messengers’, ‘mountain bikers’, ‘urban eclectics’ and so forth.
Keeping that breakdown of rider types in my mind, it was interesting to look at the bicycle commuters passing by and trying to categorise them using this bicycle sub-culture taxonomy. I also took note of their riding style, apparent situational awareness (or lack of it), ‘road wisdom’, dexterity, coordination and overall riding ability...all qualities reflected by the manner in which they rode.
My most immediate impression was of how little bright colored clothing was in use among these riders. Although most did wear helmets, practically all of the helmets themselves were either dull colored or not particularly conspicuous (not good for being easily seen by motorists). The same was true for their outfits, almost none of which employed high-visibility fabrics. Even the bicycles themselves tended to be rather drab and unremarkable, certainly not conspicuous enough to grab a semi-distracted motorist’s attention while engaging in an illegal (it’s illegal to use a cell-phone while driving in California now) cell-phone conversation. That surprised me, suggesting that the most basic rule of urban cycling was lost on these feckless (if intrepid) souls: “Be seen” (a slight contraction of the rule “see and be seen”, the same basic rule that governs VFR aviation--a reference to Visual Flight Rules that regulate operation of non air-traffic controlled aircraft and aircraft being flown without recourse to direct instrument reference).
The visibility thing, which to me is the most elemental concern that every bicyclist should recognise and embrace, prompted momentary reflection on what appears to me to be a noticeably distinct aversion by many people to bright colors in our society. Men as a group certainly tend to avoid wearing bright colors, generally speaking, which is in diametric opposition to the norm in nature whereby males of a species are usually brightly plumed and the females drab. I have a theory on this, but it would take many paragraphs to fully explore, so I won't pursue this subject fuurther here. Suffice it to say that anyone on a perilously fragile transportation device like a bicycle (or motorcycle) should recognise the substantial survival benefit of bright clothing. [The fact that motorcyclists (for example) think black is 'cool' and avoid bright protective clothing like the plague is to me simply collective ignorance of the worst sort. The same sort of ignorance that thinks requiring helmets on motorcycles is an infringement of personal liberty.]
The next thing I noted was that hardly anyone appeared to be fully aware of what was going on around them (this is known as ‘situational awareness’, another prime aviation safety factor). Few if any cyclists had clip-on rear view mirrors on their helmets and those that did have them didn’t appear to be overly concerned about that large economy size muni-bus silently overtaking them on a tight street with little room to spare. A few riders even elected to ride (dangerously or stupidly…you decide which) just to the left of the painted bike lane (outside the lane), placing them not squarely in the regular vehicular lane, but somewhat dangerously out of one and slightly (just as dangerous) in the other. Whether these souls felt the debris in the bike lane was a threat to their tires or not was unclear to me, given the brevity of their passing and the equally brief observation I was afforded, but it bespoke a strong lack of understanding about how hazardous it is for bicyclists to lack clear lane awareness when sharing the street with 3000 pound metallic killing machines at close proximity. Almost all of these cyclists were clearly commuting to work, since every one of them had books, panniers, or bulging daypacks as they rode along the bike lane.
The next thing that caught my attention as an experienced critical observer of my fellow cyclists was the range of bicycles being used by these hardy two-wheel adventurers. In almost equal proportion, I noted, were full-up road bikes (thin clincher tires, multiple gears, hand brakes, “10-speed racers” as we called them when we were kids), mountain bikes (sturdy knobby tires, heavy-duty frames, cushioned shocks), and inner-city ‘cruiser’ types (fat balloon tires, large styled-out frames, extra-wide handlebars, single-speed gearing and spring-cushioned saddles). There were also a few ‘fixies’ or ‘fixed-gear’ bikes among them, a phenomenon that has only recently blossomed forth on the US West Coast as one of the newest trendy bike fads. The pseudo roadies among these commuters were all bent over in roadrace postures, wore various kinds of Spandex clothing and moved at a good clip (e.g. 20 mph). The mountain biker types were less agile, more upright, moved at slower speeds, wore looser clothing, and didn’t seem to mind the occasional bone-jarring pothole. The final group (the ‘cruisers’) all wore what appeared to be regular office clothes (even a few suits among them, amazingly, and a couple of riders in spike heels! GAAK!) and seemed to have the least situational awareness of the entire range of commuter cyclists passing by my vantage. Just watching them maneuver those awkwardly wide handlebars as cars passed close to them was painful!
Those riders on ‘fixie’ bikes all seemed to follow the ‘fixie Holy Writ’ that proclaims it is heresy to wear a helmet, equip your bike with hand brakes, or observe even the most basic safety rules. Think of fixie riders, therefore, as cycling pseudo anarchists, since riding a stripped-down, bare-frame bike on congested city streets without handbrakes or helmet is somewhat akin to being a pre-frontally lobotomised two-wheel kamikaze, but more about fixies later.
As an aviation & flight safety specialist in human factors and aircrew life support matters, I invariably focus on the gear people use while participating in various vigorous physical activities (like flying). To only a slightly lesser extent am I aware of how effectively the man-machine interface paradigm works for them. As I watched these bicycle commuters pass, it was clear that in addition to a paucity of safety gear in use, there was a fairly wide range of both situational awareness and basic cycling competence evident among them. A similar status quo exists with regard to just about any human activity, since each person varies in a number of ways that include coordination, intelligence, awareness, experience, attitude, etc., etc. , and this significantly affects the way each individual functions in his or her chosen activity.
Since there are no mandated qualifying tests required for bicycle riding competence and since anyone who wishes to ride a bicycle can simply buy one and hop on without any constraint, there are many bicycle riders on the streets who really should not be riding an inherently un-balanced two-wheeled vehicle anywhere near potential blunt trauma objects like automobiles. Yet nothing acts to prevent anyone from becoming a bicyclista, if that is the favored whim of the moment. A similar parallel may be found in human mating practices where very little criteria regulates the decision to marry and have a family; you just succumb to your hormonal instincts and...Z*A*P!...before you know it, you are suddenly parents of small new life forms with hardly a clue about what exactly the process is that you have just set in motion!
Comparing bicycle riders to motorists is illuminating in that even with qualifying tests required for obtaining motor vehicle licenses, automobile drivers still display atrocious road manners, exercise a total lack of adequate awareness, fail to consider others’ rights and seem to have inordinate difficulty sharing the road with others in a wise and safe manner. Once again, these faults and human failings can be traced largely back to the same variables that set us all apart from each other (differences in intelligence, awareness, eye-motor skills, muscular coordination, cultural/peer associations and social origins/outlook). Take that potentially catastrophic mix of variables and perch them on the saddle of a two wheeled vehicle and you magnify the potential for disaster disproportionately.
Just this morning, as a matter of fact, I was about two blocks away from my office and driving on the sidewalk that skirts the State Capitol’s perimeter (since there are no bike lanes thereabouts and the streets are fast one-way avenues, quite unsafe for cyclists). It was still early, not yet quite dawn, but there was enough light to see quite clearly. I had my usual front-facing white strobe light flashing (guaranteed to wake the dead) and I was staying well to the right of the relatively wide sidewalk. Coming toward me and slowly wobbling all over the path while gazing to his left in a detached manner was some idiot on a big, cumbersome cruiser bike. I assumed he would quickly return his attention to what lay ahead of him, but nope! He not only didn’t see me, he even failed to register the flash of my rather bright strobe coming directly toward him. At the moment we were almost abreast of each other he wobbled absently toward me, still blissfully unaware of my rapid approach (not all THAT rapid, since I had slowed to about 8 mph anticipating such a circumstance), until I shouted at him. At the last split second he pulled back to his side of the sidewalk mumbling something vaguely apologetic and we thereby averted a totally avoidable collision with just a heartbeat to spare. As it was, I had had to veer over onto the grass and almost caught my bike's narrow front tire in the groove between lawn and walkway. I was pissed at him, of course, and let him know it with a foul curse, even though I well know that such reactions aren’t helpful in an encounter of that sort. I suppose I was just angered by this fellow’s complete absence of situational awareness; in his mind, he was obviously at the center of an otherwise empty virtual Universe, and it is exactly this sort of complete detachment from the urgent demands of immediate reality that causes so many accidents between vehicles of both the two and four wheel type. I reached the office a few moment later, albeit a bit more pumped up than usual.
Returning to the subject of watching the passing bicycle commuters as I was waiting for my car’s smog exam, it was fairly easy to see this same reality disconnect evident among some of them as they continued to amble onwards, some in the bike lane, some weaving in and out of it and some more in the vehicular lane than in the bike lane. Few were paying any attention to what was overtaking them from the rear (and it didn’t help that some of the motorists were driving with their lights off in the still early, pre-dawn twilight); it was almost painful to see this, knowing all too well that today’s unaware cyclist is tomorrow’s potential road-kill fatality.
Some of the bike commuters I watched were plugged into iPods or personal music devices, while one or two were even (unbelievably!) using cell phones. Meanwhile, the motorists continued to zip past them, many driving well over the prevailing speed limit (35 MPH) and most allowing for no extra clearance between their vehicles and the adjacent cyclists (always a good idea, given the scattering of detached, erratic bike riders extant and the tendency for cyclists to engage in unexpected maneuvers). The sight of all this was, understandably, enough to make Ralph Nader’s heart go into fibrillation!
For my part, I simply continued to gaze at the passing parade and wonder about where the two-wheelers’ focus on safe bicycle operation was (or IF it was)! Watching them that morning, waiting for the smog test garage to open (at 0745 AM), was quite educational to say the least and it made me reflect yet again on how important it is to provide some sort of training for new bicyclists, perhaps similar to drivers’ education course for automobile drivers. Jumping on a bike without a bit of study, reading, or some other form of prerequisite consciousness raising is simply NOT a great idea these days, since the innocent days of motorists driving safely among childhood peddling in the neighborhood are long gone in today's impatient world.
As mentioned earlier, I have just finished reading Alan Weiss’s book ‘The Bike Snob’ and have consequently found myself thinking more about the various sub-groups of cyclists that have recently sprung up in the world of two-wheeled, human-powered riding. It is an interesting subject to muse upon, since bicycling has now been impacted by one of the most primal dynamics that affect every human activity in our modern world: the quest to stand out in a crowd and be noticed as somehow unique.
Along those lines, as our mass consumer society becomes even more homogenous in all of its expressions and permutations, the quest for personal uniqueness and a sense of individual identity has created collateral ripples in the world of bicycling. To use an existing analogue from the automobile world, one finds motorists selecting the vehicle of their choice as much for conspicuous display as a status symbol as for practical utility and functional appropriateness. The same effect exists in the cycling world as bicycle riders are drawn to both different kinds of bicycling and specific types and brands of bicycle to set themselves apart from the herd.
Thus we have the ‘roadies’, the ‘cruisers’, the ‘mountain bikers’, and the ‘fixies’. With regard to the last group, the latest twist in two-wheeled style statement, we find the fixed-gear, stripped-down, brakeless road bike becoming the favorite mount of rebellious younger individuals who think ‘fixie cool’ differentiates them as being substantially more hip than other cyclists. The ‘fixie’ bike is actually a modern throwback to spartan single-gear track bikes that were popular around the turn of the century, when it was common to see them racing at wooden-planked and banked velodromes (oval shaped track stadiums). Characteristic of their construction was a bare, lean, simplistic design with no brakes and nothing more to them other than a frame, two wheels, a seat and a handlebar. At the height of their popularity (from 1890 through about 1920) they sorely tested the limits of raw human strength, endurance and daring, unassisted by any accessory artifice other than pure sweat and muscle.
Over the past decades the ‘fixie’ became increasingly relegated to a small and increasingly invisible portion of the cycling subculture, as the old bike velodromes where they were formerly raced gave way to tracks for automobiles and motorcycles (a reflection on the modern age’s growing fascination with internal-combustion engine powered machines and the eternal quest for ever greater speed). Only in the past decade or so has the fixie reemerged as the favored mount (in renewed form) of today's crop of young social rebels who are drawn to it as an expression of their disdain for social convention.
Fixie riders think it is cool to rely strictly on muscle power to stop their bikes, since the techniques required for stopping a brakeless fixie involve a certain adeptness at eye-muscle coordination and quick reflexes. Without a handbrake to help stop, the fixie rider must use other means (e.g. the sort of perfect physical coordination required to turn the bike suddenly, sideways-on and skidding to a stop) to avoid a collision. Unfortunately, there can be no ultimate safe contest between a 300 horsepower, 4000 pound automobile (often piloted by a careless, perhaps angst-filled and highly distractable driver) and a 30 pound human powered two wheel vehicle—even one equipped with multiple gears and relatively efficient hand brakes—but when have adolescents felt anything other than being inherently invincible (the concepts of death and mortality having yet to sink in to their still incomplete brains). For this reason, and mindful of the increasing congestion caused by large numbers of fast moving motorised vehicles on today’s urban roadways, riding a fixie anywhere on a roadway not well removed from vehicular traffic is simply part death-wish and part symbolic ‘fuck-you!’ gesture addressed to the world in general. It perfectly fits the rebellious, trend-conscious and anti-social nature of today’s extremely dissatisfied adolescent youths, who sadly are quite well aware of how seriously screwed up the adult world is, but resist accepting the unhappy status quo and buckling down to cope with it. Thus the proliferation of helmetless, brakeless, stripped-down, single-gear bicycles preferred by those who think Spandex is an effeminate, unmanly affectation and that ‘roadies’ (those who affect Spandex and ride road-racers) are arrogant, supercilious vermin to be dissed.
Despite all of the foregoing, the single larger and most important message today (as noted by the author of ‘The Bike Snob’ and supported by just about every other bicycle advocate) is “get on a bicycle—any bicycle—and ride it!” This is essentially true , since only by markedly increasing visibility and driver awareness through increased bicycle traffic on roadways can we change the present motorist tendency to overlook two wheeled traffic, the call to ride has anecdotally resulted in several notable circumstances. There are an overall increase in the number of unskilled 'new' cyclists, and the above referenced divisions between individuals who increasingly use their bicycles and riding preferences as a device to proclaim their individuality and uniqueness (just like car owners do with their vehicles). Although very human (this tendency to ‘hide’ behind symbols as an expression of attitude and self) and largely uncontrollable, the tendency of narchy bicycle sub-cultures to dismiss or disdain each other (rather than join together) ultimately creates mutually unhappy effects, since common sense demands that an effort must be made to safely accommodate everyone on the roadway, regardless of differences in basic bicycle doctrine.
As a person motivated by the need to promote optimal safety for everyone, I am personally unwilling to accept or tolerate negligent or unsafe practices, habits, and attitudes when it comes to proper operation of two wheeled human powered vehicles. Helmets, while sometimes annoying and often perceived as being ‘dorky’, ARE nonetheless important. Cultivating a safe attitude on two wheels, developing adequate situational awareness (recognizing possible hazards and riding appropriately) and knowing how far to ‘bend’ the rules are also critically important skills sets for any cyclist to acquire. [In my medical career, I've seen far too many fatalities and serious injuries resulting from failure to take cycling seriously to think otherwise.]
The last item mentioned refers partly to knowledge of existing state motor vehicle laws and how automobiles and cycles are affected by them. At present, vehicular bureaucracies (e.g. state, local, and municipal traffic regulations, statutes and rules) have yet to catch up with the actual mandates of roadway reality. As a result, in the State of California basic motor vehicle laws require bicycles to conform rigidly to all motor vehicle regulations. That is, bicycles must unswervingly (no joke intended) follow the same set of rules motorists are subject to.
This looks just fine on paper and it doubtless appears perfectly rational to any municipal planner who is more accustomed to sitting in an office and preparing policy papers on enforcement of vehicular operations than to obeying them in a vehicle. The reality that one finds on the street, viewed from the vantage of a human-powered two wheeled vehicle saddle however diverges considerably from the typical, rather stuffy and static bureaucratic concept of what works best to assure reasoned order on the streets. As any bicyclist will quickly assert, situational awareness and moment-to-moment circumstances demand that cyclists be allowed the flexibility to use any trick they can muster up to overcome the basic inequality that exists between heavy motorised vehicles and small, human powered two wheeled vehicles. That means, among other things, that in the absence of other traffic, cyclists should not be required to come to a complete stop at ordinary stop signs(i.e. 'rolling stops'). It may also mean, one can reasonably argue, that cyclists should be legally allowed to cross against red lights at intersections (after stopping first) in the absence of other (motorised) vehicular traffic in the immediate vicinity.
Although America will never adopt the system of completely separating bicycle paths from vehicular roadways that one commonly finds in use in many European countries and since in the USA a thin, largely symbolic white line is often (at best) all that separates a speeding car from a traumatic collision with a cyclist, we need to recognise that bicycles and cars will never ever be equals. Given that fact, and the requirement that bikes and cars must share the same roadways, cyclists should be allowed a wider range of available ‘legal’ operational maneuvers than automobiles so as to help assure their ability to stay out of danger on roads and streets.
In a nation that puts so much emphasis on ‘equality’ and whose philosophical legacy carries so much bureaucratic baggage to help insure that ‘equality’ is uniformly availed by all, this is a tough argument to make. The majority of people (most of whom are not cyclists, of course, and therefore only used to considering things safely isolated within the protective confines of an automobile) find this suggestion total anathema, arguing that bicyclists must be subject to exactly the same regulations they themselves are required to rigidly abide by. My suggestion for these myopic souls is that they try riding a bicycle to work themselves for a few weeks and reconsider their attitudes through that filter. I’ve no doubt that (assuming there to be any consequent intelligent reflection resulting from the experience) the change in their perception would be rather dramatic. Of course most of them would likely demure, saying that riding a bicycle on a street with automobiles is too dangerous for them....
(Hello!? Of course it is! But that doesn’t mean we can’t even up the odds a bit with some artfully applied creativity.)
In response, I can safely say that IF all motorists could be relied upon to fully and perfectly comply with all vehicular statutes and operational regulations, I (and doubtless a great many other cyclists) would be quite happy to comply fully with the existing vehicular laws and requirements as a bicyclist. The fact is that far too many motorists routinely bend the rules in their favor (or even violate them at whim), think nothing of ‘bullying’ cyclists with threatening behavior while driving, or otherwise make it unmistakably clear that they do NOT accept cyclists as their equals on roadways. Given this reality, I personally will never feel compelled to conform to all state vehicle laws if it means putting my own safety at risk (or at a hazardous disadvantage) to sooth the feelings of some narrow-minded, self-centered jerk in a car. If I need to tweak or bend those rules to increase the odds a bit in my favor, I will do it without hesitation, since occupants of automobiles will always survive a car/bike collision and cyclists will definitely not! It’s called ‘survival of the fittest’ and it’s a time-honored attribute of successful natural selection.
For me, given the stacked deck against bicycling that ‘normal’ California vehicular statutes constitutes, just getting home safely each day is a major accomplishment and for those who say they would never dare to ride a bike on city streets because it’s too dangerous (clearly a group who have little or no prior experience riding a bicycle at all), I have a ready answer: yes, it is! It’s dangerous as hell and there’s a good chance you could be killed in a heartbeat thanks to the careless actions of your average, distracted or negligent automobile driver who’s always in such a hurry to go nowhere fast.
To those who are somewhat experienced bicycle riders, perhaps those with a modest exposure to roadway use of a bicycle, but not a great extent (in other words, your typical bicycle ‘newbie’), I would say ‘get serious’ and start acquiring some proficient road-sense before it’s too late. There’s no equal for solid experience doing something, whether it be riding bicycles, surfing, or flying high performance spacecraft. Even Chuck Yeager, Mr. ‘Right Stuff’ himself agrees with that. When once asked how he felt about being tagged by author Tom Wolf as the original possessor of the ‘Right Stuff’, Yeager said (more or less): “There’s no substitute for experience and lots of it in anything you do. If I happened to be especially talented at flying, it’s because I had more experience and flew more hours in the air than anyone else up there.”
General Yeager was absolutely correct about that and it’s as true for commuting on a bicycle as it is for piloting a hot research aircraft at the limits of space. With that being the bottom line, I can only hope that all the bicycle newbies one sees taking up bicycle commuting as an alternative to personal motor vehicle use these days quickly become as alert and aware as they can, as soon as they can. There’s no better way of staying alive on today’s increasingly dangerous streets and hostile roadways!