Whether you’re a sparkly new freshmen on your sparkly new bike or an unkempt fifth year on a bike that’s just as grizzly, you’ve probably never read that annoying little bike etiquette booklet that came with it … and that’s because there wasn’t one.
Go ahead, gather that motivation to look to your nearest conscious human and ask how many times he/she/it has gotten into a bike accident. Here’s my completely unscientific equation: (years he/she/it has been at UCSB) x three. That should cover from the minor bumps through to the serious hospitalizations. The point is, whether or not you think so, you’re doing it wrong. So here are five important ways to remedy mistakes on the bike paths.
I’ll start out nice and slow and demeaning, just so I can keep your attention:
Mistake #1: Riding in the middle of the bike path. This rule is for the slow cruisers, the far-too-high-geared mountain bikers and the fly-by fixed hipsters — this is a rule for everybody. Bike paths are dangerous. Why? There is no speed limit; you’re perfectly able and allowed to go as fast or slow as you possibly can. It’s not the speed you’re going but the difference in speed between you and the rest of the traffic that creates danger. Don’t think I’m saying that you need to go slower, you road bikers, or faster, you cruisers. You like your own speed for your own reasons and that’s great. Riding on the right and passing on the left will allow you to avoid being blindsided by a road bike or being pushed out of the lane by a wobbling cruiser.
Mistake #2: Being a dumbass. I’m sorry that I’m ruining the surprise, but it is common courtesy to knock someone over if they’re using their phone and drinking coffee while biking. Choose one or the other please, for your sake and mine.
Mistake #3: Making inside left-hand turns. Imagine you’re walking alone on the sidewalk and there’s a stranger walking toward you. You start panicking; you are in line to collide. As you both approach each other, you end up doing what I like to call the awkward indecis-a-dance: You both move to the same side to pass each other, never stopping your forward motion. You try again by going the other direction, and eventually you are both forced to actually rotate sideways to get by, as if squeezing by a close friend in a crowded party, even though you’re in an open sidewalk. This ends with an embarrassing reddish hue on your cheeks as you realize your incapability to perform basic conflict avoidance techniques, but on the bike path this little dance of indecisiveness can lead to dangerous skidding halts and the occasional smash. And when will this happen? When you decide to cut the left corner at intersections and turn on the inside. If there happens to be someone turning right around that same corner, heading toward you, that’s going to be one homecoming without a happy ending, and that sucks for everybody involved. (But mostly you, you dick. How could you?)
Mistake #4: Yielding inappropriately. Occasionally there will be a time when you feel you should be the nice guy. “I should let the pedestrian cross the path,” you think. “I’d have liked to be let through if I was her.” Fuck the nice guy, I say. The bike paths necessitate ruthlessness. It is the pedestrian’s responsibility to dodge the bikes, so do not avert your direction to avoid people. This may seem counterintuitive, but the walkers base their dodge on your anticipated trajectory. If that changes, at least one of you will end up on the ground.
Mistake #5: Clogging the roundabouts because you can’t miss your turn. Here’s the deal, biker: you can miss your turn. If you decide you can’t thread your needle through that long stream of bikers coming into the roundabout to escape it, that’s why it’s called a roundabout. You can go round and round and round waiting for your chance to get out safely. Hmmm… sounds reasonable, no? Yes. So please don’t stop in the middle of the loop waiting to straddle-step your bike through the pass, making everyone behind you stop and causing a very dangerous back-up.
If you really can’t handle it, there’s no shame in silently cursing your ineptitude, pulling over and walking the rest of the way to class.
Actually, there is some shame in that, but remember: It’s better to arrive late than dead.
Daily Nexus columnist Kevin Ferguson personally and aggressively enforces the phone-or-coffee rule.