Riptide's Five Rules of Urban Bike Survival


This Sunday, the county Parks and Rec Department and the Florida Bicycle Assoctation will host a "Road 1 Bike-Ed Class" at Marjory Stoneman Douglas Biscayne Nature Center in Crandon Park. Class curriculum includes fixing flats, choosing a bike, and riding safety. The flyer boasts that "Students will gain confidence knowing they are riding legally and safely."

Unfortunately, the class costs thirty bucks. Plus five for parking. Plus "lunch money." So, out of concern for those scrappy bikers who won't make it — and just in case they save the good stuff for Road 2 Bike-Ed Class, the New Times Bike Blog offers up these Five Rules of Urban Bike Survival to the public domain. Happy riding!

Rule 1: The danger is on your right, your right!

You're riding through traffic, with cars on both sides. On your right are parked cars; on your left is slow, angry traffic. It's only natural to be eyeing the traffic — it's moving, and it's talking on its cell-phone, and it can squash you. But the real danger is on your right — where you can get doored.

Rule 2: Be defensive — seriously.

I used to cut people off, blow every single light, throw the finger like I was leading a tour — and then I moved to Washington, DC. One night, I was taking my time on a hill, and I looked back and saw these guys — I'm talking 'bout D.C. thugs —ready to tear me limb from limb. Before I knew what was happening, they boxed me in to the curb, one got out, and he socked me in the face. He broke my nose and got back into the car while I stared. And bled.

Rule 3: But don't let them push you around.

This is a safety tip, not a call to arms. If you let every car push you over until your tire gets stuck in a sewer grate, then you're not going to make it out there. Cars will walk all over you if you let them. Stake out your territory on the road.

Rule 4: Learn to fall into a Zen-like state of unconscious alertness

It's a million little things: the way a car tends to swerve, just a tad, before it does something horribly dangerous; how certain cars are safe to rest next to at a stoplight, and others aren't; how each street seems to set its own rules as to what will fly and what won't — some streets are just mean, and you might be better off braving the sidewalk.

Rule 5: Dogs:

When a dog gives chase — and I've seen it in Miami — first consider how far away the canine is. If it's a half a block or more, make a break for it: pedal like mad, and see if it's the the kind of dog who gets bored quick. If it isn't, he'll get catch you whether you run or not. If confrontation is inevitiable, stop peddling altogether — it only makes them hungrier -- take a foot off the pedal, raise it like you're going to kick him, and bark at the top of your lungs.

Other courses. Check out the League of American Bicyclists website.

-- Isaiah Thompson

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