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Sergeant Esterhaus says...

Ed Sobin | Published on 7/9/2015

Some important bike safety tips

A while back there was a TV show called Hill Street Blues.  The show always started with an in precinct roll call.  At the conclusion of the session, Sergeant Esterhaus always remarked, “Let's be careful out there.”  Esterhaus knew that you could never tell what eventualities would arise – and that you always had to be ready for them.  The same is true on a bike.

We will never be able to completely safe on the road – no matter how careful we may be.  Taxis will continue to swerve for a fare.  Tourists will continue to dart backwards into the bike lane on the Brooklyn Bridge.  Road conditions will continue to be far from pristine.  But, there are things that we can do to avoid calamity.  Here are a few suggestions.

1.  The Two Minute Bike Check.   This is not only for club rides, but is a valuable tool for ALL rides.  Sometimes the cause of an accident is the bike itself.  Is your bike in proper mechanical order?  Is there anything dangerous and dangling from it?  Does your helmet fit properly?  The 2 Minute Bike Check can help ensure that your ride is easier as well as keep you and those around you safer.  Do it whenever you're about to ride alone and follow along at the start of 5BBC rides.

2.  Choose Your Route.   There are often many ways to get to the same place.  Ask any cyclist “Would you rather ride on the Manhattan Bridge or the Brooklyn Bridge?”  Sometimes, the NYC Bike Map also leads you astray.  The suggested street is congested with numerous double parked cars, but has “sharrows.”  Meanwhile, a block away there is a calmer one way street.  

3.  Obey the Traffic Rules.  Yes, we have all done “Idaho Stops.”  We have all blown through a light at a “T” intersection.  On the other hand, we have also seen the idiot cyclists crossing a busy intersection against the light almost daring the cars to him him.  Crossing against the light not only risks contact with cars, it also risks contact with pedestrians who are legally crossing the street.  Plus, don't you have better ways to spend your money than on tickets.  On 5BBC rides please obey the traffic rules.  One of the reasons we use point-drop-sweep is so that you don't have to rush to keep up with the point.  Don't be in such a hurry – stop at red lights and ride safely.

4.   Watch Your Spacing.    On group rides, accidents commonly occur between two cyclists on the same ride.  Riders get too close to each other, tires come into contact, and one or both cyclists go south.  Or, one rider stops short to avoid a vehicle, pothole, or pedestrian, and the cyclists traveling close behind cannot stop in time.  Make sure that you are a safe distance from the cyclists in front.

5.   Be Aware of Your Surroundings.    Riding in NYC takes concentration.  Alert riders are safe riders.  This is not the time to be talking on your cell phone.  This is not the time to be listening to your favorite tunes.  Proper cycling safety requires the use of your senses and your attention.

Our leaders talk you through the 2 Minute Bike Check, do their best to find a safe route, and remind you to obey the traffic rules.  But, they can't ride your bike for you.  By riding predictably, pointing out hazards on the road, and signaling (or calling out your intentions) you help both yourself and others on the ride to be safer. Additionally you can make your ride safer by leaving enough space between you and other riders, paying attention to the road conditions and traffic, and watching the actions of the other riders in front of you.

We hope that you follow these safe riding tips – on a 5BBC ride, on your commute, or just doing errands around your neighborhood.  Accidents can happen anywhere and at any time.  While we may never be able to completely eradicate them, we can reduce the odds of getting involved in one.  As Sgt. Esterhaus said, “Let's be careful out there.”

Thanks to Mel for adding some pop culture references and getting me started.