Cycling Safety

Before turning a pedal I never had stitches, broken bones, car accidents, or dog bites. But my mishaps pale in comparison to the near misses prevented by following the strategies presented at the conclusion of this piece.

I met my first dog head-to-head riding helmetless on the college road. He was a Black Labrador Retriever who kamikazied my front wheel at twenty miles per hour. I flipped over my handlebars and was scalped by the unforgiving asphalt. I watched the dog scamper away, tail wagging.

I learned how to use those funny helmets just in time. A truck passed me as I hugged the shoulder of a bridge. Without warning I heard a loud crunch that sent me up in the air yelling, " No, God! Not now!" I thought I would fall in the water below because it seemed I was in the air forever. I landed on the road, looked up and screamed "Who did this?" The sixty-year-old driver was in shock. He recovered, and so did I.

It had been a year without incident until I ran into my Black Labrador friend, again. This time I was sent sprawling unconscious into the opposite lane of traffic. A passerby revived me and explained consolingly that my archenemy dashed away, wagging his tail. Besides a slight concussion and a few scratches I was okay, but my rear fork was crooked.

Fortunately, for a small fee, a mechanic bent it back and I was on the road again. This time I was riding on Highway 11 when I saw the dog coming. It looked like a torpedo zeroing in on my leg. It was sizable and vigorous and I prayed it would stop. I yelled "Stop!" And it did. Or it tried. It slid on some stones and slammed into my bike. The sheer impact pushed my bike inches to the left. Incredibly I didn't go down. I was trembling for the next mile, but thanked God for sparing me from another unpleasant case of road rash. Rather than squandering cash on a new pair of cleats, I rigged my clipless pedals to release with 30 seconds of twisting and grinding. Imagine coasting down a steep, pothole laden, hill helplessly watching a vicious mutt nip through your sock while your feet are bolted to your pedals. Later, the police told me not to worry explaining that the dog had its shots.

The next car that hit me went right through me without stopping. I was finishing a 40 mile ride on Highway 67 and moments later found myself laying on a hospital bed with a broken fibula and cracked tibia. The Cadillac that hit me was driven by a one-eyed, 94 year old man. He probably assumed I was a big bird when I flew up onto his hood into his windshield.

Now it was my turn. I had been hit by cars and dogs, but I had never collided with anything. Justice was not mine when I hit a car. After I slowed to a racing stop at the four-way stop sign near El Chico, my peripheral vision failed to perceive a driver run her stop sign.My front wheel skidded into her passenger door and I was instantly thrown onto my left side. She offered me a ride but I waved her off only to discover that my seat and handlebars were shredded and scored.

Accident Prevention Tips

1. Glance into your rear view mirror twice as often as your motor vehicle mirror. My rearview mirror has allowed me to anticipate drivers who arenot willing to give up space on "their" road. If you see a car barrelingdown on you in a rural area, throw your left arm out as if you were pointing to where the car should be.

2. If you cannot out race a dog, try yelling "No!" and hope he isdistracted long enough for you to spin into a faster gear. If the dog gets ahead of you be careful of a dive bomb into your front wheel. Now I carry a cannister of pepper spray.

3. Be sure your helmet is fitted properly and secure the straps. The new "locking systems" seem to be the best tactic. Check your soft-shell helmet for cracks. I was an expert witness in a recent case where the victim's helmet shattered into 9 pieces at impact, probably because it had a crackin it.

4. If you are harmed by a dog call the police. The owner is liable if the dog runs into the road and causes you injury, or damages your bike. If a dog on your route regularly chases you, explain to the owner that you are concerned for rover's well being.

5. Obey all traffic signs.

6. Use carbo drinks to feed your body and your brain so you can makeaccurate decisions in exacting predicaments.

7. Treat motorists with respect. Acknowledge drivers in the opposing lane, and wave heartily to those who pass you with plenty of room. You maysee them again. And some will remember you.

8. Maintain your bike in exquisite repair so you will have faith in thebrakes, gears, steering, and pedals.

9. Relaxation and attention are the determinants to your survival. Youcan think clearly, react faster, and even fall more comfortably when you are at ease. Learn to loosen up in risky situations.

10. Pray a lot.