Bike Safety

12 Jul

One of the best things about working for a major university are the benefits. I’m not just talking about the health insurance and 401k though, I’m talking about tuition benefits, home buying assistance programs, discounts on your cell phone plan and Septa pass, flu shots, and access to a major research library. One of my favorite benefits that we have at Penn is our Personal and Professional Development programs. You can take courses on management development, presentation skills, business writing, and on things like stress management, exercise…and bike safety!

Wednesday I went to a presentation at lunchtime hosted by Penn and presented by the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia on bike safety. I want to share some of the basics that I picked up yesterday to get you all acquainted with safe riding practices.

Laws to note in Philadelphia:

• A bike is a legal vehicle with the same rights and responsibilities as a motor vehicle.

• You must stop at stop signs and traffic lights (you can and will get a ticket if you don’t).

• Once you are over the age of 12 you must ride your bike in the street, riding on the sidewalk is illegal.

• Once you are over the age of 12 you are not legally required to wear a helmet, but seriously, WEAR A HELMET.

• After dark you are required to have a white light (preferably blinking) on the front of your bike and a red reflector on the back of your bike. If you want to take it up a notch (and I suggest you do), you can get a red light for the back of your bike. These lights are not so that you can see, they are so you can be seen.

• You must ride with the flow of traffic, unlike when you run, when you want to run against traffic.

• Use hand signals to signal where you are going.

• You can ride with one ear bud (headphone) in, but not two.

Now that we have the legalities outlined, I want to dive a little deeper:

Helmets: You should buy your helmet new. You don’t know the history of a used helmet, it may have been involved in a crash in which case it will no longer effectively protect your skull or what’s under it. All helmets are created equal, meaning all helmets must pass the same stringent safety tests. If the helmet is for sale at a retail store it will protect your cranium. So what’s the best helmet to buy? It’s the one you will actually wear. So if the $15 Target helmet makes you feel stylin’ that is the perfect helmet, no need to rock an $85 skull cover from a high-end bike shop. I had a helmet when I first got Lucy that I did not think was cool or stylish enough, and I never wanted to wear it. Now that I have a helmet that I think is sleeker wearing it is not chore.

Lights: Lights are meant to allow drivers, pedestrians, and other cyclists to see you. Generally speaking you should not be riding on roads that are not lit well enough for you to see without your light when riding at night anyway, so don’t rely on your blinky for illumination. I bought my lights on Amazon, but feel free to support your local bike shop! You can buy them separately or buy a pack with both a rear light and a headlight.

IMG_2383 IMG_2382

Hand Signals: It is important to be predictable when cycling in the city. You are less likely to be in an accident if those around you know what you are going to do when you’re going to do it. So along with not weaving in and out of traffic, or riding on the sidewalk, it is important to use hand signals when turning. Below are the commonly accepted signals.

Sourced from the Portland Bureau of Transportation

Sourced from the Portland Bureau of Transportation

Preventing Theft: There are no legal requirements when it comes to locking up your bike, but if you are as partial to your ride as I am to Lucy, you’ll want to make sure you are locking up properly. First and foremost I recommend keeping your bike inside whenever possible. Alex had his bike seat stolen when we used to keep our bikes locked up out front. Now they live in our living room. When out and about I use a U-Lock with a cable, again, you can snag one at your local bike shop or on Amazon (A quick note on the durability of these locks, the locking piece of my U-Lock was run over by a Septa bus, *a Septa bus*, and still works just fine). The U-Lock goes through the main bars of Lucy and then around the post I am locking up to. The cable loops through both my front and back tires and then attaches to the U-Lock. That’s hard to describe, so check out the picture below. If someone really wants to steal your bike, there is not much that can be done to stop them, there is no fool-proof lock; so your goal should be to make your bike look harder to steal than the bike next to you.

IMG_2385 IMG_2384

Headphones: Hearing is important when you’re riding. I personally don’t wear headphones when riding, even though I can technically ride with one ear bud. I do sometimes play iTunes or Pandora through my phones speakers when I ride. I figure it’s no louder than having your windows rolled down and radio on, but I’m sure some onlookers probably think I’m crazy nonetheless.

Okay, so this was a pretty quick and dirty overview. I am sure I left things out, like watching out for car doors in bike lanes, riding in inclement weather, and hazards you might encounter. I promise I will write a follow-up in the coming weeks to keep you up to speed.

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