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Street Smarts... continued

5 Never be a lemming. Do not proceed into an intersection because everyone else does. If you see pedestrians beginning to cross the street because the light has turned green, or cars start rolling for the same reason, do not assume it’s safe to go just because they thought so. They probably didn’t look for oncoming traffic at all, they just assumed it was safe because the light turned green. People are idiots. Don’t follow idiots. Don’t be a suicidal lemming. Never proceed until you have verified with your own eyes that it is clear­—trust no one!

6 Look at the car’s front wheels. When coming up on the side of a car, take note of their front wheels. It takes a moment for the car to actually change direction once the wheels start to move. You can “read” the movements of cars pretty well through the wheels and suspension. If you see the wheels start to turn, brake and avoid.

7 Be aggressive! Be focused, almost competitive. You’re at a huge disadvantage to cars, so make up for it by being more aggressive than them. It’s like being the quiet shy person in a mosh pit - you won’t be noticed, you’ll just get flattened. Be noticeable by being aggressive. If you don’t emotionally dominate the situation, you’ll be taken advantage of more often.

8 Keep your eyes wide open! It’s all about vision, and peripheral vision. When you’re about to enter an intersection, look left, then look right, then left again, and right again. A lot can happen after your initial scan. Keep your eyes wide-open to use all of your peripheral vision to check for any cars that you may have not caught at first. Think like a high tech military vehicle... check, recheck, confirm, and only then proceed into the battlefield, because that’s what the streets are.

9 Never ride blind. In other words, never ride into a blind corner or intersection assuming it’s clear and safe. If you can’t see if it’s clear and safe, then it’s not clear and safe. All it takes is one blind chance, and you could get killed. Unless you have a death wish, don’t play Russian Roulette by riding blindly where you can’t see.

10 Don’t get doored! Getting doored, is when a person in a car (either stopped in traffic or parked), opens the door without looking first to see if anyone is coming up behind them, swinging it directly into a riders path. Hitting a door is one of the more painful accidents you can have, as car doors are extremely strong, especially at the angle where you would impact them. They’re also very hard to avoid if you’re riding in that narrow path between the parked cars and bumper-to-bumper traffic. Sometimes you may notice people sitting in a parked car, or that a car has just parked, or even hear the lock click so you may have some warning but generally predicting a door opening is impossible. You may be able to swing around them, but likely not stop in time. The best way to avoid being doored is to stay three feet away from parked cars – out of the door zone.

11 Never assume that a driver sees you. Assume that you are completely and totally invisible. I don’t care how many blinkie lights you have on, or if you’re wearing obnoxiously bright reflective orange clothing, or have a big fruit basket on your head, they probably do not see you. This is not necessarily because they are unaware, bad drivers. It may simply be because the human brain only partially samples sensory input, putting certain input data higher or lower in a hierarchy of importance for a given situation. Since cars and trucks dominate the traffic on the streets, our brains are naturally responding quicker to the more common large box like objects (cars and trucks), not the less threatening vertical ones (bicycles, motorcycles, and pedestrians). They could be looking straight at you, and not actually “see” you. Always imagine yourself as invisible, and you’ll have a lot better chance at survival.



About the Author

Rich Katz, aka Ratman, is originally from NYC. He supports his girl and beer habit by working as a bike messenger in Pittsburgh, PA. A motocrosser in his youth, turned mountain bike racer and observed trials competitor (and member of the once infamous Team No Sleep), he’s spent the past 15 years smashing himself into smaller pieces riding BMX. His new job has put a temporary end to his BMX habit, due to the risk of getting injured (which would directly affect his ability to work) and just being too exhausted from sprinting all over the city nine hours a day. Though bicycles are one of his addictions, don’t think he’s anti-car... He also likes to build 800hp race cars from scratch. But since his Ratmobile only gets 5mpg, you’ll usually just see him on his bike. If you do see him flying by you on the streets, just scream out “Ratty!” and he’ll probably stop to say hi... That is, if you’re a girl.