College Issue: Ride like a boss

Tips for the savvy and safe city cyclist


The quote, the origin of which I've forgotten, goes something like this: "A university is a place where students, faculty and staff come together to complain about parking."

While college is an ideal place to debate issues and test theories, don't waste time and energy carping about parking. It's boring and the solution has already been found: the bicycle.

Saving money on fuel, car maintenance and, of course, parking can free up funds for other things. Riding to class is a great way to get focused before a lecture or lab, or relieve stress after examinations, studying or studio work. If there was ever a vehicle ideally suited for academe, your bike is it.

If you know how to use it.

Understanding some basic concepts will permit you to enjoy the fun and life-changing freedom that bicycling provides, while minimizing the risks, which can also be life changing but not in a good way.

If you are a Savannah State University or Armstrong Atlantic State University student, think of this as the Core Curriculum. If you're a SCAD student, this is the stuff of Foundation Studies. So let's start here:

Go with the flow

Georgia State law views cyclists as drivers. That means they must drive their bikes in the same direction as traffic and obey all traffic regulations. Riding against traffic is one of the most dangerous things you can do on a bike and significantly increases the likelihood that you will be hit by a car.

Have you heard about two-way bike lanes in other cities? Well, we don't have those here. Yet. That means the Lincoln Street bike lane is for northbound traffic only and the Price Street bike lane is exclusively for riding south. No exceptions.

Get hip to the squares

Downtown Savannah's squares can be perplexing at first to motorists and cyclists alike. But it's pretty simple once you get the hang of it. Vehicles, including bicycles, approaching a square must yield to vehicles, including bicycles, already orbiting the square. It's tempting to ride through a square on the sidewalk, but this is dangerous for pedestrians and for cyclists. And when the police choose to enforce the ordinance against it, the fines are startlingly high.

Stay off the sidewalks

Speaking of sidewalks, some bicycle riders perceive them as a safe refuge from automobile traffic. That perception of safety is entirely illusory.

Remember, you are driving a vehicle, which belongs on the street and not in an area reserved for pedestrians. Riding on sidewalks places you and them and you at risk, and it's illegal for people your age.

That's also why "Get on the sidewalk!" is one of the dumbest things you can yell from the window of a car while passing a cyclist. In fact, don't yell anything at all (or sound your horn) while overtaking a cyclist.

Lose the ninja costume

Even if you haven't taken astronomy yet, you've probably noticed it gets dark at night. Something to do with the sun, I think (I didn't do too well in astronomy). Riding a bike with no lights while wearing dark clothing is probably a good way to sneak up on a member of a rival ninja clan.

It's also a good way to get hit by a car, after which the motorist will say, "I didn't see him," and the investigating officer will nod in agreement.

Bike lights are available at all local bike shops. I like the newer models that are rechargeable via USB. Bright or reflective clothing also helps.

Lock it or lose it

Scholars have struggled with the question for centuries. Which is better, a u-lock or a cable lock? The answer is yes.

The locking strategy formulated by the late Sheldon Brown, the Dumbledore of bicycle knowledge, prescribes using both a cable lock and a u-lock because, "the tool used to defeat one is useless against the other."

Even Brown's method is useless, however, if the object to which you have locked your bike can be kicked or pried out of place (wooden porch railings) or if your bike can be lifted free of it (parking meters).

Locking to a street sign? Make sure it's firmly secured into the ground first. I'm serious. Bike racks are a good bet. If you are able to bring your bike inside, that's even better.

What's left? Ah, helmets. They mess up your hair, but they can also save your life or save you from a life you don't want to live. Your brain will take enough pounding in class. Protect it while you are on your bike.


About The Author

John Bennett

John Bennett is Safety Education Programs Manager at Georgia Bikes.
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