Spring is finally here, and you know what that means: Biking conditions will soon be optimal. Warm air, cool breeze and the smell of nature coming to life will compel you to bring your bike out of hibernation. If spring marks your first ride in a while, or even if it doesn’t, you should take note of these four ways to be safe while biking in Philadelphia.
Follow Traffic Laws
You may think you’re reading “Diary of Captain Obvious,” but accidents are less likely to happen if you are following the laws of traffic. Stop when you’re supposed to (at red lights and stop signs)! Sometimes drivers blow through stop signs, and you don’t want to be on a collision course with their error. Also, never bike against the traffic. Biking against the traffic gives you the potential for a head-on collision. Finally, just be alert and aware of your surroundings. If you know what’s going on, then you’re less likely to be surprised by an accident.
It’s important for drivers, pedestrians and other bikers to be able to see you, especially at night. If you spend a lot of time biking while the sun is down, you should invest in something to keep you visible. No need to jack a shiny orange vest from SEPTA, a simple reflector for the back of your bag will do. Also, try and stay on streets that are well lit. Broad and Spring Garden streets and Washington Avenue are always a safe bet.
Stay in the Street
It’s much safer to bike in the street than it is on the sidewalk. On sidewalks, bikers contend with a buttload of obstacles: trees, garbage bags, pedestrians and others. You’re more likely to get into an accident on the sidewalk, so stay in the street. You’ll have more space and control in the street, especially if you are following traffic laws. Plus, look what happened to Wayne’s girlfriend when she rode on the sidewalk. Nobody wants to see someone flip over a car, even if they give crappy gifts (“a gun rack?”).
Wear a Helmet
I’ll be frank with you, I am a hypocrite. I should practice what I preach. I should take my own advice. I get it, okay? It’s true that a biker is MUCH safer when they are wearing a helmet. Biker Chick agrees with me even though we’re both in the danger zone. I’ll remind you, up to 88 percent of brain injuries can be prevented by wearing a helmet, according to the Bike Helmet Safety Institute (The Temple News, “Diary of a Biker Chick,” Oct. 5, 2004). So keep your head on your shoulders and a helmet on your head!
James Saul can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.