Don’t leave home without your helmet

Last week there was a sea of red brake lights, angry motorists shouting expletives and throngs of bicyclists zipping in and out of traffic. Horns were honked and middle fingers were flipped in aggravation. The

Last week there was a sea of red brake lights, angry motorists shouting expletives and throngs of bicyclists zipping in and out of traffic.

Horns were honked and middle fingers were flipped in aggravation. The strike forced Philadelphians to search for new transit options, with frustration in tow.

The number of bicyclists, pedestrians and motorists in the city had increased, and chances of getting into an accident were much greater.

Still, even though SEPTA is back in service, bicyclists and motorists still need to learn how to get along.

Keep these safety tips in mind when trekking to work via car or bicycle.

For Bicyclists

Follow traffic laws. It’s tempting to go through red lights and travel on a one-way street in the wrong direction. Yes, you’re on a bike, and it’s unlikely you’ll get pulled over by the police. But for motorists, it can be heart-attack inducing.

It’s difficult for motorists to perceive exactly how close their car is to your bike. Also, there are lanes in Philadelphia designated for bikers, so stay in your lane.

There is really no need to merge into other lanes. If there isn’t a specific lane for bikes, stay on the right side of traffic.

Bobby Prince, manager of Bike Line, gave some advice for bikers: “Wear a helmet. Ride with traffic. Watch people opening car doors and be aware of the bikes around you.”

Even though it’s against the law, biking on the sidewalk is sometimes a better option than riding on the road. If you know a motorist has got it out for you and is ready to run you down, it’s best to get onto the sidewalk before blood is shed.

When traveling on a sidewalk, remember that people walk in unpredictable directions. If you have a bell on your bike and you’re behind someone, ring your bell to let them know you’re coming through.

If you don’t have a bell, simply say “excuse me.” Unless you’re in Old City -then it’s highly recommended that you hit as many inebriated yuppies as possible. Just kidding.

For Motorists

Many bicyclists are detestable … it’s true. It’s easy to develop road rage over bikers since they tend to do whatever they want. But you’re the one behind the death machine. Only honk your horn if the situation warrants it.

If a bicyclist is swerving in and out of traffic, then you can beep at them quickly. Laying on the horn will only startle a biker, sending them careening into traffic.

Or it will anger them. If this happens, a biker might make it his or her goal to enrage you even more.

Try to be patient with bicyclists. Don’t rev your engine or try to intimidate bikers with your unnecessarily loud muffler. Speeding up next to bikers will definitely increase your chances of hitting them.

Also, be sure to stop before the crosswalk-there is a reason that it was painted on the road. Sometimes accidents happen simply because a driver goes over the crosswalk and hits an unsuspecting biker or pedestrian.

When encountering bikers, Jose Maldonado, manager of Bicycle Therapy said to relax. “Do not drink so much coffee. Cyclists have every right to be on the road. They’ve got to get to work too. One ton is not equal to a 25-pound bike,” he said.

Also, don’t yell at bicyclists to get off the road. There are signs all over the city that say “Share the Road.”

Conflict between bicyclists and motorists is going to continue. Road rage and frustration is going to cloud judgment and accidents will ensue.

But by following the rules of the road and by maintaining patience, both motorists and bicyclists can get to their destination safely.

Quick Tips

For cyclists
Wear a helmet and protect your precious brain.
Use hand signals to let cars know if you’re changing direction.
Don’t swerve in and out of
traffic … stay alongside traffic
in one direction.
Be mindful of pedestrians. Ring your bell or say “excuse me.”
Put reflectors or flashing lights on your bike.
For motorists
Don’t speed up near bikers.
Avoid blasting your horn at a
bicyclist, unless it is warranted.
Look in all directions before proceeding to turn. Bikers and pedestrians come in all directions.
Stop before crosswalks …
not on top of them.
If you encounter unruly bicyclists, try to slowly go around them or stay in the lane farthest
from them.

Ellen Minsavage can be reached at

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