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Saturday, August 10, 2013

Don’t Bike Like A Dickweed: 10 Rules for New Cyclists

Here’s the thing. Everyone, and I mean everyone, was new to riding a bicycle once. I bought my first bicycle as an adult four years ago, and if you think I wasn’t embarrassingly inept for the first year, you’re completely tripping. There is no way to become a serious cyclist who knows what they’re doing without spending a long time learning by trial and error. We’re biased, since we bleed chainlube if you prick us, but we think every human with the physical ability to pedal a bicycle should at least try riding in the city they love.
Even the most ardent supporters of community cycling have a hard time coping with the influx of novices every spring and summer, though. Suddenly the empty lanes we owned all winter are full of creaking, out-of-repair bicycles that are passing us on the right with like two inches of space between our knees despite the fact there’s a red light coming in two seconds, and we want to fucking strangle everyone.
The new Chicago bikeshare program, Divvy, means lots of ordinary citizens are experimenting with cycling, and we love it. But a few minutes on the road will show you that most users of the program could use a crash course in bike etiquette.
We’re not saying anyone should be ashamed of being new to cycling. We’re not saying anyone should be too nervous of making a mistake to even try. We’re not trying to make the bar to entry even higher. We’re saying that, if new cyclists take a few simple considerations to heart, we probably won’t even know they’re new to cycling when see them out there sweating it out on Milwaukee. We’ll just think they’re one of us.

Moving Violations

Ignoring the rules listed here can be seriously dangerous. They make commuting on a crowded street more inconvenient for everyone. You might think they make your trip safer, or easier, or faster, but in the long run you’re putting yourself at risk and delaying/endangering other cyclists for your own selfishness. This is the kind of stuff that will make other cyclists seethe.
Now, do hard and fast rules exist in cycling? No. The same red light that it’s just idiotic not to run at three in the morning is equally idiotic to run during rush hour. There’s a difference between riding along a deserted sidewalk instead of taking a very sketchy bridge, and weaving through pedestrians on the sidewalk for miles. The same route that a bike messenger takes everyday without incident might seem like a certain deathtrap to someone without the same skill level and disregard for personal safety. I’m not saying “never pass a cyclist on the right even if you’re about to be hit by a car and that’s the only path available to you.” I’m saying “if you pass a cyclist on the right instead of waiting two seconds, looking over your shoulder, saying ‘on your left’ and passing on the left, please be aware that they’re beaming psychic death rays at the back of your fool head.”


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