Blanketing opinions that I'll probably regret soon.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Biking in the City: A Guide

I've been biking to work in DC for about five years, so now that District gas prices are the highest in the nation, I'll give you a couple of pointers in case you decide to commute by bicycle.

- It is not illegal to bike on the sidewalk, no matter what people tell you. The sidewalk is safer than the street. If there are a lot of pesky-ass pedestrians walking in front of you, just weave around them. If someone gives you shit, rehearse a rude comeback before getting on your bike in the morning. It's hard to think of a witty response to "Get off the fucking sidewalk!" while moving on two wheels at 15 miles per hour. (And PS: Old people tend to yell at bikers more than the young.)

- You don't need a helmut. All the time that I've worn mine, I never used it once. In the summer, your head will become a sweat factory under that worthless piece of plastic and hard foam. So unless you're really clumsy, save the money.

- Stop signs and stop lights don't apply to bikers. Don't let any car-driver tell you otherwise. One of the benefits of riding a bike to work is that you don't have to obey that type of shit. Bikers have no blind spots so who the fuck cares.

- "One Way" streets do not apply to bikes. Again, we ride bikes because in dense traffic, getting from point A to point B is faster than a car. Downtown, cars drive slow enough that they can avoid you if you're riding against the flow of traffic anyway.

- Any car that honks at you gets a middle finger. Cars don't realize how loud a horn is outside the car. It will startle the hell out of you and in that adrenaline rush, the bird will instinctively shoot upward. It's just a reflex.

- No one respects bike lanes. Those lovely painted white lines with the cute little bike logo mean nothing. No one respects them. Not even bikers.

- Get the hell out of the way of all cars with Maryland or Virginia tags. These suburban commuters are not used to pedestrians and bikes. No one walks or bikes in the suburbs (I know, I used to live there) so they're not concerned about you, and what's more, they may be looking to kill you. A biker is often *plain offensive* to a suburbanite. And keep a special eye on the VA/MD Sport Utility Vehicle drivers because their range of vision is like less than 45 degrees.

- Weave through traffic as much as possible. In part, this is why you're riding a bike anyway: to get to work faster than car drivers. You may want to saw off the ends of your handle bars to get through tight squeezes.

- DC taxi drivers are actually very courteous. Strangely, these cars will yield to you more than any other. If they hit you, they'll be sued so hard that they'll probably have to return to Eritrea, so they're going to avoid a biker like the plague.

- You don't need side view mirrors or a water bottle or all that crap you'll spend too much money at City Bikes for. If you're just going to work and back, just turn your head to see who's behind you. You won't be thirsty, either. Get a damned drink at work.

- Watch out for parallel-parked car doors. When biking past parked cars, always give them about 3-4 feet of room in case someone opens their door. This may mean you'll have to bike in the way of moving cars but fuck 'em. Let them swerve around you. They're the ones that decided to drive into the city, not you.

- You won't end up sweaty and uncomfortable at work. This is just an excuse people make for being lazy and driving to work. Unless you're a big fat-ass, sweatiness is nothing to worry about.

Anyway, that's all I can think of for now. If I've left anything out, let me know.
Comments:
Awesome post

another - bikers are better lovers. They pump harder. or faster. or whatever. yeah.
 
Perfect guide. I think you covered it all. However, I'm not super creative, so could you help me come up with one of those good replies to "Get off the fucking sidewalk." "Make me" is just so pedestrian (ha, ha)and "Shut up bitch" just doesn't cut it either.
 
Nathalie,

As long as you incorporate the word "whore" in your response, you'll be fine.
 
Great post. Two things to add, though.

1. The sweatiness does apply to the Deep South. I've biked here at the end of summer (which is to say right now), and the humidity gives those sweat glands a workout. So during the summer, I take the bus. Oh, and I weigh about 160, so I'm definitely not a fat ass. In fact, attempts at weight gain have been unsuccessful.

2. Please do pay attention to crosswalks. While living in Boston, I was almost hit five times despite walking in a crosswalk. Four times it was bikes ignoring the fact that traffic had stopped to let a crowd of people cross the street.
 
Enjoyed reading your posts.
 
This is an incredibly dangerous guide. As a cyclist, I can tell you that automobile advocacy is one of the most important things that a cyclist should consider. We MUST be curteous to drivers. They're in 2 ton blocks of steel. We're on 20 pound bikes.
I beg you to reconsider your guide, and your style, for your sake, as well as for anyone who acts by this guide.
 
Anonymous,

I "beg you" to reconsider your sense of humor.

Cheers,

LB
 
I have to say this made me laugh out loud a few times. I decided to look up 'biking in a city' since i decided F the car it's easier for me to get around New Haven, CT.
I was almost hit by a MACK truck the other day. Any suugestions on how to avoid getting run over?
Oh and I have a good one for the sidewalk assholes...put spikes on the sides of your shoes and kick!
 
Super guide!!
But really watch out all the cars. Actually, I'm not american, but traffic in Prague, Czech Republic, is mostly the same as in some american cities. I've been many times nearly hit off my bike.
 
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