Tip of the Day: Don’t Bike with Your Eyes Closed

I consider myself a pretty safe cyclist. I try not to run yellow lights (unless I’m seriously just about to make it). I stop at red lights and stop signs (unless it’s basically totally practically clear). I wear bright clothes, reflective gear, and currently have five different lights on my bike. And I always wear a helmet.

But sometimes things just… happen.

I vaguely remember learning to bike in my parents’ front yard. I don’t remember if it was the first time I was biking or the first time the training wheels were off but I remember falling. A lot. Luckily the grass was soft and I wasn’t deterred.

The next time I wasn’t so lucky. I took my beloved purplish bike with the streamers in the handlebars and spoke beads on the front and back tires (pause for nostalgia) up the driveway to the neighbors’ house. I wanted Katie to come play Barbies with me; she hopped on her bike and followed me to my house…maybe a little too closely because before I knew it I was splayed on the ground with two knees full of gravel. I swear 20 years later there are still some little pieces floating around in there.

Then there was the time I tried to bike in a straight line with my eyes closed. Hello ditch. (Cut me a break, I was only like…11, tops.)

Probably my most embarrassing cycling accident was in 2015. I was living and working in San Francisco for a few months. I proudly rode my bike Boudin to and from work every day. It wasn’t even that far…maybe two miles. Maybe. Probably even less. The morning weather was, per usual, perfect so I was biking in my work clothes with no fear of sweating or being too cold. I’m not going to say it wasn’t stressful because it was. San Francisco is exploding with public transportation and pedestrians so my rides often concluded with prying my white-knuckled grip off the handlebars (and recovering my breath from the last couple of hills).

But there I was, pedaling along quite well, kind of dreading a boring day at the office. All of the sudden, my bike had come to an abrupt halt and I flew over the handlebars and landed in the middle of the intersection! I will forever curse those streetcar tracks! My bike tire had lined up with them just perfectly so it fell in and got stuck. While I don’t have any epic pictures or traffic camera footage to share, I’m sure many people do. I was lucky enough that it was a red light so I didn’t get squished by any oncoming traffic, which also gave people plenty of time to whip out their phones. I picked up my bike and walked to the sidewalk to assess the damage: nothing hurt but my pride and my dress pants.

Of course there have been other terrific moments of bike safety. I was following my oldest sister too closely. When she stopped suddenly I rammed her, fell off my bike, and subsequently made a Band-Aid for my knee out of toilet paper and duct tape so we could keep going and get our miles in for the day. One day a car love-tapped me on the left shoulder/ribcage/thigh. (Don’t worry, the bike was unharmed.)

Biking has its perils; that’s for sure. But because the juice is still worth the squeeze, that’s why I’m going to keep riding my bike.

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I Bike to Work (Even in the Winter)

Look at my options. I don’t know if you know this but I live in Washington, D.C. and parking downtown isn’t cheap. I guess I could take public transit but ANYone who has EVER been to D.C. knows why I’m not doing that. D.C. public transit is one of the main reasons I never wanted to live here. Expensive. Unreliable. Crowded. Stops running at like midnight. How is that even allowed? Top all that with a bunch of people looking 100% miserable on their way to and from work. Sounds like a great way to start and end your work day, right?

Then there’s my commute. Biking to work is amazing. I love the freedom of it. When I’m ready to leave the house, I leave. When my supervisor lets me out of work early, I don’t have a train to wait for. It wakes me up in the morning and clears my head at the end of the day. Some people will say it’s part of their workout but…I’m not exactly doing time trials so I’m not sure it “counts” but whatever.

It’s perfect really. In the fall and spring. Winter and summer can make it downright miiiiiiiiserable.

Winter Woes

  • I layer up so much I start sweating halfway through the ride;
  • When I breathe with my balaclava (facemask) on it fogs up my glasses (which I use to block the wind from my eyes) so I have to choose seeing or a covered nose;
  • I usually have a ring around my face from the balaclava for about an hour;
  • The snow-plowing efforts (or lack thereof) of the city.

Summer Struggles

  • Humidity;
  • Helmet hair;
  • Deciding on whether or not I need shorts on under my skirt, sometimes deciding I can still be ladylike without them, and subsequently flashing oncoming traffic.

I am super lucky that there is a parking garage attached to my office where I can lock up my bike. Not only that, but there are locker rooms on the main floor with showers. I’m not sure how comfortable I would be changing in front of my co-workers but desperate times and all. To be honest though, usually I just throw on some extra deodorant, change, and let it ride for the day. I think there are a lot of my co-workers who don’t even know I bike to work; who knows what they think when they see me coming and going. When they finally figure it out, they’re both incredulous and a little jealous. How could they not be when the words “single-tracking” don’t ruin my day?

Because biking to work is the antidote to zombie-commuting, that’s why I love riding my bike.