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.