Weekly column by Loretta Redd
The weather has been temperate and the holidays long this year; a perfect time, it would seem, to pull out the two-wheeler for a healthy spin. But let me issue a warning to all automotive drivers: Santa Barbara cyclists have gone collectively insane.
I live close to the Mission. That places me in the triangle of cycling hell. There are the skinny butt, skinny tire, ‘serious’ cyclists in their neon billboard outfits who pump up and fly down the Riviera hills, the once-a-month leisure cyclists enjoying the slightly sloping straight shot from the Mission to the ocean on Laguna, Olive or Garden, and the impervious and death defying adolescent males who ride on anything, anywhere and anyway they wish, usually in tandem with their hormones.
Few wear helmets. None seem to have acquired the ability to use hand signals. Most must be blind, because they apparently cannot see a STOP sign. All ask motorists not to run them over, while tempting them at every turn.
I don’t want to hit anyone on a bicycle- it would definitely spoil my day and theirs. But as the adage goes, “The hardest part about riding a bike is the pavement.”
This morning’s lunatic award is a tie. There was the cyclist screaming down Olive in a wide zig-zag pattern, not bothering to even slow at the STOP signs, one knee up high and then the other, leaning into the turns like some death-defying motocross moron, occasionally up onto the sidewalk, then back onto the street, as unwitting residents were backing out of their driveways and other motorists were caught off-guard by his darting back and forth between cars.
When I turned onto Victoria, I was greeted by an oncoming, helmet-free cyclist with his hands tucked under his armpits, sitting upright and singing along with whatever mind-numbing music must have been pouring from his headphones. While in my lane, facing me, he swerved using his hips and made questionable use of his one ‘free’ hand to flip me off, while I later cleaned my brake-slamming, spilled coffee from my lap.
Guess who would be cited if I had inadvertently ended either of these joy riders’ jaunts through midtown?
Having owned Fleet Feet Triathlete in Atlanta back in the 1980’s, I remain a cycling proponent and strong advocate for ‘sharing the road.’ The invention of the bicycle is among the best ever and we would all do well to use cycling for health, and to slow down our lives a little.
But I’m tired of the lack of etiquette and total disregard for the law when it comes to our peddling pals. Just so you don’t think I simply have a gear to grind, let me invite you to ride over those pesky little speed bumps of California Highway Patrol state regulations regarding bicyclists:
1. When moving slower than traffic, stay near the right edge of the road except when passing another bicycle or vehicle, when getting ready to turn left, when passing a parked car or other objects, or when on a one-way, two-lanes or wider road.
2. Whenever there is a bike lane, you must use it if you are moving slower than normal traffic. You may leave it when necessary to pass another bicycle, pedestrian or vehicle, when getting ready to turn left, or when necessary to avoid parked cars or other objects.
3. Keep at least one hand on the handlebars. Bicyclists must ride on a permanently attached seat. Carry no passengers unless there is a separate seat.
4. Give proper hand signals when turning or stopping. Correct signals are:
- Left turn – Left arm straight out, pointing left
- Right turn – Left arm pointed straight up, or right arm straight out pointing right
- Stop – Left arm pointed straight down.
5. Before leaving a lane, give a hand signal. Leave the lane only when safe to do so.
6. Never hitch rides by hanging onto or attaching your bicycle to a moving vehicle.
7. Bicyclists may not ride on most freeways.
8. Never leave your bicycle blocking a sidewalk.
9. Headphones covering both ears may not be worn while operating a bicycle.
10. Bicycles must be correctly equipped:
Helmet: a person under 18 years of age cannot operate a bicycle or ride as a passenger without a properly fitted helmet that meets the ANSI or SNELL standards. (If it were up to me, helmets would be mandatory, just as they are on motorcycles. They refer to helmets as ‘brain buckets’ for a reason)
Handlebar: must be set so that your hands are no higher than your shoulders when you hold the steering grip area
Size: must not be so big that operator can’t safely stop bicycle upright with at least one foot on ground.
Brakes: must be able to make one wheel skid on clean, level, dry pavement
Night riding: bicycle must be equipped with a white headlamp, attached to the bike or your body, visible from 300 feet to the front and from the sides, a red rear reflector, white or yellow reflectors on front and back of each pedal, white or yellow reflectors on each side, usually attached on wheel spokes.
In support of my two-wheeling readers, let me assure you that I do not find motorists faultless. Let me share some tips from BicycleSafe.com on How Not to Get Hit by equally clueless drivers and pedestrians.
There’s “The Door Prize,” when a vehicle opens its door into the path of an oncoming cyclist, which happens to be the number one crash cause in Santa Barbara. Best way to avoid this unpleasant airborne experience? Slow down, use caution, get a headlamp, and when possible, ride further to the side, and never on sidewalks.
Those same tips come in handy while avoiding the “Right Cross,” the” Left Cross” and the “Crosswalk Slam” as well. For what the website refers to as the “Wrong Way Wreck,” simply never ride against traffic. It’s 3 times as dangerous for adults, 7 times for children and probably 10 times as dangerous if you are on a Colorado high or in some other way, impaired.
The “Red Light” is referred to as the Stop of Death, because of the number of automotive idiots who never signal their intention to turn, and plow into the bicyclist when the light turns green. I’m coming to the conclusion that really expensive, foreign cars now consider the turn signal to be optional equipment, while attention-distracting ‘entertainment systems’ are now standard.
To avoid the “Right Hook” and the” Rear End“, here are some simple tips: use your mirror. Don’t have one? Get one. Today. Never move to the left without looking behind you, and always signal (see CHP #4) your intention.
To avoid being used as a launch pad from a read end hit like Wiley Coyote, get a flashing rear light, wear a reflective vest, use your mirror, choose wide, slow streets and don’t swerve in and out of lanes.
Cyclists need to ride as if they are invisible, not invincible. The question isn’t “Will you crash?” but rather, “When will you crash?” Regardless of the carelessness of cyclists who ride without helmets, mirrors, lights or brains, or the implementation of the Affordable Health Care Act, a 20 pound bike will never be competition for a 3600 pound vehicle.
Good luck, Santa Barbara, especially around the Mission. I guess whether you’re swearing at a bicycle or praying not to get hit while you’re riding one, at least there’s a church nearby.