As the Jen Selter of cycling - except without the fit figure or massive social media following - I feel as though it is my duty to talk about what we should all be doing anyway (cycling) safely, which is something everyone should know since Bike to Work Day is now just two days away.
Here in Connecticut, there are a lot of people every day taking the Bike Walk Connecticut Bike to Work Day Pledge and even more going to any one of the Bike to Work Day events happening around the state on May 16, but it hasn't been easy to get anyone to talk about safety before the events. I'm hoping local media talk about the accident yesterday in Fairfield in the broader context of how to be safe, but sadly I haven't seen that yet.
But now cycling is really in the news: Alec Baldwin, the star of such classic films such as Beetlejuice and The Shadow, was stopped and eventually handcuffed by New York City police yesterday. Let's hope this thing moves a little beyond the usual celebrity-behaving-badly Page Six stuff and opens up a bigger dialogue about riding safely.
So without further delay, here are DIYBIKING.COM's Top Five Tips on How to Not Ride Like Alec Baldwin:
1) Follow the rules of the road.
Cyclists run red lights all the time and it has to stop. Period. I don't know if you've seen the terrific flyer from the SWRPA/Stamford Downtown Special Services District promoting the Stamford Bike to Work Day Event, but all the cyclists in the photo (and if you look closely you'll see me in the group) are stopped at a red light. But cyclists, especially in New York City, aren't known for this. So please; when you come to an intersection, stop at the red light. If you are in front of a car or right beside one, make eye contact with the motorist. The driver will realize he or she is sharing the road.
2) Ask yourself: would you do this in a car?
All around the world I've seen cyclists riding on sidewalks, riding the wrong way and weaving in and out of parked cars (I saw even more fascinating rule breaking in India). Since you're supposed to follow the rules of the road, don't do any of these things. One can share sidewalks with pedestrians if you're dismounted and the bike is being pushed, but no riding on the sidewalk. And don't weave in traffic. It's understandable to move over to one side to let a car overtake, but always ride predictably and stay visible: you wouldn't drive at night with your lights off, so if you bike at night, have lights on and wear some good reflective clothes - there is even a New York City based company called Vespertine if you don't want to dress like the Daylighter marker you used to use to highlight passages in a high school textbook.
3) Ask yourself: what does the driver see/where does the driver look?
Remember the Staying Safe While Riding at Night feature? That post demonstrated just how differently the same setting looks in the daytime (pictured above) compared to the nighttime.
The star of The Marrying Man was riding the wrong way, and even though if it may look safe and there are no oncoming cars visible, it doesn't mean it should be done. Cars pull out of parking spots and drivers may be more focused on their cell phones or on not scratching the car in front of them to see a cyclist - not to mention the fact that smugmobiles/hybrids like the Prius are so quiet it's hard for a cyclist to hear an engine running on even the quietest of streets. Alec Baldwin is tall, but from what I saw in the New York Post photos, he wasn't wearing anything exceptionally bright. If he was hit by a car, the driver wouldn't say 'Oh my god! I just hit Alec Baldwin!" but instead, "What was that?"
4) Say yes to a helmet with a rearview mirror and say no to headphones.
Also in the New York Post photo: Baldwin without a helmet.
I like my bike helmet and rearview mirror so much that I bring it everywhere when I travel. When I biked in Delhi and Gurgaon a few months ago, I was the only cyclist I saw on India's roads who was wearing one. Some guy who was laughing at my appearance even took a picture of me at a red light - probably to post it on Facebook. I didn't care. There are lot of fashionable helmets available today, and even it you don't have a Project Runway-worthy helmet, any cranial protection looks better than a closed casket funeral. Period. And a tiny, helmet mounted mirror goes a long way to show what's coming up behind you and how fast its moving. Not only that, but if you travel, it is nice to move the mirror to the other side of the helmet (like I do when I went to London to research Barclay Bikes) as a reminder to bike on the left.
5) If you come in contact with the police, pay attention, cooperate and be respectful.
This is whether you break a law or not; sometimes there are construction sites and a traffic cop present giving very vague hand signals. Watch them closely, do what they say, and don't go on Twitter later to disrespect them. If you are a celebrity cyclist - like, say, the supporting actor in Working Girl - never assume that police know who you are or care. Whether you are 1% or among the 99%: you are a person who has chosen a lightweight and beautifully made machine to help you get around. It's a wonderful thing, and if you follow just a few simple safety measures, it will remain a wonderful thing.
This is Bike to Work Week, and Bike to Work Day is Friday. I want as many people to ride to work as possible. I also want Don Sterling off my television and the images of safe and happy cyclists on it. Whatever the press can do to help with that be most welcome. Thanks for reading and thanks for riding.