I generally try to keep this blog upbeat and positive, but as someone who rides the roads every day I’ve seen more than my share of craziness and utter insanity. Sometimes I feel the need to share. Today is one of those days.
Our local paper carries mugshots of people who have been arrested for various reasons. It’s at the bottom of the main page on their website. Maybe your local paper does the same thing.
I generally just cruise right on past them but yesterday there was one that chilled me to the core. The guy had that “dead look” in his eyes. I couldn’t let it go, so I clicked. I thought about posting his picture here but in the end it just creeped me out too much.
And it wasn’t just him. I clicked on the next one and the one after that. They all had that same look. Drugs…probably meth in most cases. The Walking Dead. Then it occurred to me that most of these people probably had cars or stole cars and drove here and there because in America 2017 driving a car is considered a birthright and it doesn’t much matter if you’re capable or sober or drugged or whatever. The Walking Dead undoubtedly use the same roads you and I use when we’re cycling. The odds suggest this must be so. The Walking Dead are also The Driving Dead.
This explains a lot of the crazy stuff I see motorists doing when I’m out cycling. I’ve told my wife that these people don’t even care about their own or their children’s safety, so it’s a virtual certainty that they don’t care about yours or mine.
So what’s a cyclist to do? Well, I’m afraid we have no choice but to play defense all the time. You know what I mean by that, right? Safety first, last and always. We need to live to ride another day. It’s a dangerous world out there.
So I think each and every one of us needs to have a rear view mirror. I have one. It’s my most important piece of cycling equipment. I never ride without it, even when I’m on singletrack. It’s not enough just to have one. We have to learn how to use it effectively. Nobody should ever come up on us without us knowing they’re there. Once while in a checkout line at the grocery store, someone laughed at the “little mirror” on my helmet. “It’s to protect me from you” I told him. He stopped laughing real fast.
We also need to wear a helmet, not so much to survive the big spectacular wrecks but rather the quirky little falls that look so insignificant as they’re happening. These are the wrecks that, more often than not, lead to head injuries.
We also need to choose our routes carefully. All roads are not created equal. Some favor cyclists. Some don’t. It’s about playing the odds. Lots of states now publish bicycle maps that show things like traffic counts and which roads have paved shoulders. I haven’t seen them all but of the ones I’ve studied Iowa and Kansas are particularly good.
It’s also important to make sure that our equipment is in tip-top shape before we head out. Our bikes should be properly tuned up and fully functional. That means gears, brakes, the whole nine yards. Your headset and handlebars should be tight. Constant jarring loosens them. Be sure to perform the ABC Quick Check before each and every ride. If you don’t know what the ABC Quick Check is, email me and we’ll go over it together.
Once out there, don’t be afraid to take the lane. Yes, you’ll slow them down, but buses and trucks slow them down as well. Here’s the thing… Drugs and alcohol cause people to do stupid things like try to squeeze in between the cyclist and that oncoming semi. Make them wait when your safety is on the line. Or make them choose the semi. Have an escape route and be prepared to use it at all times.
In a metaphorical sense, we have entered the Mad Max age. We are all road warriors now and we should not go into “battle” without the proper preparation. Maybe that’s a little over the top, but maybe not. It’s on you and me to make sure that we’re protected every inch of every mile. Law enforcement can’t be everywhere at once and the Driving Dead don’t care…not even a little.
This is just an observation on my part so please don’t dwell on it or obsess over it. Just file it away in the back of your subconscious mind and refer to it on an as needed basis. Chances are you already do. Always remember, too, that we are on the right side of history. The automotive age is starting to wind down. Future generations will look back on this time as seminal so ride on, have fun and be safe out there.