Saturday, December 3, 2011

Feeling Safe Enough to Ride

Life gets overwhelming and busy sometimes. There's that famous line that's cliche by now, but it still rings true: "Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans."

I've not been able to ride my bike in the last several months. Shorter days. Rain. Mostly a busy work schedule. I don't feel safe riding here, now, this time of year. When I lived in a more bike-friendly area, I would ride almost year-round. As long as the pavement was visible, I rode. Riding in the cold wasn't ideal, but it didn't keep me off my bike. And riding in the dark wasn't my favorite thing to do, either, but if work kept me late, conditions were such that I didn't fear for my life.

Safety is an interesting issue when it comes to bike riding. It's all relative. If people feel safe, they'll ride. Some will ride in almost any condition, on any road, like on Scenic Highway 11. Crazy hills next to the crazy traffic on the crazy bike lanes. Riding in conditions a little less stressful are a safer choice for a majority of bicyclists, like those found on the Swamp Rabbit Trail. If I want to ride near my house, I'm riding in conditions that are somewhere in the middle. Not crazy enough to prohibit people, but not safe enough for novice riders or children. Sometimes it gets to me. I want to scream at the cars riding too close, bang on sides, kick the doors at the next stoplight. I don't, but it would sure feel good. (Graphic credit here.)

I wish that the "bike route" that was identified with outdated signs was safer. Debris-filled shoulders that were cleaned. Bike lanes that weren't substandard, being forced to ride in the gutter pan. Speed limits or road conditions or street designs that were a little more inviting or (at least) did not encourage speeding motorists. If you check out the League of American Bicyclist's Bicycle Friendly America Program, you can check out how safe your state (and possibly community) is based on a few criteria. South Carolina is the 11th most dangerous state.

Safety is an issue when bike riding. I used to ignore it, but now I can't help it that my stress level spikes when cars buzz by. I can't wait until the conditions are such that I can get back out my bike.

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