For those of you that know me, you know I’m like the Safety Police at events and around town. I’m always mindful of crosswalks and obeying traffic laws and you’ll see me mentioning where to find first aid tents or hydration stations at events. Well y’all, it’s National Bike Safety Month and my chance to get real about riding bikes around O-town.
First, a little backstory.
I got my first bike when I was eight, but I don’t think I actually learned to ride until I was ten. I grew up on Hattaway Drive in Altamonte Springs. Riding a bike on Hattaway was not appealing. By that time we’d lost a dog and three cats to cars on that road and I fully understood mortality. My Dad tried to get me to learn but I was not having it. My best friend Angel wanted to ride bikes so badly that she ended up forcing me to learn…in the rain…on my driveway. Soon we were riding circles around our neighborhood. We had radios on our handlebars and walkie-talkies so we could circle opposite blocks but keep the convo going. We’d ride for hours, outpacing our bed times, fights with my little sister, any homework troubles (math, I’m looking at you), and neighborhood bully, Matt Wallenquest. Yeah, that’s right. I’m calling that meanie out.
I’ve owned four bikes since that first one up there. The most memorable was my bicycle in Nagoya, Japan. It was sparkly Kermit-the-frog green and had the coolest wheel lock. Remember to lock your bike when you’re not riding it, so it’ll be there when you need it.
There’s a right way and a wrong way to ride bikes.
Over the past month I’ve ridden my bicycle in an attempt to understand my community better, get a different perspective, and to try out alternative transportation. In order to be a responsible rider, I checked out Alert Today for the rules of the road.
Always wear a helmet.
Obey all traffic signs, signals, and markings.
Ride in the same direction of traffic on the street.
Bicycles are considered vehicles in Florida and must obey the same laws as motorists. Stopping at stop signs and stop lights.
Stop for pedestrians. Bicyclists are required by law to stop for pedestrians in crosswalks
Use a white front light and a red rear light and reflector. Be visible, wear bright or reflective colors on your clothes.
Cars must pass bicyclists safely and allow a minimum of 3 feet between the vehicle and cyclist.
You can ride on the sidewalk in Florida, but have to stop, leave the sidewalk or go around any pedestrian.
Don’t forget to use hand signals to alert cars to your intentions. Your turn signals are how people know where you want to go. Same for cars. It’s a real shame that car makers stopped installing turn signals. They were super helpful. Now I’m just left guessing half the time. No worries though because I have a loud horn. NOTE: USE YOUR TURN SIGNALS. USE YOUR TURN SIGNALS. USE YOUR TURN SIGNALS. I CAN’T READ YOUR MIND.
Here’s the real truth, safety is a two-way street. Good citizenship means that we obey laws in order to retain our freedom (and remain free of too much government control). Cyclists who ignore traffic laws endanger their lives and the lives of others. This makes it more difficult for those of us who are riding responsibly. We obey traffic laws because safety doesn’t happen by accident. (OK, OK, I’m going to stop sounding like your mom now.)
Also, did you know that you can get a DUI while drunk biking? SRSLY. Y’all.
Wait, don’t forget your SPF, and sunglasses, and first aid kit, and make sure you have your helmet on. OK, NOW let’s ride!
If you’ve read this far, thank you. Here’s the thing. I’m crazy for safety because I had a pretty nasty crash about a year after I learned to ride. My face hit the curb and I lost my front tooth. It took quite a few trips to the dentist to make things right and it’s a wonder I didn’t knock myself out since I wasn’t wearing a helmet. You live, you learn.
Wear a helmet. In fact, in honor of Bike Safety Month I’m giving out free stickers! Send me a DM with your address on Instagram and I’ll pop one in the mail to you. #SafetyFirst y’all!