The key to riding a bike to work is not simply riding to work, but being seen riding to work.
Indeed there are many incentives not to ride to work and being hit by a car is one of them. Staying cuddled up under the doona is another, particularly as the mercury drops, the winds rise and we see freak weather events like that 9am hail storm on Wednesday.
But bills must be paid, along with parking meters if you drive, and ferrymen if you live in Stockton, so ride to work many more of us are choosing to do, to quote Yoda. And really I should have seen that hail storm coming. I certainly felt the force as the front moved in over Broadmeadow, causing more uproar than Barnaby’s looming baby interview.
Only good fortune saw me pull up under a shopfront awning on Beaumont Street mere seconds before the downpour struck.
Exposure to the elements is a familiar element riding to work, and many’s the time I’ve been caught short, paying the penalty in terms of cold, wet jocks, socks and locks. Cue the violins.
But there I was, me and my bike and a couple of durry-smoking locals, chillin’, in a good way, under an awning. Mostly dry.
Some of us seemed drier than others, I suspect, given one of them appeared to nod off as the hail pelted down.
The other was more chirpy and noted that when asked that morning if he thought it was going to rain he had sagely replied: “Only if it falls from the sky.”
You can’t fault the word on the street, but as a bike rider on the street, you can sometimes fault what happens on the road.
These are dark and stormy times, particularly at night, where as much flashing aparatus as possible is recommended to stand out from the crowd, and more particularly the traffic.
Actually, both can do you harm. But benerally it’s the one you don’t see coming that will get you, so it’s good if they can see you coming.
You don’t want them to line you up but it is your time to shine and wearing lycra only says so much.
Advances in modern LED technology make some bicyclists visible to the international space station. And this is good, to a point. Many’s the time riding past these floodlit types I’ve envied their candlepower, before riding off into a power pole.
It’s a dazzling conundrum – brightness is good, but blinding oncoming traffic is bad. A balance needs to be struck between seeing where you’re going and caring where anyone else goes.
Otherwise, something beyond a balance will get struck, and in any contest between a bike and something bigger, the only winner is the health fund. And to afford the health fund, you have to ride to work which gets us back to being seen, ideally before you get smudged – and so we have the cycle of life.
Thankfully, Newcastle is showing illuminated leadership by developing an extensive bicyle path network.
The bright approach for all bike riders will be to lower the lumens where appropriate and shine on.