Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Bicycling: Safety and cost

A photo posted by curtis corlew (@cccorlew) on
Here's a surprise. I've been giving a lot of thought to cycling, and safety vs risk. In the past I've mostly worried about being run over, and it's still a concern. I'd also worried a tiny bit about dogs, but I'd never given thought to being attacked. But now that it's happened, I find something new for me to contemplate and deal with.

As usual, I have thoughts on both.

First the people-gone-wild side: If I ride the same trail twice a day for 10 years and get attacked once, what are the odds of that happening again? That depends on how much the situation has changed. Is it the same as it ever was, or is it more dangerous now? There's no way for me to know.

But I do know that not riding will make me gain weight, and be generally less healthy. There all endless studies about the physiological and physiological benefits of exercise. In the end, I'm not sure I'm willing to give up all that up. Of course, I haven't tried riding past my special spot on the trail yet.

My colleague and fellow cyclist Ken Alexander answered a comment on Facebook with what I thought was a pretty good reply:
I am naturally concerned, as Curtis' friend, colleague and fellow cyclist/commuter on that very pathway. Cycling is a choice that we and 1000s of others make every day. ARE we safer in cars? From random violence like this, probably yes. From accidents caused by stupid and aggressive drivers wrapped in air-conditioned, music-filled bubbles? Not so much.
As cyclist, we expose ourselves to these and even greater dangers, because in a confrontation with a car or truck, we lose. With dogs, we can sometimes outrun them. People? That's the wild card. Ironically, one morning after arriving at the College, I asked Curtis if he realized how vulnerable we were to some unhinged person on the trail, simply from a well-timed or spontaneous shove. I was not really thinking about being robbed, but clearly, that supplies a motivation for this method. He and I have talked about how to feel and what to do.
His injuries will heal... we've all left some flesh on the road, but we continue to ride, as I'm sure he will, probably sooner than his doctor advised. I feel the same regarding this "town" (Pittsburg, Antioch, Oakley and Brentwood) but the practical matter of finding safety anywhere seems like a chimera to me. So, as we asked each other... do we continue to commute? Find another route? Always ride with a partner? Ride with greater caution (or paranoia) and turn around when we see anyone on the trail?
I have no answers for Curtis, but for me, the answer to the questions above is probably yes to most (riding with a partner is just too logistically difficult.) We have ridden that very trail, to and from the College, 4-5 times a week, in the day and night for 15 years. I'm no math whiz, I'm not particularly brave or foolhardy and not oblivious to my own sense of privilege and entitlement, but I'll probably cope, as I feel confident our friend will too.
— Ken 
I recently read another piece about cycling that includes thoughts safety and cost that I like a lot. The author may be overstating his case just a little, but generally I think it's spot on.

In Bicycling: The safest form of transportation by Mr. Money Mustache he claims, and has statistics to back it up, that if you look at time spent on a bike vs. time spent in a car you are less likely to be killed on a bike. It's very interesting. He goes on to point out that if you factor in health, riding a bike is an amazing deal compared to driving an automobile. While it may be over the top, I love his sentence "It is not an exaggeration to say that a bicycle is a money-printing fountain of youth, probably the single most important and highest-yielding investment a human can possibly own."

It's an interesting read. Check it out.

In the end, after all the philosophizing and rationalizing, it  sure looks like I'll be back in the saddle, both on the road and the trail, commuting, touring and riding just for fun, as soon as I possibly can. At least that's the plan today.

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