Eight Common Bicycling Mistakes

I’m seeing a lot more bicycles out and about these days. Despite the unfortunate circumstances that have lead to the increasing number of riders in many cases, it’s still really great to see more of them on the road. Alas, not as many of them are actually on the road as should be, and that gets me thinking about education.

How might we better educate riders and non-riders alike on the basics of using a bicycle in public space, especially when so many in the former category have just grabbed the first bike within easy reach and hit the road because they can’t afford to fill up their gas tank any longer? I’ve stumbled upon a number of terrific programs and efforts, but they frequently require an interest and willingness on the part of the cyclist first. What I would like to see are more educational efforts conducted in such a fashion that they are both everywhere and yet noticed almost only subconsciously. In other words, people need to be educated about bikes in a manner that circumvents the tendency we have to consciously and intentionally ignore things that we think do not pertain to us. This, of course, would take funding and a community, organization(s), and/or city administration committed to the idea. And that would require a recognition on their part that such an effort would benefit everyone, not just cyclists.

A local cycling club provides new members with a pamphlet upon joining, which lists eight common mistakes novice cyclists make. Here they are, ordered according to (i) what I deem most important and (ii) what I see happening most frequently:

  1. Riding against traffic (OK, I see people riding on sidewalks more often than I see folks riding against traffic, but I think this one is far more serious.)
  2. Riding on sidewalks
  3. Ignoring stop signs
  4. Riding without lights
  5. Riding without hands
  6. Pushing a high gear
  7. Pedal-coast-pedal-coast
  8. Riding without the seat properly adjusted

Riders who regularly do any of the first five contribute to popular opinions that cyclists are erratic, unpredictable, dangerous, and reckless — flagrant transgressors of the law and of society who have no rightful or legitimate claim to public roads. Unfortunately, I suspect that the majority who do so really don’t know any better. So the more we can do to spread the word, the better.

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