Monday, May 11, 2009

Special note to Harvard students

With the arrival of beautiful weather, there are lots of Harvard (HMS and HSPH) students riding their bikes in the Longwood area. Many do not follow traffic rules, and many do not have helmets.

Dear Students:

Today's quiz: What do we call a Harvard student who rides a bicycle in the wrong lane without a helmet?

Answer: An organ donor.


Grimlocke said...

How about asking the motorists of the Hub to actually stop at red lights? I witnessed three large SUV's blow through three different red lights in order to turn LEFT, just on today's morning bike commute. If you want to protect your bikers, you're going to have to keep a closer eye on your drivers.

bob said...

I drive, walk, bike, and 'T' around Boston, and the percentage of bicyclists and pedestrians who do not obey the rules of the road is BY FAR greater than the cars/trucks that do not follow the rules.

Graham said...

We had a joke about that at Stanford:

What's the difference between the undergrads and the grad students?

The grad students wear helmets.

Bill Reenstra said...

This is not a laughing matter! In any collision between an automobile and a bicycle the bicyclist suffers the greatest injury. So regardless of what Boston traffic does or doesn't do, cyclists must take the necessary steps to protect themselves. As Paul points out this involves following traffic rules and wearing a helmet.

Several years ago when a fellow in my lab was adamant that he could ride his bike without a helmet. I and others tried several arguments to convince them otherwise. The one that convinced him was: “You have invested a lot of time and money in his head and that wearing a helmet was a relatively insurance policy on that investment”. Medical students might consider what a brain injury might do to all their training.

I have ridden over 70,000 miles in the last 40 years, everyone with a helmet. I have had my share of falls, fortunately nothing serious – no broken bones or concussions, but I have put some very impressive scratches on my helmet. I have countless cycling friends, including my wife, who are alive and/or walking today because they were wearing a helmet.

Paul and I have a classmate who was a Division Chief at a major medical center. He had a serious bicycle accident. After over a year of therapy he was able to resume his career as a lab tech. It took almost 10 years before he had recovered to the point where he could present a poster at a medical meeting. He is happy to be alive, but he is not leading the life he hoped for when he went to medical school.

Anonymous said...

Grimlocke: Speaking as a fellow bicycle commuter (and I have been one most of my life, and don't even own a car), I'm really sick of hearing that argument.

I've nearly crashed into these no-helmet, red light-running idiots multiple times while I'm legally cycling. Moreover, I have to move out into traffic to pass them after every light they blow through (since most are also sloooow). Their antics make cagers feel ok about treating cyclists as second-class road users, and endanger responsible riders. That some number of cagers are jerks is simply no excuse.

Anonymous said...

For those who wonder, look here for the definition of "cager".

PJ Geraghty said...

A word to Bill...scratches on the helmet are fine, but if it suffers an impact it should be replaced. The polyfoam liner protects you by breaking upon impact, thereby absorbing the energy (an engineer could explain it better than I do). Once it's been through a crash, it no longer offers that protection. It can be hard to judge whether a particular impact has rendered the helmet ineffective; when it doubt, replace it.

And no, I don't work for a helmet company...I actually work for an organ procurement organization, so I'm especially pleased by Paul's punchline.

Grimlocke said...

I'm really surprised at the assumptions everyone is making about my riding style, just because I'm posting about the need to keep a tighter leash on local cagers. I wear a helmet, yield to peds in and out of the crosswalk, stop at EVERY red light, and follow the new letter of the bike laws to a T whenever possible. I ride 14 miles a day minimum, and not only do I see WAY more law breaking by cagers than my fellow bike commuters, I also get flack from tons of cagers who apparently don't know anything about the bike laws. If there is no squeezeway or lane, why yes, I am allowed to be 'in the middle of the road' for as long as I need to be to avoid opening car doors, double parked cars, or delivery vehicles. Sorry, it's the law. I move aside to allow passage for drivers when it is safe, that is my decision, and that is the law. But whether or not a biker is following the laws or wearing a helmet, they are far less dangerous to others than the coffee drinking, child slapping, texting, red light running, illegal u-turn making, double parking cagers that I witness all day, every day. Fact.

UltraNurd said...

As a cyclist who wears a helmet and follows traffic laws, my closest calls in Boston are with pedestrians jaywalking, standing in the bike lane waiting to cross, walking against the light, etc. They know enough to look for cars, but at times they miss me even when I'm yelling at them to clear the lane. Harvard Square is particularly bad. When I am a pedestrian, people look at me funny for waiting for the walk signal. Am I that midwestern?

Liesbeth Smit said...

If the Harvard community and Boston realized that biking reduces risk of chronic diseases, reduces sick leave from work and increases productivity it would probably invest in bike paths.

Bike paths are THE solution to the problem, as you can see in the Netherlands where bicyclists are actually encouraged not to wear a helmet, because they bike slow and completely separated from fast traffic.

With a bike path, separate road rules and traffic lights for bikers, there will be almost no interaction between cars and bikers, so we keep our bravest and healthiest commuters safe from car drivers who do not keep an eye out for them. We don't put pedestrians in between the cars, why would we do this with bikers?

In the meantime though: car drivers, hop on a bike and you will see how surviving the streets of Boston and Longwood is a skill that sometimes requires you to break the road rules once in a while.

It's not cars against bikes, it's people sharing the road with people and both should be considerate with each other.

Happy biking!

mmennonno said...

Hear Hear Liesbeth! I second every word!