Helmet or hurt it

By Laura Spencer

Fear of getting killed by cars is a principal factor preventing Macalester students from biking, according to Mac Bike member and cyclist Dillon Teske ’09. They aren’t scared without reason. On the evening of Sept. 12, Tom Lisi ’10 was biking along Summit Ave. to his part-time job when a driver coming in the opposite
direction turned left, not noticing Lisi in her path. She hit the brake a moment too late and collided with Lisi, who smashed his forehead onto the glass of the
windshield, and then rolled off the hood. He was rushed to the hospital, where he recieved 12 stitches and a scar that would frighten any routine cyclist.

Lisi wasn’t wearing a helmet, a bad habit many Macalester students share. His advice to them: “Wear one.”

Lisi was one of the approximately 85 cyclists involved in accidents with cars this year in St. Paul, according to a spokesperson at Saint Paul Traffic and Accidents.

But there are ways to prevent accidents, some of which might surprise you.
Mac Bike member Asa Diebolt ’09 says that bikers’ fears of threats on the road are often out of tune with what is in fact dangerous.

For example, Diebolt said, some bikers have a mistaken idea about the riskiest time of day to bike. Night may seem scary because bicycles are even more difficult to see in the dark than during the day. Lights are an easy fix for that problem. Minnesota law requires a white headlight and red rear reflector, and a rear light is recommended.However, the time to be extra cautious, according to Teske ’09, is at sunset (or if you are an early bird, sunrise). The rising and setting sun blinds drivers, and there is nothing you can do at these times of day but bike carefully.

Indeed, the woman who hit Lisi said that the sun in her eyes was what prevented her from seeing his bike.

Lisi felt out of place biking among cars: “I felt like I was in car territory,” he said. According to Diebolt, an irrational fear of cars keeps many a cyclist on the sidewalk.

But, Diebolt said, biking on sidewalks is not the solution. It is illegal in some areas, and can sometimes be even more dangerous than biking on streets. While cars may not always be considerate of bikers on the road, he explained, they never expect to see them when they are pulling into a driveway or crossing a side street as a pedestrian would.

Remember that even though bikes are less visible and more exposed than cars, the two are considered equal according to Minnesota law. For your safety, follow the same rules that you would when driving: use hand signals when turning, and play close attnetion to your surroundings (don’t wear headphones!).

So Mac bikers: stay on the road and be alert.

Happy cycling!

Get started on that safety gear! You can pick up a helmet, reflector, and more at these nearby bike shops:

Sibley Bike Depot
712 University Ave., St. Paul

Grand Performance
1938 Grand Ave., St. Paul

Express Bike Shop
1158 Selby Ave., St. Paul