Life in the bike lane: Riding responsibly

Kellie McCown

“Every time I see an adult on a bicycle, I no longer despair for the future of the human race.” – H. G. Wells.

Nothing will take you back to your childhood like riding a bicycle. The familiar freedom of adolescence while going to and from adulthood responsibilities forces the rider to remember the world through an idealistic set of eyes, reminding them to defend the simple pleasures that are lost in schedules, books and work meetings.

Sacramento State has made successful efforts in making the campus more bicycle friendly for students, faculty and staff to commute on two wheels. From the bright green bicycle lanes to the added bicycle compounds patrolled daily by campus police, this campus is a bicycle commuter paradise.

Of course, another famous quote reads: “With great power, comes great responsibility.”

Last semester, Sac State saw two cyclists collide with motor vehicles on campus. Neither one of the cyclists were wearing a helmet, nor had front and rear facing lights on their bicycle — life saving accessories that are required by law. While both cyclists lived to tell the tale of their bicycle/car collision, other cyclists were not as lucky. Four were killed in Sacramento in 2014 alone and dozens more across the country sustained serious injuries after being struck by motor vehicles.

The moment a cyclist gets into the saddle of a bicycle, that person takes on the same responsibility a motorist does when getting behind the wheel of a car.

With the new spring semester upon us, those who have decided to trade in their car for a bicycle as their main form of transportation to and from Sac State should equip themselves with three must have bicycle accessories.

1. A front-facing bicycle light. Not only is it the law, but it will prove for much safer night rides. Motorists identify other objects at night by lights. No lights on a bicycle while crossing the street gives a motorist no reason to stop driving.

2. A rear-facing bicycle light. Just like with a car, it’s required by law that at least one rear-facing light is on your bicycle while riding at night. While it could be assumed that a motorist would be able to see a cyclist with their own lights, chancing it with a piece of moving metal that weighs two tons is not a smart gamble.

3. Wear a helmet. College campuses are infamous for having students commute by bicycle sans helmet. They may be perceived as nerdy, but they save lives. No one who has ever crashed has said, “I’m happy I left my helmet at home.”

Minus the helmet, these lights are the bare minimum required to legally ride a bicycle at night, but the cycling industry has more accessories and technology than almost any other physical activity. Neon jackets with reflectors are a sure way to stay seen during the day, and the newest trend has cyclists adorning their wheels with colored lights, turning bicycles into transports more similar to something seen in a sci-fi movie than on a college campus.

Bicycles are fun and turn school commuting into an everyday mini- adventure, but it’s only a safe experience if cyclists take on the responsibilities that are required of them. Lights and helmets are easy to find.

Peak Adventures on campus, which neighbors The Well, has all three, as does any of the dozen local bicycle shops in Sacramento.

Light up, be seen and roll on.