Wednesday, October 08, 2008

An interesting thought

While riding to work today, I had to use the pedestrian buttons in order to make a left turn--the stoplights don't detect my ride very well. Two walkers who saw me approach (and took mild evasive action, thinking I was heading for the sidewalk) suggested that I'd do well to use hand signals. I pointed out that with both hands on the brakes (kinda necessary for safe riding), it was difficult at best to give a hand signal.

Hand signals for stopping and right turns made sense, I guess, when every bicycle had coaster brakes and you could stop easily with one hand off the handlebars. Not so for anyone over the age of ten in the past thirty or forty years, though.


Gabrielle Eden said...

Amen, brother!

pentamom said...

Or, when bike riding was a leisurely activity of country roads and suburban streets. You could slow down and coast a bit in anticipation of having to signal, and not worry about needing to grab onto the brakes suddenly. When you are in actual traffic, using your bike for real-live commuting, things are rather different, I imagine.

Marklark said...

Maybe I'm missing something... Why don't bikes have coaster brakes anymore? Sure the front brake is nice, but how often do you really need to pedal backwards?

Bike Bubba said...

Mark, coaster brakes are heavy vs. caliper brakes, and they tend to lose braking power when they get hot--say you're going down a significant hill and NEED to stop. It's the same basic principle behind the brake check halfway down Pike's Peak. You boil your brake fluid, you'd better prepare for an exciting trip!

Bicycles intended for serious riding have never had them, and one of the first things discovered during the mountain bike craze (which was started with old Schwinns with coaster brakes) was that you had to repack your brakes halfway down significant hills. So they quickly went to better systems. (even kids' bikes and retro bikes now tend to have caliper brakes)

To put things another way, if a driver cannot figure out that a cyclist is turning right or stopping, exactly how is he going to avoid hitting a pedestrian or a deer? Hand signals can be nice, but they're no substitute for basic road awareness.

pentamom said...

That last is a good point -- drivers simply need to treat bikes as things that don't tell you where they're going in advance (like pedestrians or dogs), so you actually have to WATCH them and NOT RUN OVER THEM. Since bikes present no real impact threat to cars, it's not like it would be if other cars didn't have signals.

Bike Bubba said...

For that matter, if I trusted drivers to use their turn signals properly, my driving record would be far worse than it now is, to put it mildly, as I'd have collided with a number of people who (judging by their taillights) OBVIOUSLY weren't going to change lanes or turn!

No matter what you're riding or driving, you watch the vehicle and the driver, not just the taillights.