Biking 101

Approaching the circle of death... (Image via US Dept. of Transportation)
I’ve given up on counting the number of near-death experiences I’ve had in White Plaza since classes started- there simply aren’t numbers high enough (or, if there are, my math major friends have failed to inform me). So since I have a certain interest in continuing to live, at least until I’ve submitted my next column, I thought I would take this opportunity to give a little bit of unsolicited advice to the new frosh (and the teeming masses of upperclassmen who may have been away from their beloved bikes all summer) about how one should go about cycling at Stanford.

1. Go with the flow (of traffic). Just like they told you in Driver’s Ed. If you’re barreling around blind corners at free-wheeling speed, you’re probably going to mow down some poor unsuspecting EE major with her nose in a textbook- or, at the very least, force half a dozen people to slam on their brakes to avoid collision. This will make people hate you. On the other hand, if you’re crawling along like a Cal student after a three-day bender, you’re probably impeding traffic for at least three blocks behind you, and making at least twenty people even later for class than they already were. This will also make people hate you.

2. Socializing is for the common room (or the lecture hall), not the bike path. *No one *should be trying to carry on a conversation while biking, *especially *in crowded areas. First of all, this tends to make you slow down so you keep easily keep pace with your friend(s), which inevitably backs up traffic (see #1) and will probably cause a high-strung senior (me) to throw his 50-cent cup of bookstore coffee at you.  Second of all, people attempting to converse also typically try to ride side-by-side, which in many places on campus completely clogs the bike path, sometimes in both directions. Third of all, talking while biking- for some strange reason- tends to give us the impression that no one can hear us, when in fact we’re typically shouting over the wind and thus inadvertently broadcasting our opinions of our upstairs neighbors (or our thoughts on the relative attractiveness of our IHUM TFs) to the entire campus. Trust me, I’ve done that enough times- people look at you funny.

3. Don’t meander. You know what I’m talking about. We’ve all seen that one person who can’t seem to figure out where he’s going. He weaves over both lanes of the bike paths, drifts aimlessly in and out of the flow of traffic, brakes for passing squirrels, changes his mind about turns at the last minute, and generally gets in the way. Don’t be this guy. If no one can figure out where you’re going, they’re probably going to either a) run into you or b) be forced to brake suddenly and thus hate you. If you’re not this guy, congratulations, and I would advise you to avoid him and his ilk like the plague when biking.

**4. Know where you are. **Just be conscious of your surroundings, and make decisions accordingly. See a friend walking and want to stop and catch up? Make sure you get yourself (and your vehicle) all the way off the bike path before you start chatting. Your chain fell off for the umpteenth time this week? That sucks- stop to fix it, but please move out of the middle of the road first. Crossing White Plaza? Be extra alert and cautious, or else you’ll hit a Mendicant, bulldoze through three of Taiko’s drums, or run down an Asian tourist. Parking your bike? Watch out for people attempting to leave the lot.

5. Get to know the back ways. Familiarize yourself with some alternate biking routes so you can avoid the main drags. We all know that Lasuen, Serra, White Plaza, Galvez, and Escondido are going to be clogged like Dick Cheney’s arteries come 11:15. Try using a lesser-used street to skip the traffic and save yourself the time. Cut between Green and Hoover Tower, go around the back of the Engineering Quad, try Campus Drive instead of White Plaza, or use the lake trail to avoid Santa Teresa. Most importantly, don’t EVER go near the Circle of Death. It’ll be faster and less stressful- and, as any good Bio 150 alum can tell you, less stress = better health.

6. Lock it up. Bike theft happens all too often here, and it absolutely sucks. The last thing you want to do is drop the $200 you were planning on using for house dues, textbooks, or the next ten Senior Nights on a new bike. While thieves can and do sometimes snatch even the best-secured bikes (it happened to me), you will cut your risk enormously if you take a few minutes to lock your bike properly every time you leave it. That means making sure that you’re locking the wheel, the actual bike frame, and the rack together. Leaving a bike locked just wheel-to-frame makes it easy for an enterprising klepto to just pick it up and walk away, and locking only the wheel to the rack means that someone could easily pop the front wheel off and steal the rest of the bike. It’s also best never to leave your bike unattended- especially in populous areas- *especially *over the summer.

7. Know how to dodge the tickets. The folks at the Stanford Police Department are quite fond of handing out citations for minor bicycle-related offenses. Know the rules so that you can avoid a ticket. Get your bike registered. Have a functional bike-light, and replace the batteries when necessary. Never talk on your phone while you’re riding. If you’re listening to music while biking, make sure you’ve only got one headphone in. And for the love of all that is good and holy, don’t attempt to bike while intoxicated. You may think you’re fine- heck, for all I know, you may even be capable of getting home OK- but the cops will not hesitate to hit you with a BUI (and they really do have a good reason to). It is also generally advisable to avoid carrying blatantly alcoholic beverages on your bike with you. Yes, I do know someone who did this and got busted. No, I will not tell you who.

Now, I’ll freely admit I’m no saint when it comes to these rules. And I’m sure everyone can think of a thousand-and-one reasons why their circumstances justify flagrant violations of each and every one. But I really do think that if we all try to be a little more conscientious while cycling, we can make Stanford a happier and substantially less scraped-up place.

And I just might survive until graduation.

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