A few decades ago, when I was living in Louisiana, riding was not exactly a safe activity.
It wasn’t the traffic, or the narrow streets. It wasn’t the heatstroke-inducing humidity. Or even mosquitoes large enough to show up on local air traffic control.
It was the assaults.
From getting intentionally run off the road or doored by drunken frat boys, to riders getting mugged as they waited for stop lights while riding through one of the poorer sections of town — reminiscent of last year’s problems on the Ballona Creek bike path. Not to mention the usual problems of trash, sodas and other assorted flotsam flung from passing cars.
I dealt with it by refusing to stop for red lights in that part of town — following the advice of a friend on the local police force. And never riding after an LSU football or basketball game.
A friend of mine dealt with it by strapping a .22 revolver to his handlebars.
It was legal under Louisiana law at the time, since it wasn’t a concealed weapon. And according to him, all it took was a brief gesture towards the gun to make any threatening drivers — or anyone else — back off.
I was reminded of that after reading recent posts from Brayj, Gary and the Rearview Rider, which ranged from a slap on the ass to a late-night mugging.
While arming ourselves is an extreme reaction, we do experience a high level of vulnerability when we ride. We are exposed on the road, subject to the whims and impulses, criminal and otherwise, of those around us.
And hunched over our handlebars, balanced on two wheels, we are in no position to defend ourselves. Unlike drivers, we don’t have glass and steel, door locks and airbags to protect ourselves. Or isolate us — in perception, if nothing else — from those who might wish to do us harm, even if it’s only for their own amusement.
I don’t have a solution to offer.
Over the years, I’ve learned to defend myself from angry dogs and angry cyclists. The former will usually respond to a firm command ordering them to sit or stay; the latter will invariably back off when confronted with a hard object — say, an air pump or tire lever — about to be jammed through their spokes.
But as for criminal activity, threatening drivers and assorted jokesters, I have yet to find an effective means of self-defense, nor an effective response. And unlike Rearview Rider’s experience, I have yet to find a police officer who will take something like that seriously.
The only solution I’ve been able to come up with is to begin shopping for small video camera like the one Will uses. But one small enough to be mounted on my helmet, so it will record whatever I look at — such as a license plate — rather than mounting it on the bike, so it only records what’s directly in front of me.
It might not be an ideal solution. But it beats the hell out of a gun.
And if anyone has a better suggestion, I’d love to hear it.
Gary nurtures his competitive instincts with a spin around the Velodrome, while ultra-rider Matt posts his interview with Peak.com (part 1 and part 2). If you’re looking for a good cause, Mikey Wally suggests Africycle, an organization dedicated to improving access to bicycles in Africa. And C.I.C.L.E. relays winter biking tips from Minnesota, in case we experience a sudden freeze on the boardwalk this year.