For this week’s column: Eyes and Ears. The days continue to get shorter as the winter equinox approaches, and that means less and less daylight for the morning run/walk and workouts at the Buck Center before class.
Whether you walk, bike, scooter or longboard on or off-campus, please consider these tips with the diminishing light.
1. Eyes: Be visible and look at the cars heading your way as you navigate the crosswalk. While Maine just recently passed a law banning cell phone use by drivers, we know compliance is not 100 percent. A lightly colored outer garment or something reflective helps. Before Maine I lived in Alaska, where iron-on reflective patches are used in urban and rural settings as an intervention to reduce the number of pedestrian injuries. Plus, a friendly reminder—if you are running or walking on the streets, stay on the side of the road to avoid on-coming traffic. If you are biking, go with the flow of traffic. Just like construction workers, runners/walkers should don reflective vests. Some may also choose to use headlamps or a hand-held flashlight as an extra safety measure. If you notice the weather is harsh on our roads, use sidewalks. A little illumination could prevent a twisted ankle.
Here’s some food for thought: texting and walking? How risky is it? Does one become disengaged from their environment by texting, therefore increasing the probability of an incident that could result in an injury? Distractions while in motion usually end badly.
2. Ears: Use one earbud so you can stay alert for the cyclist warning: “passing on your left.” Music and podcasts can still be enjoyed with just one ear tuned in. Reflecting again on my Alaskan adventures, the warning “moose ahead” meant proceed with caution. Maine has its share of moose as well. In the end, it comes down to situational awareness. See and be seen, and stay in tune to your environment with at least one ear.
Here are some more bike safety tips from Director of Safety and Security Randy Nichols:
Courtesy and etiquette: While riding the College’s beautiful pathways, please be aware of your fellow Polar Bears and other pedestrians using our walkways. As a cyclist on a walkway, you do not have the right of way. To avoid startling folks, please be courteous and announce that you are approaching, and which side you intend to pass, with an “on your left/right” warning (or use a bell or horn).
Sidewalks and crossing roadways: Brunswick town ordinances allow the riding of bikes on sidewalks and crosswalks. These ordinances do not give cyclists the right of way. A motor vehicle is required by law to stop for pedestrians at crosswalks. Cyclists are not pedestrians, unless they dismount and walk their bikes. It’s up to you, the cyclist, to make sure the way is clear before attempting to cross a roadway, whether in a crosswalk or not.
Safety, protection, and prevention: Helmet hair is much more attractive than a head wound. We should always wear a helmet when riding our bikes, even if it is only from Searles to Moulton for lunch. Remember, it’s getting darker earlier. Studies show the use of both front and rear lights to be effective, day and night. Maine law states that to operate a bike after dark on a public roadway a bike must be equipped with a headlight and reflectors.
Bike maintenance: Your bike should be in good working order. Yes, both front and rear brakes should work. Handle bars should be tightly bolted to the bike so that steering happens. Wheels should spin freely, and tires should have good treads and be inflated. The Outdoor Leadership Center and the Yellow Bike Club can assist you with bike repairs and preventative maintenance.
Bike theft: Most campus bike thefts are crimes of opportunity. A bike thief will often snatch the first or second unlocked bike they put their hands on. A simple cable lock or U-bolt properly secured to a bike rack is usually enough to deter bike theft. We recommend registering your bike with Security. It’s free and you can do it online at the Safety and Security website or stop by the security office at Rhodes Hall. While it is no guarantee, a lost or stolen bike that is registered with security is much more likely to make its way back to the owner.