Fri, Jul 15, 2011 | by TJ JuskiewiczShare
It isn’t easy to concentrate for seven days of bicycle riding with 10,000 or more people, but you have to. There are all kinds of things to pay attention to including emergency vehicles, gravel or debris on pavement, pavement cracks and railroad tracks.
I’ve worked as a paramedic in Iowa City for 19 years. I have driven through some horrendous traffic. It doesn’t compare to the skill that the RAGBRAI ambulance crews show when they respond to emergency calls within the massive group of riders. When you hear an ambulance or other emergency vehicle, first locate where it is coming from and where it is going to. If they will be passing you in either direction, slow down, pull over, and stop. No drafting, playing chicken, or impeding their path. To do so is asking for bad karma. Slow down, pull over, and stop.
Everyone has seen an increase of attention grabbing devices like cell phones and iPods. I remember a moment last year when a rider takes BOTH hands off the handle bars and sends a text message. You know as well as I do that it isn’t that important. You are on vacation. Slow down, pull over, stop and then send your text message or answer the phone.
Leave your iPod in your bag and enjoy it at camp. You can’t hear what is going on around you and that makes it dangerous for you and everyone else. Bicycling is social. Instead of blocking the outside world, make a new friend or two while you are riding.
You will see some great pavement along the RAGBRAI route, but you will also see some horrible pavement. Some crashes happen because of sand, gravel, branches and other debris. Slow down and pay attention.
Roads are sometimes constructed with expansion joints in the center of the road. Pavement expands and contracts and those joints take the stress off from the pavement and extend the life of the road. Those joints can produce gaps wide enough to swallow a bicycle tire and cause a crash. Don’t ride in the centerline area or any part of the road with lateral cracks.
Finally, railroad tracks can be hazardous. Many are very rough. Riders need to cross them at right angles. You will often see riders swerving to a different position on the road when approaching railroad tracks so they can get a right angle across them. If you are going to change lane position, signal and call out the railroad tracks.
The key to the RIGHT Attention on RAGBRAI is keeping your head up, eyes and ears open to any hazards. When you have emergency vehicles, road debris, cracks and pavement irregularities, or railroad tracks, slow down, move to the right, and stop if you need to. Leave your attention grabbing devices in your luggage so you can keep your eye out for problems on the road.
If you are going to ride RAGBRAI safely, you are going to keep in mind the following safety tips:
1. The RIGHT stuff.
2. The RIGHT gear.
3. The RIGHT communications.
4. The RIGHT riding.
5. The legal RIGHT.
6. The RIGHT frame of mind.
7. The RIGHT abilities
8. The RIGHT attitude
9. The RIGHT attention.
10. The RIGHT condition
Mark Wyatt is the executive director of the Iowa Bicycle Coalition, a statewide advocacy organization for bicycling. Mark is also a League Cycling Instructor (LCI), board member for the Alliance for Bicycling and Walking. More information about the Iowa Bicycle Coalition can be found at www.iowabicyclecoalition.org.