Give the gift of bicycle safety

December 2020

By Dan Doyle

For those cyclists among us who no longer fancy a shiny red new bike under the Christmas tree, or hope it might cap off some Hanukah largesse, there are other bicycle-centric gifts we can still hope for or even scheme to find for our loved ones pedaling around the island.   Who doesn’t like to ring a brilliant bell or a honk a horn strapped to our handlebars?  Or how about wield a foam pool noodle?

That’s right, these noodles are a cheap and colorful way to catch the attention of motorists we share the Right of Way (ROW) with.  It’s the same reason I put a stripe of bright red duct tape on my dark brown wallet.  On more than once occasion, it’s caught my eye just before leaving to venture off somewhere.  Given how exposed we are on a bicycle and the sheer force of vehicles zipping a mere few feet away from us, we’ve got to make sure drivers don’t overlook us.

You can see how cyclists intentionally offset the noodle to buy themselves more buffer on the roadway.  The neon foam affords a good way to “wag the tail” without peddling in brinksmanship.  With the boom in Amazon orders, where large delivery trucks abound across our roads, it behooves cyclists to make themselves as noticeable as possible.  The graphic below is not tailored for UPS trucks, but it’s illustrative of the limited sight lines nearly all large truck operators contend with (read: be seen: get big and bright, cyclists).  Dark orange represents blind zones for the driver!

Inside the blogosphere of bicycle gurus, there’s discord over using these noodles on the road.  Some think they symbolize an auto-centric culture that places the onus of safety squarely on cyclists, and lets a municipality off the hook for their lack of safe travel accommodations.  But that might be too philosophical for me.  I’m a fan of anything that promotes a safer, low impact and emissions-free mode of travel.  Besides, in the Covid-era of subdued holidays, wrestling a pool noodle into a Christmas stocking is the sort of yuletide comedy that might do us all some good.

Dan Doyle is a resident of Tisbury and life-long bicycle enthusiast.  As Special Projects Planner at the Martha’s Vineyard Commission, Dan is working with a coalition of fellow cycling advocates to establish an up-island Shared Use Path on North Road.  Stay tuned for more on this important effort to expand emissions-free transportation on the Vineyard.

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