Recently, I decided to try bicycle commuting. After all, I need the exercise, and - like many people - I find it really difficult to find or make time for it. Yet, I enjoy biking, and I have to get to work somehow anyway, and my commute is about the right length to be a good vigorous workout (9.8 miles each way), and my working schedule is flexible.
Thinking About Safety
But before I could try it, I had to spend some time seriously thinking about safety. Intuitively, cars seem fairly well protected, whilst bicycles seem insanely vulnerable, and this is not entirely wrong. A car can hit a brick wall at 25 mph and (most likely) the driver and passengers will walk away (if they wear seat belts). A bicycle rider can't survive such a crash, even with a helmet. But this obviously isn't the whole story, since bicycles don't go as fast and are less likely than cars to have a head-on collision.
I put together another page all about safety equipment, traffic technique, and statistics. Click here. My conclusion is that bicycling is more dangerous per mile than driving a car, and yet my overall lifetime risk of traffic death remains reasonably low and I've decided that it's acceptable. Moreover I believe that I can improve my riding method and equip myself in a way that makes me safer than average.
The first day I rode, I felt completely intimidated. I was facing a long trip on strange roads, on an odd small vehicle, uncertain about exactly what conditions I would be facing or whether my bike would even make it. (I had about 10 lbs of tools in my pack, not sure which ones I might need.)
Now I find myself feeling down whenever I have to take the car. I don't know if it's the fun-factor, the endorphins, the much-needed sunlight, or my feelings about saving gas, but I really look forward to riding. I'm definitely hooked.
Maybe I shouldn't mention it, but I also have a pathological need to feel superior to other people, the only question is on what grounds? When I drove my 89 Corolla, I would feel superior to SUV's because my car gets better MPG, and I would feel superior to Prius's because my car is cheaper and the manufacturing impact is 20 years gone (except I'd feel slightly inferior because of my smog emissions). If I saw a Honda CRX I would feel inferior. When I ride my bike, I don't care what the make and model of the car is, I know I'm better than all of them - no gas, no smog, just good health and cheap living. The only people I feel inferior to are the other cyclists who can pass me.
I've put up several more biking pages dealing with various topics.
Even More Info
My pages are meant to be compact and concise for the new cyclist, but also as technically informative as possible. Hopefully my pages will get you started faster, but there is an aweful lot out there to read... Here are links to other important biking and bike-related websites:
www.bikeforums.net - the biggest bike forum on the web, covering many topics in gory detail
www.sheldonbrown.com - the biggest load of biking web-pages created by one person ever
www.kenkifer.com/bikepages/index.htm - sadly, Ken was killed by a drunk driver in 2003, but his pages remain some great resources
www.bikesdirect.com - If cost is an object for you, BikesDirect is regarded as a good mid-range source for new bikes. If you know your size and style of bike, it's a good place to start. At least you'll know what you can get for the money.