Over the summer I decided to buy a bicycle in hopes that by having to travel to campus for classes I would inevitably gain some kind of muscle. In this approach I can justify not going to the gym, drinking beer, and eating peanut butter and honey sandwiches to my heart’s content.
This is the first time I’ve owned a bicycle since I was a freshman in high school. At that time, I lived in a rural mountainous area with few hazards besides escaped horses and cows. The five lane roads here in Boone are a heart attack enough without the constant traffic flowing every which way.
Since the first week of school I’ve had cars pull out in front of me, almost glance me on their way past and lack the acknowledgement and awareness that bicyclist share the road. Ironically the only crash I have gotten into was when I hit a sidewalk at the wrong angle and ate the pavement.
The road is a increasingly dangerous frontier with drivers texting or scanning their phones for music. They are often not used to looking out for anything smaller than the rhinoceros of a car.
There is a certain absurdity in the fact that App State, like many universities, has made many efforts to support a biking community, yet provides little thought to educating its students on awareness. Biking to school every morning I see about about 10-12 cyclists. It is rare that I see another cyclist with a helmet. After talking to several of them I came to learn that they were not aware of the Boone as well as Appalachian State policy that requires bikers to wear helmets.
In the greater North Carolina area only children 16 and under are required to wear helmets, which creates the dilemma of students not wearing helmets. Many probably wouldn’t give it a second thought. However, a study published in the Safety Science Journal found that of 119 bicycle crashes that resulted in death 37% would have been saved had they been wearing a helmet.
When talking to a longtime-cyclist, he said that the best thing to do is to ride defensively. Make yourself look big, arch your shoulders and and spread your arms out. Cars big and they can be destructive, but you have the same right to the road as they do.
Under North Carolina State law bicycles are considered vehicles and are required to follow all the laws that cars must. Sometimes crashes that occur between a cyclist and motor vehicle are the result of cyclists thinking of themselves as above the laws of the road. Much of the time cyclists fail to stop at red lights and stop signs.
In recent weeks, the Boone police have set up at least one helmet checkpoint in Boone. However, this may not be a regular long-standing practice.
That being said, Boone won a bronze medal from the League of American Bicyclists in the Spring of 2016. With this proclamation of safer campus for biking, I think that Boone, and App as well, are going to be offering more services and cracking down on bicycle safety.
Should you find that your bike is having a problem and you don’t know how to fix it, there is a trailer on Rivers Street that is open on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays with advanced bikers to help you out. The new outdoor education program, Bike App provides this through the school and will be offering education classes in the future for anyone interested.