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How to survive bicycling the streets of Boston

Guest column/Jeff Bigler

The velocipede. The wheel. These are two archaic names for a device that, under human power, propels the operator of this machine forward at ten to twenty miles per hour.

Most of us call it a bicycle.

Automobile drivers have other names for it and its rider, but propriety will not permit them to be printed here. Bicycles can be fun to ride, especially if the rider is suicidal. Assuming this to be the case, here are a few tips that will help riders to ensure that death comes as quickly as possible.

Ride on the left. This is the last place drivers would expect to look for you. Drivers don't watch their left side as carefully as their right. They are less likely to see a bicyclist in time to (inadvertently) take evasive action.

Also, anyone who has taken 8.01 can appreciate the difference between a large mass and a much smaller mass traveling toward each other, and a large mass overtaking a much smaller mass. After all, one of the worst things a rider could do is survive a car-bike accident, and people who ride on the right have been known to do just that.

At all costs, stay out of the appropriate lane for your direction. A bicyclist who turns left from the left lane is not only where drivers expect him to be; he has made it impossible for anyone traveling in the same direction to hit him.

Never signal. If the driver knows where the cyclist is, at least he has no idea where the cyclist is going. In the most fortunate cases, the driver gives up trying to figure the cyclist out, and the rider is dead within a few blocks.

Disregard traffic signals. Cars coming up from behind have more time to see a cyclist than cars on a cross street. This makes it a lot harder for the cyclist to get hit. This technique is most effective at major intersections, like the intersection of Commonwealth Avenue and Beacon Street.

Absolutely never wear a helmet. When a rider's head strikes the ground, the less protection it has, the shorter the suffering before death. Also, helmets are generally in too-easy-to-see colors, and some even have (gasp) reflective tape.

If you ride at night, (which you should do whenever possible) wear dark clothing and avoid using lights or reflectors. This helps to clear the conscience of the driver that hits you.

Finally, avoid bike maintenance altogether. Faulty brakes, underinflated tires and a rusty chain give a rider much more exercise. A good corpse is a healthy corpse.

Most riders by this time are probably wondering about cyclists who actually try to survive in traffic. However, by watching any cyclist here, it is obvious that those who actually want to live are few in number, and in a column written for the average recreational cyclist such as this one, specialized topics of that nature cannot be covered.

Good luck. I'll see you in the obituaries.