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‘Without red-flashing lights, motorists come too close to a bike’

Before moving to Durango a few years ago, I had done a number of road-bike tours in California, Illinois, Michigan, Ohio and Minnesota. Some wonderful rides and most without Colorado’s mountains. Whew.

But while I’ve enjoyed seeing so many bikers, especially on U.S. Highway 550 and County Road 201, I’ve been reminded of my concussion and broken collar-bone biking accident that left me waking up in a Long Beach, Calif., emergency room.

Had I not been wearing a good bike helmet, the attending physician told me I would be dead. A few days later, when released from the emergency room, I brought my helmet to the local SoCal bike shop where I’d bought it, to show the owner I’d like a new biking bonnet.

I got a new helmet and the owner asked if he could have my old partially shattered helmet. He subsequently put my broken helmet, which had saved my life, in his front window, and he later told me his new-helmet sales increased three-fold in following months.

So much for my own biking history. Now in Colorado, though, while I’m pleased to see so many road bikers, I’m concerned a number of bikers are riding in an unsafe manner.

Specifically, while most bikers are wearing helmets and bright-colored clothing, a number are riding without using front and rear headlights. In particular, modern rear bike lights now are very bright and easily remind approaching vehicles a bike is on the road ahead, thus giving motorists the ability to slow down and sufficiently swerve to avoid the bike. Without such bright, red-flashing lights, motorists often come too close to a bike.

Too, I’m surprised so many bikers ride two, three or even four abreast. As a result, rear-approaching vehicles must not only slow, but swerve completely into the incoming traffic lane. And bikers themselves are dangerous to each other as a small bike turn can catch the wheel of a nearby colleague’s bike, easily causing a quick swerve and/or a flip.

And as I know from experience, a flipped bike is dangerous. My physician has told me my monthly mental seizures are a direct result from my biking concussion.

So local road bikers: Please, take care and ride single file, and with powerful rear bike lights.

William Babcock is former senior international news editor for the Christian Science Monitor. In a former life, he regularly rode his two road bikes to work in Minnesota’s Twin Cities, in SoCal and in Southern Illinois.