Keep the Wheels Under You


Rule number one of riding a bike is: keep the wheels under you. If you are able to follow this one rule, you’ll be in pretty good shape. Unfortunately, I haven’t had a 100 percent success rate, but recently I’ve done fairly well.

My street is not particularly wide, but it handles significant traffic every day. There is not a lot of lighting, which I normally consider a good thing; however, in combination with the Japanese obsession with wearing jet black clothes and riding black bikes, it can be problematic.

I turned onto my street and found a small truck parked at an odd angle within a couple meters of the intersection. Staying calm enough to avoid getting annoyed, I still wondered why he would park in such a dangerous place. When I rolled past, the front wheel of a bike wedged under his front tire made it a bit more clear. My guess is that the police wanted the scene left as is until they could arrive to investigate. The rider was nowhere to be seen, so I will just assume they were taken to the hospital for observation and treatment of superficial wounds.

Although I’ve had a number of close calls here, I have so far avoided impact. Typically I wear my matcha (抹茶) color jacket when I’m out, making me very visible. Everybody, please stay safe out on the roads.


10 Responses to “Keep the Wheels Under You”

  1. Dorothy W. Says:

    Very good advice! I’ve had pretty good luck too — three crashes, but none of them very serious, no broken bones or anything, two of them I accomplished all by myself, because of absent-mindedness or black ice. Stay safe!

  2. びっくり Says:

    Yeah, I had a couple problems involving ice and metal gratings here, but kept my head above my feet. In Delaware I had my worst encounter when a car hit me head-on. Thankfully, God wants me walking around for awhile and I came out of that one pretty well. They let me walk out of the hospital (gingerly) a couple hours later. I do have some finger problems from a peloton incident and the Delaware accident is probably responsible for some back trouble now, but that’s part of life.

    Hopefully you keep up that mostly safe record of yours. 🙂

  3. fightingwindmills Says:

    I had a horrible bicycle accident in Japan. I’ll have to tell you about it sometime.

  4. Stefanie Says:

    I’m terrified of being hit while riding. Two of my coworkers who ride to work got hit by cars this last summer. One of them ended up with broken ribs and a broken leg! I always wear a helmet and avoid busy streets as much as possible. I’m probably a little too paranoid, but better paranoid and safe than sorry.

  5. びっくり Says:

    Fighting Windmills – Since you are alive and kicking, I’m willing to listen to your story sometime. Happy endings are OK. 🙂

    Stefanie – Remember: Just because you’re paranoid, doesn’t mean they’re not out to get you! I try to study human behavior which helps me avoid a lot of damage. Also, I realize drivers don’t expect bikes to be moving quickly, so I am ready to react to that. Certainly, safety gear and choice of streets is an excellent way to avoid trouble. When I had my head-on collision, I wasn’t on a street that met my criteria for safety. Also, if I hadn’t been wearing a helmet, they would have taken me straight to the morgue. My helmet was shattered, but my head was fine.

  6. Stefanie Says:

    Thanks for adding to my paranoia! And thank goodness for that helmet you were wearing!

  7. fightingwindmills Says:

    Well, it was a dark and stormy night . . . No, just kidding. It was dark and I had only been living in Hamamatsu for one week and I had just met my future husband and I wanted to get away from him (because at that point he was a stranger and I didn’t trust him)! I was trying to go back to my apartment from downtown and I got lost. I rode my bike into a river because there was no guardrail and I was really disoriented. Then I gashed my forehead on the bottom of the river. I waited to go to the hospital because I was so embarrassed and alone. Finally I called the woman who had been my Japanese host mom during my study abroad. By then many hours had passed and I had a horrible infection. And the best part is that when I told my mom what had happened (the one in America) she didn’t know how to handle her worries so she asked me to ask the doctor the name of the bacteria that I was battling in my blood. When I did, the doctor wryly asked, “Does your mother think this bacteria is ‘Made in Japan?'”

    So I had to teach classes for the first couple of weeks of school with a big bandage on my forehead.

  8. びっくり Says:

    Cool! I’ve never gotten to wear a bandage on my head! I thought that only happened in movies and cartoons. All of my head injuries have been internal.

    I’m glad to hear they could control the infection and you are OK. Just for future reference: head injury => go to hospital directly. 🙂 The irrigation canals in Japan can be very dangerous: paved, steep sides, few guardrails. During our recent “Two Truths and a Lie” game, one student talked about this. Here are her sentences:

    1. While riding my bike, I drifted off (to sleep) and fell in a ditch.
    2. While riding a bike, my mother fell in a ditch because she is unskilled.
    3. While riding his bike, my brother fell in a ditch because he was looking the other way.

    Apparently her mother is good at riding bikes and has never fallen in the ditch. The other two are true. Take care and ride safe.

  9. fightingwindmills Says:

    I like that “Two Truths and a Lie” game. Yes, that’s the type it was, a deep V shaped canal with paved sides and no guardrail. I’ve had stitches and bandages on my head at least 4 times in my life, so I know it’s not something that just happens in cartoons and movies. 😦

    Thanks for letting me share my story!

  10. Driving While (Wearing) Black « Neo-新びっくりブログ Says:

    […] While (Wearing) Black Black is very fashionable in Japan – as mentioned in previous posts. Dark brown is also trendy. This comes to my direct attention when I am driving on unlit roads at […]

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