My friends and family sometimes make fun of my enthusiasm for helping younger students and prospies at Stanford. So-nicknamed “patron saint of freshmen” and verbose tour guide that I am, I’m delighted to see hundreds of bright-eyed and bushy-tailed newbies making their way across campus. Except, of course, when they’re on bikes.
I could couch this in coddling, matronly phrasing, but I have been almost run over by five too many freshmen this week. Fifteen-ers, you’re members of the most competitive admit class we’ve ever had, and by all metrics you’re the nation’s best and brightest. Please start biking like it.
Some of the problems seem to derive from a tragic absence of savoir-faire. If you’re pedaling at 2000 rpm or slowly pounding the pedals like a human steamboat piston, you need to shift gears. If you can’t see, your helmet is on backwards. If your pedals seem stuck, you probably left your kickstand down. D’oh.
But some of the issues I’ve noticed have been those of mere courtesy. Bike in a straight line. Make clear to those around you where you’re going so we don’t have to swerve, Mission Impossible style, to avoid the reckless ball of fury that is your bike. Don’t brake, turn, or stop at random. Nobody’s morning bike commute should be a daily reflex test. If you constantly hear braking around you, you’re probably clipping everyone in the vicinity.
But the most inexcusable crime I’ve seen thus far is the perpetual earbuds foul. Or, worse, the earbuds-while-texting-and-holding-coffee foul. How are you supposed to get to class safely if you can’t hear, or even see, your surroundings? If you can’t survive without your personal soundtrack for the five minutes it takes to get to class, you have bigger problems than that of getting to class on time.
Sometimes it takes a bike accident to set the worst of the bike offenders on the straight and narrow. I truly hope that doesn’t have to be the case for this freshman class. But if the biking etiquette on campus doesn’t improve, stat, we upperclassmen might have to bust out the water guns for some, shall we say, encouragement.
I’ve got one with your name on it, Earbud Boy.