if you're bored, you're not paying attention

Streets of San Francisco.

There’s a certain mad intensity to riding a bicycle in downtown SF–a bit like driving a car in Manhattan. You have to be hyper-alert, and a bit aggressive, in order to stay safe and get to where you want to go. It’s like a high-stakes video game. Already I’m starting to swear under my breath at cars and I’m sure I’ll be flipping them off before long.

Still, I live in fear that someone will sideswipe me or–my real paranoia–open a door in front of me. While I have excellent visibility–I’m up high, and I can see all around me–I know from driving experience that people in cars can’t always see cyclists clearly. This morning some fiftyish white guy in a black Mercedes did one of those San Francisco “I’m going to turn left as soon as the light turns green, before all the oncoming cars pull into the intersection” moves. Only I was already in the intersection. He stopped well short of me but it made me catch my breath.

So at lunchtime I rode over to Mike’s Bikes and picked up the brightest yellow windbreaker I could find, a Pearl Izumi Zephrr Jacket in appropriately-named “screaming yellow.” This thing is glaring safety-yellow–in the sunlight it is so bright that I probably qualify as a visual hazard. It’s so yellow that when you hold it next to other yellow things (like a banana) it makes them look orange. Plus it’s got reflective piping so it’ll show up in the dark, if I’m ever stupid enough to ride my bike at dark. It has only one pocket, on the inside, but that’s a minor drawback–it’s lightweight, cuts the wind, and is lightweight enough to wear even when it’s warm out.

I picked up some reflective stickers to complete the set. I’ll slap those on the helmet and my bike and maybe put a few extras on the jacket. To hell with fashion. I want to be seen.


  1. thane

    You need a video camera on your helmet so you can make sure to capture any accidents on film. Not as good as avoiding them, but it helps.

  2. Mark

    Right, KK was doored on Mass Ave in Cambridge, right by MIT. Cracked her helmet, fortunately not her head.

  3. Mark

    That’s kind of funny–now your site tells me “Your comment is awaiting moderation.” I hope you find it moderate 🙂

  4. I.

    You might also consider getting a horn that blares “La Cucaracha” at skin-peeling volume.

    Aaaagh! Urban biking terrifies me.

  5. beautiful brenda

    happy to hear you are still riding .. mr yellow ..
    riding in SF is wild .. you should try it in Costa Rica
    the people of this country are so laid back .. calm
    easy going .. content wonderful .. warm .. etc..
    BUT .. you put them in a car or a motorcycle or bike ..
    and hold on to your heart .. they are Insane ..
    no rules .. no nothing .. just drive to get there ..
    what is the hurry .. where are they going in such a insane rush .. it has me puzzled .. still alive and kicking in costa rica .. peace

  6. Peter

    Having a door opened in front of him happened to my boss about 7 or 8 years ago. It ripped up his foot something nasty. Luckily he used his belt as a tourniquet. He spent several months in hospital and years with a cane.

    The taxi driver didn’t even get slap wristies.

  7. Craig

    Hey that’s my photo. Neat.

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