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Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Biking, walking gain in San Francisco

Image of bicyclist Cheryl Brinkman
From the San Francisco Chronicle, 06.29.08:

Commuters ditching cars for bikes, foot power
In this era of increasing prices at the pump, bad air quality and general belt-tightening, more people in the Bay Area are opting to commute to work via heart-healthy biking or walking. But the financial and physical benefits aside, that kind of commuting has the potential to wreak havoc on one's professional image--even considering the casual-attire aesthetic that dominates many offices.

Graduate student Lisa Foster refuses to let the peddling keep her from wearing her pumps, as she wrote in an issue of the San Francisco Bike Coalition's Tube Times. "I really think bikes are made for people who wear heels," she said. "You don't have to walk in them. It's so much better."

New bike riders can benefit from the fashion-forward lessons learned by long-time cyclists, many of whom have perfected the little fashion tricks and tips that can ease the transition from congested city streets to cubicle.

Cheryl Brinkman...lives in the lower Haight and commutes 2 miles to her job as a product manager at McKesson Corp., in the Financial District. About her wardrobe, Brinkman said, "I've altered it for the better and only one thing that I don't wear now that I bike so much is long full skirts."

On the days she rides her bike, Brinkman tucks her skirt into a band of elastic that she wraps around one thigh, a homemade garter belt solution, as it were. And, she said, "I always have a small binder clip in my handbag, as well, to keep wrap skirts or dresses closed while pedaling."

She brings her purse but eschews wearing a helmet - not because she fears having dreaded "helmet hair" upon arriving at her destination, but because she believes it gives her an advantage on the road. "I feel safer in the city riding without," she said. "If I ride in Marin, I absolutely wear the helmet, but in the city, when you look more like an average person, I think drivers treat you that way. They give you a little room, treat you nicer." (Read more.)
Great article from San Francisco, with helpful advice for those prospective bike commuters who are concerned about the "dressing-for-the-office" challenge. The article features my friend Cheryl Brinkman, part of the creative team at the Less Car, More Life blog.

As indicated before on this blog, I share Brinkman's attitude on helmets. The anxiety over "helmet hair" is way, way overblown. However, if hair insecurity scares people from bike commuting, then I say "fine, don't wear one." (Helmets mitigate the consequences of a crash; helmets don't prevent a crash.)

Image: San Francisco Chronicle. Bike commuter Cheryl Brinkman of San Francisco
Visit: Facing High Gas Prices And Time Crunch, Commuters Start Biking, Wall Street Journal
Visit: Ride the rails to the river, Less Car, More Life
Visit: No belt, no bra, no pants?, Bike Commute Tips Blog
Visit: Bike Commute Myth Busting, Bike Commute Tips Blog
Visit: Bike commuters save gas, get exercise, Bike Commute Tips Blog
Visit: Paul Dorn's Bike Commuting Tips Site


Cold Calling Guru Jeff Stevenson said...

So, gas is now more expensive than it has ever been. The timing seems perfect for a Bicycle to Work! group on the LinkedIn business networking site. Oh! There already is one! Members pledge that they will try to ride their bicycle to work or on an errand at least once a week. Put more money in your pocket and not in your gas tank.

Gas prices are never going down folk. Never. Get used to it.

Human powered and public transportation will become vastly more important in the next 50 years. Not because its the right thing to do. Which it is. Not because it will help global warming. Which it will. Not because it will help you get and stay in shape. Which it will. Not because it will cut back on our dependence on foreign oil. Which it can. Not because of the decreased demand on bio-fuels. Which will help keep more people from starving as more arable land is converted from food crops to bio-fuel crops. (Don't get me started on the bio-fuels scam).

Bikes are going to become more important in the next 50 years for one main reason - ITS WAY TOO EXPENSIVE TO DRIVE EVERYWHERE ALL THE TIME. So get out there and start riding everywhere all the time. Spread the word. Make it a movement! Bicycle to work one day a week and start saving some dough..

Just go to my profile at and you can click on the group to be included. While you are there, don't forget to ask to link to my network of more than 10,700,000 like-minded professionals. I accept all invitations and look forward to meeting you.


Anonymous said...

I am still trying to work out the logic of the helmet argument here. If I understand it correctly, by not wearing a helmet when riding in the city, drivers will treat you as an inexperienced rider and give you more space and thus your safety is paradoxically increased by removing the one bit of safety equipment you have. And furthermore, this insight is only true within city limits, as soon as you get out of the city, the driver's no longer have sympathy for the poor helmelt-less beginner? You're kidding, right?

murphstahoe said...

Anonymous -

When the person interviewed goes riding in Marin, she probably is riding substantially faster on roads with no bike lanes and higher speed traffic, on roads with blind corners. The probability of a crash is substantially higher.

I have had 3 bad crashes in my life which resulted in injury, and have been hit by a car going 45 MPH (in that incident the car took it worse than me, the mirror broke off and I didn't even crash). All of these happened in rural settings, 2 were solo crashes where I went beyond the limits of my skill, and I broke my wrist when cut off by an inattentive driver.

In San Francisco, I have never been hit, and never crashed. Riding in SF is substantially safer than rural riding and typically involves less risks.

Paul Dorn said...


To clarify: Is it safer to wear a helmet when bicycling? Maybe. Is it safer to not wear a helmet? Maybe.

In short: I trust individuals to assess their risks and make their own choice regarding helmet use. New cyclist uncomfortable riding in traffic? Wear a helmet. Experienced cyclist with good skills commuting at moderate speed? Not necessary.

The emphasis on helmets is counterproductive, in my opinion. It's a concession to the motoring public--the concept that motorists have less responsibility (duty of care) than the bicyclists. Cars are the risk factor, not the bicyclist. They need to exercise duty of care.

Bicycling is safe. Countries with high bicycling mode share (Netherlands, Japan, Denmark) have low helmet use. That should be the objective: more bicyclists.

cadabeso said...

I believe bicyclists should wear helmets, but for a different reason than has been discussed here: visibility. A white or neon green/yellow/orange helmet, combined with brightly-colored clothing and good lights on the front and back of the bicyle, is one of the best ways to be seen by cars and, one assumes, to avoid getting into an accident in the first place. Especially in a city like Seattle, which has low driving visibility for eight months out of the year due to clouds, fog and rain.

Bicyclists who wear black or blue or other dark-colored helmets are, in my opinion, idiots.

Anonymous said...

Hi Paul, A basic tenant of life was stated by French philosofer Pascal more than 100 years ago. "If you live your life like there is a God and there isn't, you lose a few indulgences. If you live your life like there is no God and there is, you lose everything." The point: consequences always trump probabilities. You can probably get away with not wearing a helmet most of the time, but if you cannot handle the consequences of a head injury against metal or pavement, you would do well to wear a helmet all the time.

Anonymous said...

Why do I wear a helmet? Because the one time I crashed in San Francisco, I was wearing a helmet and I *still* got a concussion. Imagine what would have happened without the helmet. Do you really want to find out the hard way that you should have worn one?

clark said...

my younger and drastically overconfident self never used the helmet. the only time the last couple years i showed up someplace without one, an experienced rider chastised me about it, relating a story of her next door neighbor's brain injury sustained in a bike crash. so now i just wear it all of the time, like the seat belt in the car.
agree with anon's analysis of the SF commuter's twisted logic. all that will be out the window, if she does hit the pavement in a crash, eh.

Cheryl said...

I was a bit hesitant to even go into my personal helmet decision making process. I know how people re-act - I used to re-act like that as well - yes, I will come out of the helmet closet as a reformed "rabid pro-helmet advocate". What changed my mind was travel to bike friendly places like Copenhagen and Stockholm. And discovering that helmet laws in NZ had reduced the number of cyclists - the fear factor I guess.

When I ride my road bike, or tour, I wear a helmet mostly because I am more likely to wipe myself out going downhill on my road bike then when poodling around the city on my city bike.

A wonderful discussion of helmet laws and usage can be found on:

It's not clear cut black and white - this helmet issue - little in life is. Happy pedaling!