No, the voice of experience doesn't always tell us what we want to hear. The ones who have been there and done that come back and say it's not all biscuits and sweet-smelling lotions up there. Today the P-I C gets serious:
Dear P-I C,
Okay, I think I found a great route. But how will I know if it's really SAFE?
It is not safe. You will only ever have relative safety. The second you start thinking you're safe is exactly the moment you will be run down by a dude in an 80s model Pontiac. No, seriously, that happened to me. I was blithely riding along, thinking about what I was going to have for lunch, and the next thing you know I was being strapped to a backboard and loaded into an ambulance. There's really no good reason I should still have the use of my legs after that accident. Really. He ran into me from behind at 40 miles per hour. It is not safe out there, people.
Now, that said, please don't decide it's too dangerous to ride your bike to work. According to Robert, we are also all very likely to die from taking long, hot showers. Apparently the chlorine in the water turns into a poisonous gas which will certainly kill us all. But that doesn't stop us from showering, does it?
So try to do your part to keep yourself relatively safe. Some streets are better for bikes than others, obviously. Ride on the better ones. Keep your eyes and your ears open all the time. Don't do stupid things in traffic. Let motorists know your next moves. Make obvious gestures (no, not THOSE kinds of gestures!). Signal your turns. Be as aware as you possibly can about what's going on around you.
Here's my biggest tip, though. It's what's kept me relatively safe since that horrible accident of mine: I imagine that there is not one driver out there who is actually paying attention. That's right, NO ONE IS PAYING ATTENTION. If you remember that, it might just keep you off the backboard, out of the ambulance, and happily cycling in a post-industrialized fashion for many years to come.
Imagining nobody's paying attention is an interesting suggestion: in my opinion it represents a bit more sophisticated thinking than does the more common 'act like you're invisible.' New commuters could do a lot worse than follow the advice of the P-I C. She (yes she) really knows what she's talking about.
To comment on this or anything write robert at industializedcyclist dot com. Sorry I've been getting a bit behind responding to comments but I'll catch up.