Worcester, Mass.
April 4, 1999

Biking saves money and environment

By Lynne Tolman

   A simple kindness to the planet for Earth Day would be to leave your gas-guzzling, air-polluting car at home. Why not pedal instead?
   Biking to the Earth Day celebration April 24 in Green Hill Park in Worcester wouldn't be as fraught with obstacles as, say, biking to work. As a bike commuter, besides contending with potholes and rush-hour traffic, you must consider what to wear, whether you can shower at work, how to carry everything you need, where to lock the bike, and how to ride safely after dark if need be. Forget picking up the dry cleaning or dropping Junior and his science project off at school.
   A bike can more easily prove its worth on less-pressured trips, such as Saturday errands or a visit to a park or playground, suggests state bicycle-pedestrian coordinator Josh Lehman.
   The Worcester chapter of MassBike aims to demonstrate the viability of bike transportation with a "bike vs. car vs. bus" comparison on Earth Day. Three travelers will start at 1 p.m. from Cleveland Avenue, near Webster Square, and head for Green Hill Park, one on a bike, one in a car and one on a city bus.
   It's not a race. Cyclists and drivers are subject to the same rules of the road -- no running stop signs or red lights, for example. The idea is for all three to proceed at a safe, comfortable pace, and to evaluate whether our cultural predisposition to hop in the car for every trip stands up to scrutiny.
   Greg Root, MassBike Worcester president, expects both car driver and cyclist can make the 4.6-mile trip in about 15-20 minutes. The bus ride might take longer, but of course the passenger doesn't have to hunt for a parking place.

   Dr. Judson Somerville, paralyzed from the waist down at age 28 in a bike crash on Mount Wachusett nine years ago, has received a $545,000 settlement from the makers and sellers of the Team Fuji bicycle and its rims and tires.
   Somerville sued the bike companies after he hit a stone wall while riding down the paved auto road from the mountain summit on Aug. 5, 1990.
   He believes the front tire rolled off the rim. It was a tubular tire, or sew-up, as opposed to the more common clincher. Tubulars, favored by many racers, are one-piece tires, consisting of an inner tube enclosed in a sewn-together casing that is glued to the rim. Clinchers use separate inner tubes and are seated on the rim with air pressure.
   Somerville's lawyer argued that the manufacturers and retailers did not provide adequate instructions for the sophisticated sew-up tire.
   Defendants contributing to the settlement included frame maker Toshuku, rim maker Mavic, tire manufacturer Hutchinson, and retailers Performance Inc. and Bicycle Alley of Worcester.
   Somerville, a Texas native, had moved to Worcester for a residency in anesthesiology at the University of Massachusetts medical center. He completed his medical training after the crash and has a medical practice in Laredo, Texas.
   The first federal standard for bike helmets went into effect last month, covering helmets manufactured after March 10. Look for helmets with CPSC certification, meaning they meet the requirements of the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.
   Helmets made before March 10 are still legal, and much of what is in stores today is the older stock. The new standard is slightly more demanding than the most prevalent older standard, that of the American Society for Testing and Metals. For example, CPSC requires helmets to better cover the rear of the head.
  The Bicycle Helmet Safety Institute recommends ASTM-certified helmets as a second choice, noting that such helmets should cost less than ones with CPSC approval. Snell B-95 or Snell B-94 stickers require even better performance, the institute says, but many Snell-certified helmets on the market only meet the older, B-90 standard. Also, Safety Equipment Institute certification meets the CPSC standard.
  The institute also issues this caveat: "CPSC covers only bicycle helmets. You will still see helmets on the market that don't meet the CPSC standard and just omit any reference to use for bicycling. They can be for skating, skateboarding, surfing or tiddlywinks, as long as they are not labeled 'for bicycling.' They can be sold in bike shops or in discount stores on the same shelf as the bicycle helmets."

Lynne Tolman's bicycling column archives
Lynne Tolman's home page