The bicycle! Long a source of amusement, the latter half of the 20th century saw this two-wheeled locomotive vehicle become more prominent in American affairs. And therein lies the problem faced by state and municipal authorities - how to instruct the bike-riding population in the best practices with which to integrate their Schwinns and Raleighs into the automobile and pedestrian-choked streets of America's cities? There's only one solution, and that solution is, of course, comic books starring bicycle-themed superheroes!
Yes, it's Sprocket Man! Bursting forth in a blaze of orange and blue, ready to sprocket his way into your lives as he tells us all about bicycle safety. This comic holds some memories for us. Back in the 1970s for some reason we visited the government printing office downtown, and among the boring Consumer Product Safety Commission books, catalogs, and pamphlets, we spotted Sprocket Man, clearly designed with 70s comics kids in mind. I don't know what happened to the copy we bought that day but recently Bizarro Wuxtry in Athens GA found another one for us. And here it is, a fine example of the excellent use of taxpayer funds.
The looming, dramatic, probably traced image of Sprocket Man (not to be confused with Captain Sprocket, as seen in Archie's Mad House) informs us that the ANARCHY of the cyclist can be afforded NO LONGER! Bad news for all the Sex Pistols-themed cyclists out there, I guess.
Let's face it. Riding a bike in the city means taking your life in your hands. You could be throttled by a low-hanging branch, you could smash into a traffic sign or a post, slip on oil or gravel, bump into a pot hole or a lane marker, or get your tire wedged into parallel drain grates. Once you get out of the hospital, make sure to write your city's traffic engineer and tell them all about these hazardous conditions. They won't do anything, but they enjoy getting letters. It's a lonely job.
The key concept to safe cycling is to be predictable. Make eye contact with vehicle drivers, signal your moves, gradually ease your bike into the line of traffic, and use that Gil Kane "up the nostrils" pose whenever necessary!
But here's what we're really here for, lots of disaster-porn panels of cyclists nearly getting their clock cleaned by clueless, careening cars. Look, we know bad drivers cause way more trouble than bad cyclists, but their safety instruction comic book will have to wait for the introduction of Internal Combustion Engine Man.
Oh, look at this sweet, innocent, trusting cyclist, assuming that a car is going to come to a full stop at a stop sign.
We all know that cyclists should stop at stop signs to avoid the dangers of being hit by cars. However, this merely shifts the danger to that of being hit by other cyclists, because we also all know that cyclists *never* stop at stop signs.
Don't take it from me, take it from the floating, featureless skull of Sprocket Man - riding against traffic is dangerous!
I don't know what it's like in your city, but here every single bike lane has been bitterly opposed by anti-bike-lane complainers who insist bike lanes will increase traffic congestion, destroy local businesses, and lead to barbarian invasions and widespread panic. And sure, this all would happen, except our bike lanes were immediately blocked by parked Uber/Lyft drivers.
Yeah, pedestrians! Leave the bike ramps for bicycles, so they can... dangerously zip down them into traffic? Wait a minute.
He's seen a lot of bad riding but this sidewalk-riding clown is too much even for Sprocket Man.
I feel like there might be a bigger issue here with the high hedge blocking this driver's view of everything, not just bikes, but yeah, don't ride on the sidewalk.
Was there at some point an epidemic of people only using either the front or the rear brakes? Were people just stupider in the 1970s? Don't be like those people. Be like the smiling man. Use both brakes.
Sprocket Man really is the Jack Chick of bicycle safety comics, just a parade of doom and horror filled with ARRRGHs as sinners - or cyclists - graphically pay for their lifetime of misdeeds.
Have fun with your bike! Garland that cycle with as many lights and reflectors as possible! Or, if you're Sprocket Man, just attach a light to your freakishly giant forehead.
Be predictable, unlike the design of this confusing page!
Endlessly tormented by cars, cyclists take out their frustrations on the only available targets, the pedestrians. Pedestrians in turn achieve satisfaction by disobeying "Don't Walk" signs.
Instead of silently smashing them down into the pavement, why not politely inform the pedestrian what you're about to do?
So when you're tired or the hill's steep or the buffalo come to town, just ignore what you spent on spandex, helmets, water bottles, lights, pumps, forget that two grand for the bike itself, and be a pedestrian for a little while. It won't kill you.
Another prime Cyclist In Peril illustration. Watch out for opening car doors! And giant Sprocket Man Hands!
I know you want to use your comical horn or your little tinkly bell, but hollering is more effective.
Ride creatively! Use your powers to warp reality and create an interdimensional portal to the countryside!
A good way to remember this particular safety tip is to use this handy rhyme. "When Sprocket Man's hands are at 7 and 11, use a backpack or crash your bike, die, and go to heaven."
No locking system is foolproof! For instance, Sprocket Man used one of those expensive Kryptonite bike locks, but his entire body except for his head and hand was stolen anyway!
At the very least use a heavy chain... when you come across the low-life stealing your bike. A few whips with that chain and he'll find some other bike to steal!
Sure, sleeping with your bike LOOKS fun. Have you ever tried getting chain grease out of your sheets?
Okay, don't lock your bike up in hidden areas, sure. On the other hand, sometimes you can lock your bike up at one of the most crowded, busiest intersections in town, and that bike will still get stolen, in plain sight of hundreds of uninterested bystanders. Ask us how we know!
"Yeah, we could have designed Sprocket Man with a bike helmet as part of his outfit. But the super hero comics our artists are swiping out of, well, they don't got none of them things in there."
I don't have anything funny to say about this, this is all good advice. If you don't feel comfortable inspecting your bike yourself, why not wait until the first nice day of spring and bring it into your local shop? You'll be there along with all the other hundreds of bike owners who noticed the weather was nice and that they really needed to get their bike tuned up.
Well, we're finally at the end of this exciting Sprocket Man adventure and it's time for Sprocket Man to thank the people who made him possible... that is to say, he's not going to mention the artists or writers, just the Consumer Product Safety Commission and the Urban Bikeway Design Collaborative, who apparently have a big pile of Marvel and DC comics lying around their bike shed they can swipe from. And hey- it got our attention back in the 70s, so I guess it got the job done.
Ah yes, best part - the part where Sprocket Man embodies the lust for vengeance lurking deep in the heart of anyone who's ever had their bike ripped off. Smash 'em, Sprocket Man! Smash 'em good! And with that we say "so long" to our bike safety and maintenance hero. Remember, be predictable, ride creatively, wear a helmet, use a big chain, sleep with your bike, and stay off the darn sidewalks!
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