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9 helpful rules for cycling at Stanford

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What’s more Stanford than biking everywhere? Don’t answer that; it’s rhetorical. To save you the trouble, here are three examples of things that are more Stanford than bicycle riding: coding, Full Moon on the Quad and drinking boba. But, if you’re like me, you probably did (or do) fantasize about cruising around on your 27-speed beast with a belly full of dining hall eggs and bacon, textbooks weighing down your backpack and a eucalyptus breeze brushing gently against your beard on your way to sit in a classroom and absorb pure enlightenment.

That’s … pretty much how it is, with a few caveats and asterisks. When I started writing for The Daily last year, I promised myself two things: 1) I’d never tell anybody what to do (it just seems so bossy, you know?), and 2) I’d never write a list article (it feels like a literary copout). But here we are, fall quarter is starting, and if you’re going to be joining Stanford’s community of 11,000 daily pedal-powered two-wheelers, I feel it’s my duty to give you a heads-up about how we do things around here. So without further ado, here you are:

  1. Use your hands as little as possible. You don’t want to be that person in complete control of your bike in case of a collision. If you weren’t in control, it wasn’t your fault, right?
  2. Now that your hands are free, bust out your phone and use your riding time to do something productive, like answer your TA’s email or FaceTime your goldfish back home. Stanford’s fast-paced environment demands absolute time management, so try to cram as much as you can into every three-minute commute. It’s the only way to make time for boba.
  3. If you absolutely can’t think of anything productive to do on your phone, make sure you’re staring down at your front tire instead of looking around. There’s nothing worse than seeing an imminent collision before it happens, and this way you’ll also avoid having to smile at someone you recognize from NSO but whose name you forgot.
  4. Oil is for salads – keep it off your chain. You need that thing to grumble and groan with every pedal stroke you make, otherwise how will people know you’re around? It’s like the mufflers Harley riders take off their motorcycles, and there’s nothing we love hearing more than a grumbling pig motorcycle, right? People need to hear you coming from miles away. While we’re at it, keep your seat lowered to the most arthritis-inducing angle possible and keep your gears cranked up to the same spot until they rust solid.
  5. At the northeast and southeast corners of the quad are two traffic circles. When approaching them, if you’re not already on your phone, bust it out and at least pretend to use it. If there’s anywhere risky to run into people you know, it’s there. Also, it might look like everyone is going around counterclockwise, the way cars would, but make sure you go the opposite direction at least once a day. If accidents stop happening there, we won’t be able to call them “Circles of Death” anymore.
  6. If riding with a buddy, or two, or seventeen, ride side by side and at the slowest possible pace you can manage without tipping over. If you’re not in a hurry, why should anyone else be? They should’ve managed their time better by writing emails on their way to class. This rule is especially important if you can take up the opposite lane. If people aren’t going your way, they’re wrong and need to be aware of that.
  7. If riding alone, weave back and forth across lanes on every street, sidewalk and footpath that you ride on. Sure, convention says keep right, but if you wanted stuffy convention you should’ve gone to Yale. Anyway, no matter what side you’re on, it’s somebody’s right side.
  8. We don’t use bicycle lights after dark here – our FaceTime screens light our faces up plenty. But if you absolutely must put a light on your handlebars, make sure you angle it up at an obnoxiously steep angle so that it hits other cyclists in the face. It’s for your safety — not theirs — and you’d rather they blindly crash into bushes than run into you, right?
  9. Finally, the most Stanford thing you can do with your bicycle is lock it to the racks outside your dorm and leave it there to rust until it gets repo’d by the cops and sold back to the next group of students who think they want to ride bicycles at Stanford.

By the way, I was kidding about the textbooks in my fantasy backpack. Everyone just downloads PDFs. Oh, and welcome to Stanford.

Contact Nestor Walters at waltersx ‘at’ stanford.edu.

Nestor was born in Bangladesh and raised mostly in Greece. When he was nineteen he moved to the United States to join the Navy, where he served for ten years. He is now a junior at Stanford University, where he is rumored to be the only person in the math department with cut-off t-shirt sleeves. He also dabbles in creative writing.