No, the Pool Noodle Bike Hack Isn’t Great. At All.

No, the Pool Noodle Bike Hack Isn’t Great. At All.
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Someone put a pool noodle on a bike to keep drivers away. And now media outlets are all over the place are saying this a genius and that the pool noodle bike hack is the greatest thing ever.

No. It’s not.

Using a Pool Noodle as a Bike Hack Sucks

Any transportation planners who see a cyclist using a pool noodle as a visual cue to drivers should hang their heads in shame. It means that their infrastructure is so bad that drivers don’t feel safe.

bicycle infrastructure
Protected bike lanes would work far better than the pool noodle bike hack.

That’s epic bike planning failure. You think cyclists in Finland or the Netherlands need pool noodles to stay safe?

No. Because they have good cycling infrastructure and their drivers are relatively civilized.

This is what the Pool Noodle Bike Hack Really Means

Municipalities in the U.S. were delighted by this news. It cushions them against the abject, epic failure of most towns and cities.

That’s because it’s another device that dumps the full burden of safe cycling on cyclists and absolves drivers and planners. The City of Mesa in my city, which has exactly one good piece of cycling infrastructure along the Rio Salado, shared this post on one of its Facebook accounts:

I called them out, and of course they said it was “just interesting.” Smart cyclists see this for what it is: an attempt to push the narrative that cyclists alone bear the responsibility of safety.

Oh, a driver killed a cyclist? Were they wearing a helmet*? Did they have flashing lights? And now … did they have a pool noodle? Because that’s the best bike hack!

This is Why People Don’t Ride Bikes

Why invest in cycling infrastructure when you can tell people to wear helmets, ride with lights, use horns/bells or strap a pool noodle to their bike?

Casual riders see these so-called hacks and think “if I have to do all that, maybe riding a bike isn’t safe.” I see where they’re coming from. Even experienced cyclists have a hard time steeling themselves to ride around cars.

And before anyone starts with the tired “cyclists break the law” argument … so do drivers. Nearly every driver speeds. When I drive 70 in the carpool lane, I’m speeding. And yet I get tailgated, cut off and passed by people who think that’s way too slow. Drivers run stop signs and stop lights constantly. The consequences of their transgressions are far greater in 4,000 pounds of metal than a person who is 170 pounds of flesh and another 30 of metal. (I believe people who like arguing would call this a “false equivalency” or if “whataboutism” if they favor new vernacular.)

pool noodle bike hack
Also better than a pool noodle bike hack: bike/pedestrian paths completely separated from drivers.

Fix the Real Problems, Stop the Band-Aid Approach

Every ride I take, I encounter some absolutely wretched infrastructure. People park their gasmobiles in bike lanes or use them as turning lanes. The bike lanes disappear, or it’s completely unclear what’s supposed happen near intersections. Drivers get away with literal murder, and cyclists have more close calls than you can imagine. But nobody measures close calls.

So to all you touting the pool noodle as the best bike hack: It’s not. It’s a sign that cycling infrastructure, transit policy and law enforcement have all failed.

Bonus Round: Reddit Piles on the Pool Noodle Bike Hack

Ahhhh, Reddit … the source of so much Internet fun. The cyclists there took to the pool noodle bike hack topic and squirted some humor into it. A few choice bits:

‘Murica loves noisy, smelly gasmobiles. It hates cyclists. But what if the cyclist has a flag on their bike?!

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On point. Still lets planners off the hook a bit, but not every response on the Internet can cover every angle.

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I can’t resist a Star Wars reference. Especially when someone else replies “A more elegant noodle for a more civilized age.” That’s how you win at Internetting, if I can verb the noun.

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This person certainly wears a silicon wristband that says “WWBCD?” That’s What Would Bruce Campbell Do? And the answer is always “put a chainsaw on it.”

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This is a real cyclist: They know the bike industry loves a chance to make money and churn out some carbon fiber bike bling.

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Not really pool noodle-related, but definitely a good question. I’ve ridden among autonomous vehicles many times. And I’ve had no problems. They pay attention. They don’t hate cyclists. They’re not texting. They are able to stay in their lane.

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*I absolutely love wearing bike helmets. They keep me cool through venting and keeping the sun off my noggin. I hate, though, that the first question when a driver kills a cyclist is “were they wearing a helmet?”

 

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