While listening to NPR recently I heard a story about a bike commuter hazard I had never heard of before - dive bombing birds. The story highlighted the plight of some Australian cyclists that were being attacked by magpies. You can listen to the full story on the NPR web site here.
The story noted that in an attempt to stave off the birds, cyclists employed a variety of helmet hacks. I Googled around a bit to see if I could find some of the examples that were talked about in the radio story. The Interweb did not disappoint and I actually found numerous pages that addressed this topic.
To give you an idea of some of the solutions, the following bullets come from wikiHow:
- Wear eyes in the back of your head. No, this is not a joke! For the reason provided above, it is following the reasoning that magpies are less likely to attack if you are looking at them. To this end, add fake eyes to your headgear to make the magpie think you are watching it from either side of your head. Craft store bought eyes are ideal - stick them on and remove them when not needed. Another trick is to wear your sunglasses back to front.
- If you are riding a bike the helmet can be used to mount a number of bright zip-ties. By not cutting the excess length you create a bright distracting display that many people find more effective than fake eyes, or use them in combination with fake eyes.
- Convert an ice cream container into a hat. Staple some elastic to the sides to make a chinstrap and pop it on your head. If the magpie swoops, it hits plastic and does less damage (hopefully none).
Via a message board on the Cycling News web site comes the following picture, showing the zip tie strapped on helmet method in full effect:
Bicycle Network features some thoughts on the topic along with some pictures and even features a video that tests several of the methods. The actual "solution" in the video is troublesome, but does seem effective - wearing no helmet at all seemed to keep the birds away in this test.
I have never encountered a dive bombing bird, however I have found the squirrels often feel compelled to run right at me rather than away from me when I come across them. I have never actually hit one, although I have run over a rat.
One night I came around a corner and saw a shadowy figure dart in front of me and felt a "thump - thump" as my front and rear wheel ran over something. I had a feeling I knew what had happened without even stopping, and the next day on the commute back to work my suspicion was confirmed when a lifeless rat was lying right where I ran over it.
Do you have run ins with nature on your commute? Are you an Australian that has been dive bombed? How do you seek to keep safe when nature attacks? Feel free to email us or leave comments.