Roller blading in a suit
Roller blading in a suit
I've been roller blading between 2 - 20 km every day in London for nearly a year. I find it a good way to exercise and generally faster than public transport, with my average speed being 16 km/h. 

They’re easier to store than a bike and you can legally skate on the pavement, which is one over bicycles. However, this makes rollerblading very dangerous for you and others.

Below are some rules and tips I’ve discovered for a safer journey.

Personal safety
Wear a helmet. I don't go over often, but once I did I smashed my head on the pavement and got a lovely concussion. Now I wear a helmet.

Wrist guards, up to you. I've heard stories of them saving wrists. In my opinion the slippery plastic on the guards themselves is a hazard. I fell over on a ramp once and put my hands out in front to save my fall, but the plastic made both hands slip way out to the side and I ended up breaking my nose.

The plastic also makes it harder to grab things like barriers and lamp-posts to stabilise with your hands. So for the novice, yes. Intermediate, don't bother. 

I DO wear leather gloves, however. This adds extra grip and stops me getting grazes on the palms. It also keeps your fingers warm in the cooler months.

If you fall down, stay down (provided you're not on a road) for at least 10 seconds. It can take that long just for the adrenaline to go away and for the blood to start going around your brain again. Better to find out you broke your femur while lying down, you dig?

There's no "one" way to fall on the blades and be OK. The things that I've found work for me are:

1. Get your bum to the floor ASAP. As soon as you know you're going down sink your bum to the floor and put your legs out in front of you slightly to one side. This way you don't fall on your face and you spread the impact over your whole body, not just your hands. Doing exactly this saved my face, although I did mess up somebodies fence…

2. When you trip or start to fall, relax. Don't make a quick jerk movement (you have to train yourself to not freak out) as you will often over compensate and go over another way. You'll often find you have longer to correct a trip or fall than you think, so take a brief 200 ms to contemplate the best correction for balance. This is how I avoid 95% of crashes.

The hazards
Your biggest hazard is other people; Cars, bikes and pedestrians. 

Cars: Won’t always stop for you at zebra crossings, so stop and use your arms to indicate.

Buses: Will never stop to let you pass.

Taxis: are almost as bad as busses. One actually crossed the zebra crossing after I got on it, rest assured he was informed of his error.

Pedestrians: Wildly unpredictable, some move, some don't, some go one way, some the other. In general people are more likely to move back along a path they just came from (so walking left to right they will jump to the left over the right even if going right is a safer option) 

The obvious things are; slow down when you reach a junction, don't pass people unless there's enough room and if you crash into them it’s always going to be your fault. So be polite and apologise profusely.

The not so obvious ones; children up to about age 10 no matter what will always run into your path if they see you coming. I'm not sure why, probably because they are so intensely focused. So, if you see kids just slow down to a dawdle. 

If you bump into someone force yourself to skate slow for 5 minutes. The idea is to associate making a mistake with something really annoying, going slow. I turn it into a game, the objective is to never make contact with other people or the floor. If I do, I lose!

Finally, look where you’re going. You want to be looking about 10 – 15 meters ahead. You will find that about half of the people on the street will not be looking a lot further than their two feet (or iPhone). Looking ahead is how I avoid 99.9% of collisions. 

A quick note here. At speed or in wet conditions I always go for a T-stop, it keeps my weight evenly distributed and I can easily move to change direction and avoid something. However, this will mess your wheels up. When you can, use the back brake to avoid this. Bear in mind the back brake can be a bit unpredictable and might let you down at speed.

An interesting statistic, I've been blading about two, five kilometre journeys nearly every day for a year. Let’s take off the weekends and call it 341 days. In that time I can only think of two crashes where I got hurt (maybe 5 where I got a little bruise or scrape and 15 little falls)

So, per kilometre, my chance of getting hurt is 0.03%

For getting a minor bruise its 0.10%

And for hitting the floor its 0.34% 

The only other thing to say is be safe and enjoy your ride!

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