Baba’s bike tips

Ed McLaughlin

Photo By stacey kennelly

Bicycling is part of Chico resident Ed McLaughlin’s genetic makeup—it’s in his DNA. Since he moved to Chico 35 years ago, he’s become known as one of Chico’s biggest bike advocates, having lobbied for—and succeeded in getting—bike paths in the city and bike racks on B-Line buses. Aside from his service on the Chico Velo Cycling Club’s board of directors for several years, he has also become a pioneer for bike-safety awareness, especially in light of a 2007 bicycling accident in Bidwell Park that left him with a spinal injury and put him in a wheelchair. Years ago, he appeared in Chico Velo advertisements as “Baba Sez,” a character who encourages bikers and motorists to respect the road and one another. Today, he is reviving that character through monthly ads in the Chico News & Review that he’s paying for out of his own pocket, helping him to continue his reign as Chico’s “bike king.”

Who is Baba?

Baba is me. This just came about one night at the Red Tavern. Back when Chico Velo used to run the ads, they were really well-received. The ads I kinda liked because it wasn’t a cop or environmentalist telling you what to do; it was Baba, a relatively neutral character with a smile on his face. We stopped for six months to put that money into a TV ad, and they were going to start up again around 2007, but then I had my bike crash and they never got picked up again.

Why are these ads necessary?

There are ways that our roads operate that people don’t understand, especially cyclists. Why the signal isn’t changing for you, where you need to be in the lane, things like that.

What will the ads look like?

What I want is to have a little cartoon balloon coming off of Baba that says, “Give respect, get respect,” and under that “Same road, same rules.” The vehicle code applies to everyone.

What are some common cycling misconceptions?

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Bicyclists sometimes run stop-signs and -signals, they ride two and three [side by side] and clog up the road, and motorists pass too closely. There are also issues with lane positioning as you get into an intersection depending on where you’re going through that intersection, how to handle stuff like that. As we get into the time change in the fall the ads will talk about the ways to have bike lighting and ways to stay safe, and how valuable it is to have the way lighted for you. Also, things like if you see something wrong in the street like a big pothole, how to that deal with that.

What is Baba’s main message?

Give respect, get respect. We’re all in this together.