Pokécycling: Dos and Don'ts of Pokémon GO on Two Wheels
By now you have most likely encountered an increased amount of mobile phone users out in public gazing into their screens. Those in pairs or groups may be exclaiming, “I found him over here!” or “You’re already on Level 6??” Yes…it’s Pokémon GO, the new mobile game released by Niantic Labs that has exploded internationally within its first few days.
Often, with a phenomenon comes controversy. A quick search will yield numerous accounts of dangerous occurrences happening to players, or important historic (and even sacred) sites being the locations of scenarios in the game encouraging players to cause a slight ruckus in some locations.
One of those controversies that we're particularly interested in is the compatibility of the game with bicycling. Upon first glance it seems like an ideal situation: A video game that will get people (especially the younger generation) up from the TV and outside to explore. The game tends to focus much of its activity around walking in public spaces, particularly parks. To get to each location quicker, bicycling seems as though it would be the golden key. Yet, there are downsides.
According to the Pokémon GO website: “For safety’s sake, never play Pokémon GO when you’re on your bike, driving a car, riding a hoverboard, or anything else where you should be paying attention.” Although we do not condone disregarding Niantic's advice, bicycling is an excellent means to get from point to point. But when your phone begins to vibrate: come to a complete stop in a safe location, then fling your Poké Balls at that Zubat.
Here is some useful advice for yourself or to share as a parent:
ADVANTAGES OF “POKÉCYLCLING” OVER WALKING OR USING A VEHICLE
- Parks and public spaces often contain the most clusters of Pokéstops and are more accessible via bicycles. E.g. The Empire State Plaza in Albany, NY is a treasure trove for Pokéstops, but parking can be very difficult, particularly on weekdays, and bicycling is limited to certain areas.
- You can cover more ground cycling than walking, and in a vehicle you may not always be able to safely pull off to the side.
- Vehicles move too quickly for many of the features of the game to respond whereas walking can be too slow (and often leads to players not paying attention to where they’re walking). Bicycling falls right in between.
- Bicycles and mobile phones are not always a good match. View the safety tips below.
- You must bike slowly for eggs to hatch in the game. Apparently there is a cap on the speed at which you travel in order for eggs to hatch. Estimates have ranged the cutoff from as high as 20mph to as low as 9mph.
- Many locations are inaccessible to bicycles thus causing players to either walk along with their bikes, or leave them behind…hopefully locked up.
POKÉCYLCLING SAFETY TIPS
- Purchase a hands-free device such as a handlebar mount. NEVER ride with one hand on the handlebar with your phone in the other! Even the slightest bump can throw even an experienced cyclist off his or her bike.
- Avoid looking at your screen while in motion. This equates to “texting while driving” but on a bike. Keep your phone on vibrate…you’ll feel it through the handlebars when a Pokémon is close.
- Be aware of your surroundings when stopping. Move to the side of the pathway or sidewalk while attempting to capture that wild Drowsee. It will still be in range within at least a dozen feet or so…plenty of space for you to move aside from other pedestrians.
- Be aware of the city/town laws regarding riding on sidewalks and park pathways.
- Lock your bike for those inaccessible places. Although you may be excited to run to that particular spot, a potential thief will see how distracted you are. It will only take seconds for your bike to be swiped.
- As always, wear your helmet and have both front and rear lights in the event it begins to get dark.