How to Not Die in LA This Summer

Did you know that men are twice as likely as women to get melanoma?

Genetically speaking, we aren’t more prone — we just tend to take greater risks when it comes to our skin.

Same goes for the water (sharks, riptide), the woods (bears, rattlesnakes) and driving (idiots).

So seeing as summer is the season we tend to be at our most swashbuckling, we decided to ask a few local experts how to stay safe when confronted with all the above.

While on the bicycle …

The chaps at Solé Bicycles ride to work every day. They say the biggest threat to your safety is — surprise! — L.A. drivers, who are too busy texting and Instagramming to value human life. Aside from using a helmet and good lights, do the following:

  • Exercise vigilance. Watch for the signs of a smartphone-distracted driver; they could be slowing down, swerving or frequently blocking traffic.
  • Use one earbud and don’t use noise-canceling ear buds. We aren’t saying ditch the music entirely: you just need to be able to hear approaching traffic or another biker, which will give you much needed extra reaction time in case an evasive maneuver is needed.
  • Take the lane. Riding next to traffic can get a little hairy, especially on a one-lane street with car parking on the left. On a busy road (like Abbot Kinney) you run the risk of getting pancaked by a parked car opening their door. In order to avoid this, you are allowed to “take the lane.” Basically, if the original bike lane is too narrow to share with a car, you have the right to ride near the center of the lane.

While swimming in the ocean …

Thanks to warmer waters, there are more sharks swimming around than usual. But don’t fret. First, there are always about 14-30 sharks swimming between Redondo and Santa Monica, and attacks are rare. That being said, don’t go in the water when you’re bleeding, don’t thrash around and stay out at dawn and dusk, which is their dining hour.

Riptides are of far greater risk than sharks. Here’s how to spot one, and how to navigate your way out of one (swim sideways, parallel to the shore):

Lastly, be very cautious about which beaches you go to. Heal the Bay released its 2017 Beach Report Card, and while the winter’s rains were great for our land, they pushed lots of industrial waste into the waterways. We know of people who’ve gotten sick near Santa Monica. Go north to Malibu and beyond. Not only are the waters cleaner, they’re also less sharky (partly because it’s colder water; sharks also favor dirty water).

While walking through the woods…

Stay bear aware. Bears don’t really go for people, but there are about 35,000 of them in CA, and they’re super adaptable, so you could run into one (your correspondent has on numerous occasions). Never run. Get as big as possible and yell. Better yet, avoid them. Keep your food in a bear canister when camping, carry bear spray and always make a lot of noise while walking through the woods; when you run out of things to say to your hiking companions, periodically yell, “Hi bear!”

Hot days also bring out the rattlesnakes. You’re less likely see them if you stick to the trail, but be aware when hopping over rocks and dead logs. Always wear protective shoes (not sandals) and if you see a snake, back away or walk around it with a wide berth. If you’re hiking with your dog, consider having them rattlesnake trained. In the rare chance that you get bit, first call 911 or the state poison control system (800-222-1222). Then keep the area immobilized, remove articles of clothing and jewelry, and await help.

While in the sun …

Evan Rieder, NYC dermatologist and lover of tacos, told us over tacos that we need to use about a shot glass’s worth of sunblock. UV & UB; broad spectrum; 15-30 SPF (anything over 30 is overkill). If you’re not going to use it as you’re supposed to — i.e., reapplying every 80 minutes (45 if you’re sweating or in the water) — go with a higher SPF. Elta MD is a great, liquidy smooth lotion with a nice matte finish.  

Other good tips: stay in the shade during peak hours. Consider a beach umbrella, hats and UV-protected clothes. And surfers: if you’re not wearing a wetsuit, use a rash guard. All of this will help you avoid heat stroke, another threat to your health.

While on the drink …

We were at a wedding recently catching up with old friends. One in particular was showing signs of intoxication — chatty, grabby, floating eyes — when suddenly the bartender appeared with a glass of water. Turns out our friend had given the bartender a tip early on with instructions to dole out water if she was looking sloppy. Genius. It’s going to be hot this summer. Booze is a diuretic; take proper measures to stay hydrated.