Thursday, May 6

Arg! Cars!!!

I am in hate with all things traveling on four wheels today. And the reality is that this forthcoming rant isn't really going to be about bikes. Being on a bike today has given me this perspective, but its human behavior I want to expound upon, not car vs. bike.

People make bad choices. And when we don't understand the choices others make that are different from the choices we would make we assume they are making bad choices. Often we feel it is our duty to educate or punish those who we perceive as having made bad decisions.

I make a decision to ride my bike to work. I can give you a hundred reasons why it’s a good decision and I can give you a good number of reasons its not such a good decision. But the good reasons to move forward are based on both personal and community oriented values. I want the positive health benefits. I want to save myself money and I feel as if I'm contributing to my fellow commuters by reducing congestion and traffic and my fellow co-workers by freeing up premium parking. I could go on about saving the planet and reducing my carbon footprint, but the reality is that those are small, small reasons in my mind. And if they were the only reasons it wouldn't be enough for me to forgo to car.

Other people make the decision, though they would tell you it’s a necessity, to drive to work or wherever on a given morning. They see a cyclist in front of them on the road, or a slow moving car, or a pedestrian or some obstacle to their forward progress toward their initial goal for the day. Do they release pressure on the gas pedal, signal to move left, give the other person enough personal space to feel safe? Nope.

Jewell Avenue is four lanes. The speed limit is 40 mph. The traffic is relatively light. In fact, clusters of 4-6 cars will zoom down the road together from light to light and otherwise the road is nearly silent. It is ebb and flow, splashes of traffic interspersed with calm.

The 6:30 commuter crowd seems to be much more mellow and considerate to slower movers. The 7:30 crowd is out for blood.

A lone car screams west at 50 mph in the right lane. There are no other cars nearby. There is a cyclist in the right lane ahead. Slow down? Get over? Nope. Less than three feet of space exists between the vehicles that are traveling at drastically different speeds.

For the motorist the occurrence barely registers. Maybe a blip in the blood pressure, most likely not. The cyclist's heart pounds…in anger, in fear. The motorist drives on to work and most likely forgets (if they were ever aware) about the situation. The cyclist has almost gotten his heart rate back to normal when the same thing happens a second time, a third. Then as he approaches construction and attempts to merge from the ample shoulder where he has considerately been riding into the lane of traffic by giving a hand signal, he is once again buzzed and has had enough. But what can he do? Nothing. There is no recourse. The only way out is to give up.

Those drivers were not considerate of a fellow commuter, a fellow traveler upon the road and they were reckless in their disregard for another human being. And I know from what I've seen, experienced and read about the "road rage" phenomenon that these types of incidents occur between motorists as well. To move over, to slow down and take care when passing, to refrain from cutting off another driver or a cyclist…these things are easy to grant. They cost us so little: a few seconds, a little consideration. It's really not so much. I try to ride far to the right and I always use a shoulder when its wide enough to ride on safely in consideration of the motorists. I ride consistently, keeping a steady, straight path in the roadway, signaling (even more than I do when I drive) and not making erratic moves.

I get angry with cyclists who are erratic and those who place themselves in faster moving traffic when they have better options. If there is a six foot paved shoulder there is no reason to ride in the lane of traffic. But I've seen many do it. Today I was forced to take the right lane. Cars kept cutting it too close. They had room in the empty left lane to pass safely (every single car that buzzed me this morning), but they were making the poor choice to squeeze past without giving me any space. I finally got over in the middle of the right lane and rode there for the last quarter mile until it ran out at Alameda.

I'm not perfect when I'm behind the wheel. I'll admit that. I'm actually much more considerate on my bike. So again, I guess that's part of my public service. But its hard not to react to being bullied by people in large hulking masses of steel and plastic. There's really no need for it. And its all fun and games until someone gets run over.

As far as riding to work goes…I'm going to have to modify my time. Its just too crazy at 7:30-8:00 to be riding amongst the maniacs in Lakewood. The problem is that if I leave earlier I will be at work ridiculously early. I guess I could workout or read or something, but it will make for a long day. And going later won't necessarily alleviate the problem. Traffic only gets worse as 9:00 approaches and people are rushing to get to work on time. If I don't go early its just going to be crazy.

I'd love to find another route. Maybe that's what I'll try first. But I already know that any alternate route is going to be longer and more hilly than the one I ride now. That's not a bad thing for gettig in shape, but its not easy when time or the weather is working against you. We'll see. I'm going to win this one no matter what. I'm not going to give up.


On a happier note...I did ride over Dinosaur Ridge and up Heritage Rd instead of my usual trip. It was nice to break the loop and I plan on doing this more. I added a bit of climbing and 2 miles to my ride and it only took ten minutes longer. I wanted to ride on up Genesee, but I had started too late.

I think I also want to do some MTB detours. I've got Green Mountain, Dinosaur Ridge and Red Rocks/Matthews-Winters Open Space between home and work. As I rode up Heritage Road I kept thinking how I should have ridden the Cannonball and I could have traversed the hogback. Soon...

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