Biking postsSaturday March 12, 2011
My Bike Ride: the 2nd and Broad Intersection
I live in the First Hill neighborhood in Seattle, work in lower Queen Anne, bike almost every day. Not a bad ride: 15 minutes. Bit hilly on the way back but hills are unavoidable in Seattle.
Case in point. At the beginning of the ride home, one-way streets and busy streets basically force me to go up that hill on Thomas near the Space Needle, only, a block later, to go down that hill on 2nd Avenue, just before Mercer. So: go up only to go down. That's Seattle.
When you bike up to 2nd and Thomas, you always get a glorious view of the Space Needle.
The true drag is the traffic light at the bottom of 2nd. It's long, and rarely green when I need it to be green, so increasingly I find myself stopping halfway down the hill and hanging by the curb for the green so I can get some benefit of the hill. So I can go: fooosh!
Or so I can go fooosh for a block. Then I run into the mess at 2nd and Broad.
Second Avenue, a one-way street heading south, is the only downtown street with a bike lane, which is cool, but this leads to its own problems. Whenever a car turns left on 2nd it's essentially turning into the bike lane, and 2nd and Broad is a popular left-turn intersection. Worse, the stoplights are timed so that, with or without the foosh, that light seems to turn green when I'm about 10-20 feet from the intersection. Which means I have no idea if the cars in the left lane see me as they're about to turn left. So invariably I have to brake and lose my foosh.
This would be less of a problem if people in Seattle actually used their turn signals. But many refuse to, almost stubbornly, as if this passivity is part of what makes them Seattleites—just as the passivity of pedestrians not crossing against the red when no cars are in sight makes them Seattleites. Too often I've had to stop completely at 2nd and Broad because a car, gloriously oblivious and turnsignalless, began its turn into my lane. As a final insult, it often turns on its turn signal then. When its intentions are obvious. When it does nobody any good.
On the plus side I'm still here.
Even the Google Maps photo at 2nd and Broad shows a turnsignalless car turning left. (And at evening-hour rush hour, this intersection is always busier, and, invariably, rainier.)
Incident on 1st Avenue
I was biking to work the other morning, my usual route, and was riding up 1st Avenue North, near Key Arena, which is a one-way, two-lane street with an extra bike lane on the right-hand side.
(As an aside, this street has one of the more amusing road surfacing markings I've ever seen. Two lanes, right? But as 1st approaches Thomas, a road surface marking in the left-hand lane lets drivers know they can only go straight or turn left, while a road surface marking in the right-hand lane lets drivers know they can only go straight or turn right. I suppose the markings are there to remind drivers in the right-hand lane not to turn left, and drivers in the left-hand land not to turn right. Or maybe they're there to remind drivers not to go backwards.)
So I'm biking up 1st Avenue in the left-hand lane when a car zips past me and the driver yells something I don't quite catch. He has to stop at the traffic light on Harrison, which is where I catch up with him. His window is still rolled down and he's obviously exasperated. He points over to the right and says the following:
“How come you're not using the bike lane?”
His subtext is obvious. Look, dude, we've given you an ENTIRE LANE of your own. So why are you clogging up legitimate traffic with your bike?
I have some sympthy—but only some—and I point to the Harrison intersection and say this:
“I'm turning left.”
Do I get an apology? Not really. I can see that he sees the logic, but the logic only makes his exasperation worse. At which point the light turns green and he drives on.
Again, I have some sympathy with the dude. But only some. A cyclist has to turn left now and again.
Correction: R.I.P. CounterBalance on Roy
Back in June I wrote the following about the closing of the bike shop, CounterBalance, on Roy, in lower Queen Anne:
More than one million gallons of oil a day are spewing into the Gulf of Mexico and yet we keep driving and driving. We should be riding and riding. Places like CounterBalance should be opening shops rather than closing them down.
My friend Vinny, a stickler, argued that he'd seen a study on Publicola (“Seattle's News Elixir”) showing walking and biking rates were up, not down, both nationally and in Seattle; then he sent me a link to the study. I glanced at it, poo-pooed it. Walking was certainly up, bicycling just a tidge. And it didn't explain CounterBalance. “What about CounterBalance?” I asked. “Why did that close?” Vinny had no answer.
Now I do. I ran into someone who used to work at the CounterBalance on Roy and he told me the shop had been financially solvent. There had, in fact, been two shops, one on Roy and one in University Village close to the Burke-Gilman trail, as well as two owners. The original owner opened the shop on Roy. And when the original owner decided to call it quits and move (back?) to New Zealand, the second owner closed the shop on Roy. It was, according to this guy, a wholly unnecessary move.
In the end, though, that's a double shame to me. It's a shame someone closed a bike shop that apparently didn't need closing. And it's a shame, given the general unhealthiness of 1) Americans, 2) the environment, and 3) our dependence on foreign oil, that more people don't walk and bike. A tidge ain't gonna do it, people.
I think my friend Brenda, a competitive cyclist, told me about it first, and last week I saw it with my own eyes: the CounterBalance on Roy in lower Queen Anne is no more.
I've been going there since I moved back to Seattle in Sept. 2007. I work just two blocks away, so whenever I had a biking problem—flat tire, shitty brakes, odd sound, seasonal tune-up—there it was. Easy peasy. Guys were cool, work was fast. I'd bought my bike in August 2000 and ride every day, in all kinds of weather, from 5 degrees to 103, so problems always cropped up. It was the guys at CounterBalance, in fact, who told me last February that the frame on my bike had cracked. Gregg's confirmed it. I wound up buying a whole new bike. A new bike needs less work, of course, so I hadn't been back. First my bike goes, then the CounterBalance on Roy.
Shame. More than one million gallons of oil a day are spewing into the Gulf of Mexico and yet we keep driving and driving. We should be riding and riding. Places like CounterBalance should be opening shops rather than closing them down.
Cyclist "doored," ticketed
While doing research for my day job, which just had this nice (or, to be precise, extremely factual) write-up in The Minneapolis Star-Tribune, I came across this article in Ismthus, the alt-weekly of Madison, Wisconsin.
It seems that recently a Madison cyclist got “doored” (biking along, car door opens, splat), went to the hospital with multiple contusions and a fractured vertebra, and was then given a $10 ticket for violating — to quote the article — “a little-known state law that requires bicyclists passing a parked or standing vehicle to allow ‘a minimum of three feet’ between themselves and the car.”
Of course, allow the minimum three feet and you’re in the entire lane and you’ll hear it from the cars behind you. I just got into a rather acidic back-and-forth with an acquaintance who, responding to my earlier post about cyclists vs. motorists, made this exact point. He said he was sick of cyclists taking up lanes and slowing traffic. I said traffic slows traffic: the reason why cars go slowly, most of the time, is because there are too many cars. I also said that, in downtown Seattle anyway, cars slow me up. It’s not even close. I zip, they clog. Then he made the argument — so odd for a lawyer — that cars own the road and cyclists should just bike on the sidewalk where they belong. Nice. And illegal.
But the article and the back-and-forth do clarify the larger issue. Sidewalks are built for pedestrians. Roads are built for cars. Nothing is built for cyclists. Occasionally you get the bike lane, which, as I’ve said, is yours until someone bigger wants it, and it often just ends after a few blocks. Complain, and you’re made to feel like Oliver Twist: “MORE? You want MORE? That painted bike lane that ran two blocks ain’t good enough for the likes a’ you, is it? You wif your fancy ways.”
The solution, for me, lies in creating more roads specifically for bikes, and I would do it on existing roads, possibly with a concrete barrier between bikes and cars. Let’s face it: The safer you make it, the more people will use it. The more they use it, the fitter they’ll be, and the less oil they’ll burn, and the less pollution they’ll create. All of which are good things. The other side? Gas, pollution, fat. Bad things.
It’s not even an argument. You burn fat (and become stronger) or burn gas (and make the country weaker).
Let’s get on this. Because this shit in Madison? That’s gotta stop.