Sunday August 25, 2013
Running More Reds in Noodge City
On the bikeride to work the other day, stopped at a red light at 1st and Denny, a dude in a truck to the left motioned me over. Initially I thought he was going to ask for directions but no.
Dude: Can I ask you something? Why do you feel you can go through that red light back there?
Me: You ever drive on the freeway?
Dude [unsure]: Yeah?
Me: You ever go over the speed limit?
Dude: OK, but ...
Me: Same thing.
He didn't think it was. I did. We talked over each other until the light turned green and we went our separate ways.
I've written before why I think running a red for a bike and speeding on the freeway for a car is similar. You can read it here.
The irony is where we had the above conversation. Stopped at a red light.
Wednesday June 26, 2013
Biking in Seattle More Dangerous than in New York City, Expert Says
This was on the front page of The Seattle Times today under the headline, “Worse than Manhattan? Bike expert rattled by ride through city.”
John Pucher, a Rutgers professor, bike-safety expert, and author of the book, “City Cycling,” visited Seattle and took a ride down 2nd Avenue, which I ride every day, and which has its own bike lane. Kinda sorta. Like all bike lanes, it's there for bikes until someone bigger and more impatient wants it. Which often happens on 2nd.
In the article, Times reporter Mike Lindbloom describes Pucher's trip down 2nd:
Close encounters of the wrong kind greeted him down the southbound slope: a woman texting while her SUV drifted toward him; a FedEx delivery truck blocking; cars headed toward Interstate 5 turning in front of him at intersections; a black sedan whose driver abruptly stopped to parallel park.
Then he quotes Pucher:
“I’d say it’s as bad as a major avenue on Manhattan,” Pucher said. “I think it’s maybe even worse, because I think here, there’s more left and right turns, there’s more doors that are being opened, more cars that are trying to park.”
For Seattle, Pucher recommends cycle tracks (bike lanes separated by curbs, parked cars, whatever), and greenways (being developed in neighborhoods). He doesn't think much of sharrows (the bike symbol painted on the street as a reminder to drivers to share the road, but which looks like a flattened cyclist). I agree on all counts. I've even written about 2nd Avenue and its lousy turns a few times myself.
Here's another key graf from Lindbloom that doesn't make the Emerald City in the Evergreen State look very green:
In 1990, about 1.5 percent of Seattleites bicycled to work or school, compared with 1.1 percent in Portland. By 2011, Seattle had climbed slowly to 3.7 percent, while Portland zoomed to a 6.8 percent commute share for cycling, census surveys show. “I hope this is a wake-up call to Seattle” to build safe routes now and not in a decade, he said.
Overall, the article made me feel two ways: 1) vindicated, since we have an outside source corroborating what I've long said; and 2) tough, since I bike that shit every day. OK, three ways: it made me sad, too, about my city. We were progressive once.
Tuesday June 18, 2013
Running Reds in Noodge City
Yesterday, biking to work, I was stopped at a red light on 5th and Pine when I saw no more traffic coming down 5th and ran the light. Halfway across, a middle-aged pedestrian, on the other side, caught my eye and said the following, drawing out the word in an odd, admonishing fashion:
I burst out laughing.
It was partly the way he said it. If the dude had had a sense of humor, he would’ve meant it ironically, or with a wink, but there wasn’t a trace of humor in his voice or stance. There was just a tsk tsk.
Among strangers, this is the dominant form of communication in Seattle. Newcomers talk of “the Seattle chill,” and how no one talks to anyone; but Seattle is also Noodge City, full of those ready to shake an admonishing finger about things that have no real consequence. I get admonished for running reds half a dozen times a year.
To all of these people I say the following: Do you ever break the speed limit? Of course you do. Who doesn’t? You’d be a fool not to. In fact, it would be dangerous not to. Driving 50? Or 45? On the freeway? Are you crazy? You’re a hazard.
And the reasons we break the speed limit on the freeway are the same reasons cyclists, or at least this cyclist, runs reds in downtown Seattle: 1) it rarely results in a ticket, just as, driving 5 mph over the speed limit rarely results in a ticket; 2) it’s faster, and we all want to get where we’re going sooner; and 3) it's safer. On the freeway, you want to go at the same pace as most drivers. On a bicycle at a stoplight, you want to build some distance, and speed, between you and all of those impatient cars behind you.
In a sense, we do it for you. You're welcome.
Thursday March 21, 2013
How I Nearly Died on the Way to Work Yesterday
SEATTLE — It was raining pretty hard for my morning bike ride yesterday morning, and I was soaked by the time I got close to work. I live in First Hill and the office is in lower Queen Anne, so I tend to weave through downtown, over to 1st Avenue North, take a left by Key Arena and then a right onto 1st Avenue West for half a block. At which point, halfway down the two-lane road, I take a left into a parking lot, which leads to the bike racks below our office building.
(Aside: Only in Seattle would you have, on either side of a major street, two 1st Avenues labeled “North” and “West,” even though they run parallel to each other. Shouldn't it be “North” and “South”? Or “East” and “West”?)
The turn onto 1st Avenue West is always a drag. It's a four-way stop, and there are almost always cars, generally impatient, heading up 1st Avenue West. I'm coming down a slight hill, then have to turn over a rough patch of road, and then go up a slight hill. More, I need to own the lane, rather than ride on the right-hand side of it, since I'm about to turn left into the parking lot. Doing this, I assume I'm pissing off cars behind me. I assume they're wondering, “Why is this asshole taking up the middle of our lane? Why isn't he off to the right so I can get past him?” By that point, hopefully, I've taken my left into the parking lot, they go, “Oh,” and all is good.
Yesterday morning, as I was about to make that final left, the car behind me—a pickup truck, it turned out, perpetuating my stereotype of pickup-truck drivers—gunned its engines and flew past me in the left lane, just as I was about to turn into that lane to get into the parking lot. If I wasn't paying attention, I would've been flattened.
I cursed a blue streak but the guy drove away. He was late, after all. He had important business, after all.
On the way home, I saw another pickup truck fly through a red light on Denny. Like five seconds after it had turned red. I think he just wasn't paying attention.
Anyway, another day. Still here.
This is the way I think I'll end
This is the way I think I'll end
This is the way I think I'll end
Not with a whimper but a splat
Tuesday July 31, 2012
Dave Eggers' Review of Grant Peterson's 'Just Ride': Annotated
The following review of Grant Petersen's book, “Just Ride: A Radically Practical Guide to Riding Your Bike,” by Dave Eggers, was published in The New York Times Book Review last Sunday. I objected when I read it then. Today, a Facebook friend posted it favorably. My objections now.
Many a weekend bicycle rider has had the same unsettling experience: You ask a friend to ride with you along some scenic, low-impact route. You show up wearing shorts, Sambas and a T-shirt, and he shows up dressed for an Olympic time trial. Sambas? On his torso is a very tight shirt slashed with a half-dozen garish colors and logos irrelevant to him. His helmet, decorated with flames or stripes or both, is equipped with a rearview mirror. A rubber straw dangles around his neck like a fur stole, through which he can drink fluids from a container on his back. And then there are the spandex leg-enclosures. These have patches of yellow on either flank, giving the impression that your friend is wearing chaps. Yellow-and-black spandex chaps.
All this for a 10-mile ride on a bike path. Now that's one well-dressed straw man. (But I agree on the spandex chaps.)
If you can identify with the more casually dressed biker described above (what if you identify with neither?), or if you want to go biking but have been scared away by the sport’s cult of gear and equipment (or traffic?), then your bible has been written. Grant Petersen’s “Just Ride” is a wonderfully sane, down to earth and frequently funny guide to riding, maintaining, fixing and enjoying your bicycle. That so much common sense will be considered revelatory, even revolutionary, is a testament to how loony the bike world has become.
Petersen opens with this salvo: “My main goal with this book is to point out what I see as bike racing’s bad influence on bicycles, equipment and attitudes, and then undo it.” And he goes on to prove, conclusively, that most of what ails the world of cycling comes from nonprofessional riders pretending, or being bullied into pretending, that they’re professionals. The solution, he says, is to emulate kids and other “Unracers” — people who bike for fun and not profit. What if you bike for transportation? What if you bike commute? Is that dealt with at all? Aren't bike commuters, like, 90 percent of the cyclists most people see? (Or, more often, don't see.)
The accepted orthodoxies are upended, one after another. Petersen is skeptical of special biking shoes. I felt the same until I ruined too many tennis shoes biking in the Seattle rain. Bike shoes are much more rain resistant. He is pro-kickstand, pro-mud-flap. Definitely pro-kickstand. Where did that go? Bring it back! He thinks a wide, comfortable saddle is O.K. Who doesn't? He doesn’t see why anyone needs more than eight gears. Well, he's a professional. Biking up some of Seattle's hills at the end of a long day, at the end of a long week, I don't mind having those extra low gears. He thinks fragile carbon-fiber bikes and super-narrow tires are impractical for just about everyone (“Getting paid to ride them is the only good reason I can think of to ride that kind of bike”). I guess. I have a hybrid. He has nuanced thoughts on helmets (he wears his at night but not during the day) and reminds us that biking is “lousy all-around exercise” and shouldn’t be considered a stand-alone regimen. I didn't wear a helmet until I took a header against a car's bumper in '94. Now I wear one all the time. Then again, I bike in traffic. But most satisfying is his takedown of the tight-shirt, spandex-shorts phenomenon. Does that include tight cotton shirts? Is it the tightness or the fabric of the shirt that we're objecting to here? I'm confused.
“In its need for special clothing,” he writes, “bicycle riding is less like scuba diving and more like a pickup basketball game.” A regular cotton T-shirt and a pair of shorts will ventilate better, he says, and if you’re not trying to shave seconds off a world record, the microscopic aerodynamic advantages of tight synthetic clothing just don’t apply to you. Again, I'm not a fan of spandex shorts--especially on guys. But shirts? You know how long it takes a cotton shirt to dry after biking with a backpack on a hot day? Too often I'd bike to work in the morning in a cotton T and by evening it was still damp. Ick.
Coming from just anyone, this kind of thinking wouldn’t carry much weight. But Petersen raced for six years, then worked at Bridgestone, Japan’s largest bike maker, as a designer and marketer. When the company closed its American office, he opened his own shop, Rivendell Bicycle Works, in Walnut Creek, Calif. It would seem, then, that Petersen, as the ultimate insider, would be the first guy to push expensive racing gear on every would-be enthusiast to walk into his shop. And yet!
But with this book, he’s trying to bring biking back to a state of moderation and rationality. If you like the gear, he’s fine with that, and if you don’t agree with all his advice, no problem. But he makes the case that at its core, biking should be a simple, democratic, sometimes ludicrously enjoyable means of getting around. It should be. But what prevents that, more than cyclists who over-gear and somehow “shame” the rest of us, is this: traffic. It's that we've designed a society for automobiles rather than for cyclists and pedestrians. What keeps most people in their cars, I've found, is people in their cars.
“No matter how much your bike costs,” he says, “unless you use it to make a living (or unless you commute?) , it is a toy, and it should be fun.” I use my bike to commute. It's fun. But it's not a toy.
Amen. Ride safe.
Saturday July 14, 2012
Adventures in Cycling: Yo Yos Apologizing
I nearly got killed on the way to work yesterday.
I shouldn't write that. Too many people already think it's too dangerous to bike in the city when it's not, really. Put it this way: If I drove, I might be dead already. At the least, I'd be fatter with higher blood pressure. Maybe I'd be dead from higher blood pressure.
So yesterday I was biking north on First Avenue in downtown Seattle, my usual route, and was about five blocks from crossing Denny. There are two north-bound lanes, and I was in the right lane, as usual, where four cars were moving slowly. They were moving so slowly that I caught up to them, and, since the left lane was clear, I decided to go around them. The second car in line had the same thought I did, about five seconds after I did, and just as I was pulling even with him. Thus, as he pulled out into the left lane, he began to push me into oncoming traffic.
YO! YO! YO!
That's my default yell. It worked here. He finally noticed. And he rolled down the window with a smile on his face and said kindly, “Didn't see you. Sorry.” Then he made the light, which was yellow, while I was stuck behind with the rest of the traffic, and with all of the mixed feelings such encounters tend to bring out.
For some reason, his mea culpa bugged me. “Didn't see you.” Of course he didn't see me. I didn't think he was pushing me into oncoming traffic on purpose.
But at least he was nice about it. At least he said “Sorry.” At least he smiled.
Then I realized this is what bugged me most of all.
A year or two ago, I had another YO! YO! YO! encounter, this time on Second Avenue, which has its own bike lane, heading south after work. A woman driving north apparently saw a parking space she wanted on the east or southbound side of the street and pulled a 180 to grab it. She nearly ran me over in the process. YO! YO! YO! Her windows were rolled up, and she kept them rolled up, but she did apologize. I could see her mouthing these words, angrily, with a scowl on her face: “I'm SORRY!” It was as if she were apologizing for the tenth time rather than the first. My immediate thought back then: You don't seem sorry.
The guy yesterday was the same, if opposite. He was just a little too happy in his apology. He seemed like someone who had realized long ago that you can disarm people with kindness, and that's what he was doing here, disarming me with his kindness, but he, too, didn't seem that sorry about nearly running me over. He seemed pretty happy about it. And then he made the light, while I was left behind with all of the mixed feelings such encounters tend to bring out.
Wednesday December 07, 2011
The 10 Sartorial Steps to Winter Biking
There are 10 sartorial steps in the transition from summer biking to winter biking. Each one is necessary but a drag.
You start out, free and easy, some time in August, in shorts and a short-sleeved biking shirt. Wheee! To be honest, there aren't many Seattle days, or nights anyway, that allow just that. But let's start out that way--the way you start out with only underwear on the dress-up refrigerator magnet. Then, bit by bit, week by week, you add, with approximate temperatures in parentheses, the following:
- Long-sleeved biking shirt (60s)
- Biking jacket (high 50s)
- Slicks or long biking pants (50)
- Zip-up, woolish jersey for underneath jacket (high 40s)
- Long gloves to replace the fingerless kind (45)
- Cap for underneath helmet (low 40s)
- Long-johns beneath slicks (35)
- Thicker gloves (30)
- Fleece vest (25)
- Scarf (15)
I've never done the scarf in Seattle, only in Minneapolis. Last week I added the long-johns, Monday the thicker gloves. Each layer is a drag, a kind of mummification. The worst for me is the beneath-helmet cap. I hate that.
So in real terms and in biking-clothes terms I've about reached my winter solstice, which is itself a kind of relief, a Lennonesque rejoinder to the McCartneyesque optimism of “Gettin' Better”: Can't get much worse. I now look forward to the true joy of shedding each layer as the light returns and the weather warms.
Tuesday September 06, 2011
It's the Day After Labor Day: Has Everyone in Seattle Forgotten How to Effin' Drive?
I mean more than usual.
My bikeride home from work, lower Queen Anne to First Hill, takes about 15 to 20 minutes. Today's trip was bookended by two trucks, the first on Thomas and Queen Anne North, the second on 9th and Madison, both making right-hand turns from the left lane. I must see this a couple of times a week but rarely twice during the same ride.
But those drivers were the smart ones. In-between, a woman in an SUV half-ran a red light on Denny and Second and nearly ran into a motorcyclist. She squealed to a halt halfway through the intersection, then decided to go ahead until I yelled at her to watch out for me coming through the intersection. When I was safely past her, she kept going through the red. Her son was in the passenger's seat.
Continuing on Second, another woman, this one in a sports car, roared past close to the bike lane. Second Avenue is one-way heading south, the bike lane is on the left, and when the light turned green at Battery, she roared ahead of the cyclist ahead of me, forcing him to brake, dismount, curse, give her the finger. I was heading the direction she was, so I saw her at Battery and 3rd, stopped at another red, 20 feet from the intersection, absorbed by a mobile device. When the light turned green it took her 10 seconds to realize it and bolt ahead again. I saw her again on 5th, continuing to drive recklessly, one hand on the mobile device.
Wednesday August 03, 2011
More People Don't Bicycle Because of ... Bicyclists?
While we were visiting Portland in June I noticed a few people riding bikes, slowly—almost purposefully slowly—in everyday clothes. It reminded me of a European city more than an American city. It seemed pretty cool.
I didn't know it was a movement.
Yesterday on his blog, Andrew Sullivan quoted both Celeste LeCompte (Special to the San Francisco Chronicle) and Felix Salmon (a Reuters blogger) praising the slow bike movement. Both believe it encourages other people to ride. Both insinuate that the reason there are not more bike-riders is the bike-riders we already have.
For some San Franciscans, seeing slow-riding folks like Logan and Stockmann out on the road can be a refreshing encouragement to hop on two wheels for a daily commute or a quick trip to the farmers' market. ... Being a Slow Bike Rider may mean being left behind by the pack of spandex-wearing cyclists in the mornings, but it also means getting to know more about the rest of your community.
If you live in a city where women in wedge heels are steering their old steel bikes around their daily errand route, there’s really nothing intimidating or scary about the prospect of getting on a bike yourself. If it’s all hipsters on fixies, by contrast, that just makes biking feel all the more alien and stupid.
I'm sure this is part of it. No one wants to join a group in which they'll feel unwelcome or unhip.
At the same time, I've had quite a few people ask me, often shyly, about biking to work, and what it's like, and how long it takes, etc. etc., but whenever I suggest they do it themselves and they beg off, the main reason they give is their perception of how dangerous it is. They're not fearful of “spandex-wearing cyclists” or “hipsters on fixies”; they're fearful of cars. They don't want to be exposed in traffic. They don't want to die.
To ignore this in any discussion about cycling is to ignore the SUV in the room.
Thursday April 07, 2011
My Bike Ride: Imitating Big Papi and Nomah
At what age do I stop imitating baseball players?
I'm 48 now and I find I'm still doing it. While biking, no less.
When I'm about to begin a ride I find myself clapping my gloved hands together. Took me a few weeks before I figured out what it reminded me of: David Ortiz of the Boston Red Sox, Big Papi, who spits into the palm of both gloved hands and claps them together before each pitch. (Parodied in this SportsCenter ad.) Sometimes I‘ll even mime the spitting before the clapping. One time, I believe, I forgot the mime and brought the spit. Ick. This is a recent innovation, by the way. Not sure why I began doing it. Maybe as a way to kick myself in the ass? A here we go, about to ride! kind of thing.
Then in the middle of the bikeride, particularly at stoplights, particularly in the less harsh months when I’m wearing fingerless gloves, I‘ll often fiddle with the velcro around the wrists, tightening each glove. Yeah, exactly like Nomar Garciaparra used to do between every pitch. That’s two Boston Red Sox. What the hell, right? I'm a Twins/M's fan. But I‘ve been doing this one for a while. I think because both me and Nomar are a little OCD.
Finally, lately, at the end of my ride, I’ll take off my helmet with both hands and bend down to touch my toes in one smooth (or its close proximity) motion. Reminds me of when a player, say, grounds out to end an inning, and takes the helmet off and reaches down to unstrap, say, shin protectors at the same time.
Now if for the rest of the ride I only imitated Lance Armstrong ...
Saturday 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.)
Sunday November 14, 2010
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.
Wednesday August 18, 2010
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.
Tuesday June 15, 2010
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.
Wednesday August 20, 2008
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?
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.
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