Thursday, August 30, 2007

Righteous Encounter

A rare evening posting... But something happened today on my ride home from work that just pissed me off.

I bolted from work today right at 4pm so that I could make the ride from work to the Red Cross to donate blood.

Before anyone criticizes my convoluted route across the Twin Cities, it works for me. I have my silly reasons for not wanting to cut north on Eustis right after going under Highway 280. I know that would save me from going south to go back north. I have no desire to go north on Randolf/Cleveland in the afternoon either.

So, my route takes me on Como, through fair traffic. Sure, traffic is almost at a standstill, but when it does move, it moves in EVERY direction. The bike lane (or what was of it) has been partially painted over, has some sort or weird set of cones going down the middle with some hokey sign that says bikes use curbside lane. What the Fuck?

No sane person would travel down this road by bike, but I do. It's thrilling and exciting and honestly, I am here to report that I have taken liberties with the laws. I have taken to riding down the middle of the road between lanes of stopped traffic. I do this because the buses are turning right into parking with ABSOLUTELY no indication as to exactly which parking area they might be turning into. Being stuck curbside along an articulated bus is not the place I want to be on a bike!

Riding along the curb means also keeping a keen eye on your right for the people doing their best with flags and signs to attract the stopped traffic to park in their parking lot. Then you have the occasional driver that will without warning suddenly dart from the stopped traffic to one of these parking barons. Anyway, I cannot fully just how unpleasant the experience has been. I should have counted the number of accidents that I have seen over the last several days. There has been at least one case of a "Meet and Greet" or officer taking a report over why there is car debris in the road. If I had a video camera, I'd post the unpleasantness on YouTube.

There are a couple of places on Como that I am just not sure as a cyclist what to do.
  • Como east bound as one approaches the underpass of Snelling. There's a big right turn lane to go to southbound Snelling. There's a through lane to continue to go straight on Como. There is no bike lane as one approaches the stop sign, but there is a bike lane teasing you from the other side of the intersection.

Now, does one wait along with all of the traffic piled up in the right turn lane waiting to turn since I am on a bicycle riding along the right side of the road? Or, do I cut between traffic lanes and live life dangerously to go on the right side of the straight lane.?

  • Como east bound as one approaches Hamline. There is a bike lane all the way up to the intersection. But, this is where I turn left to go north on Hamline. Traffic begins to back up on Como for several blocks every day.

Do I take my rightful place in line and wait for all the traffic turning left from my rightful lane? Or, do I stay in the bike lane keeping a keen eye on the cars at the intersection and shadow the right rear bumper of the right car as they turn left?

I figure, go along to get along.

Now, I've made it past the Fairgrounds, I'm onto the regular neighborhood streets of Saint Paul, Falcon Heights, and Roseville. I take Hamline north generally to Roselawn or further to get home. Traffic on Hamline is not much more pleasant, but tolerable.

Once north of Larpenteur, traffic on Hamline will often back up for a block or so at Roselawn. I generally approach the intersection with care, keeping an eye on which car has the right of way. If there happens to be a car leaving from the intersection traveling north on Hamline the same way as I am going at the same time that I am there, I will again, generally shadow the right side of the car or right rear bumper.

My philosophy is that the car is going to act somewhat as a shield in the event there were some crazed-asshole that decided he/she didn't understand the whole idea of taking turns. (I swear, there's fewer situations more confusing to the Minnesota driver than a 4-Way stop when two cars approach at approximately the same time!) I figure that adding another element to a busy intersection as a bicycle will simply confuse people even more. (Have you ever been at a 4 way intersection with multiple lanes of traffic or when a stoplight is out.. Yikes, people don't know what do do!)

Anyway, I also hate the people that will wave me across the intersection in some sort of patronizing gesture of kindness since I am on a bike. Okay, fine, but not if you have the right of way... It's just confusing to the other 3 people. So, again... My rationale is to just float through the intersection next to another car if I happen to be there at the same time.

So that's what I did today.

I thought I heard someone behind me say something, but I didn't acknowledge that fact, I just kept riding... hoping to make it to the Red Cross in time for my blood donation.

Well, I stop at the next intersection to wait for the traffic light when some self-righteous ass on a bike comes up from behind to inform me that I need to stop for stop signs and I almost got hit at the last intersection and bikes are vehicles too and we have to follow the same rules.

I simply said, "how are you, nice day for a ride." and then he tops off his lecture with

"Well, do you know what you need to do?"

I said, "yeah, not get hit!" and I rode off.

He stayed just off my wheel behind me along with another cyclist that was also stopped at the intersection. (That cyclist didn't respond to me when I said hello to him either.) But the two of them behind me seemed to be laughing and carrying on just off the back of my wheel. We were riding at a pretty good clip over highway 36 when some kid in a car pulled out right in front of me, I quick grabbed my front brake, and skip-skid the rear wheel since I was riding fixed to avoid running into the car. I don't know what the two righteous brothers behind me did, but after that moment, I suspect that they relaxed in their following distance.

What an asshole, I'm sorry, maybe I am wrong. Maybe I should have come to a complete stop. Maybe the person earlier should not have exited the passenger side of her car while stopped in traffic in the left lane when I was breaking the law by riding in the narrow margin between the cars. Maybe I should wait and take my rightful place in all of the stopped traffic the same way all the other poor suckers are. Maybe the kid shouldn't have pulled out right in front of me.

There was just something about the way the guy said something though. The glee in his voice in being right and nagging on me for poorly reflecting the cycling community. Whatever buddy, I wish I had a pump to shove in your front wheel.

I'm sorry... I know I am supposed to follow all of the same laws as cars. I take artistic license with my interpretation of the laws... I really think that breaking them sometimes on a bike is safer than following them.


Thad said...

Amen, brother. Safety first.

this verdant country said...

There is no moral equivalence between running a stop sign in a car and running the same stop sign on your bike. The cyclist generally has better peripheral vision, better situational awareness, and is more maneuverable, etc. Most of the time, the cyclist is only risking his own skin by selectively following the law. Illegal? Yes. Wrong? Not usually.

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