Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Wednesday Musette

Parking Lot Jungle

There's a four-way stop in the middle of our parking lot at work. I've joked with people, saying that getting across this parking lot is the most dangerous part of my morning commute. Sometimes that's even true as my co-workers seem to believe that if they can only go fast enough, they can reverse the flow of time and arrive at work early for a change.

The incident I'm about to describe happened a week ago.

I was going south, approaching that intersection on my bike along a 2 lane roadway. The cross traffic up ahead has 3 lanes, 1 inbound from my left and 2 outbound coming from the right. Three cars were in the inbound lane. Just before I reached the intersection, the first car stopped, and then went on. I stopped before the next one did, so my turn was next. (In OKlahoma, it's first in first out.)

The guy in the second car waited as I moved out from the stop sign, turning left onto the outbound lanes. The woman behind him, however, didn't see any real need to stop. She merely slowed, crossed the centerline into the oncoming lane, and nearly collided with an uppity cyclist who had the audacity to be where she intended to go. What nerve!

I yelled, "Hey!" My voice echoed back from the nearby warehouse. I can be VERY loud.

She stopped abruptly, apparently puzzled and annoyed that a pesky cyclist would confront her so rudely.

OK, no one was hurt. We didn't swap paint. It was just another example of a driver doing something out of habit. We all get habituated to ignoring stop signs when they're close together as they are in this parking lot. Habits can get us hurt or killed, regardless of whether they're our's or a motorist's. I'm certain that woman has driven into the oncoming lane many, many times.

And I can say this with authority because she did it again this morning. Some people evidently do not or cannot learn from their mistakes. I'm trying very hard to avoid pursuing and confronting motorists, but I may make an exception.

North 129th East Avenue

That infamous 2 lane section of North 129th East Avenue is being widened to 4 lanes from 76th Street all the way to 96th. The first half mile north of 76th is finished, but it's currently restricted to 2 lanes until the whole mile is complete. There's an S bend snaking around a construction area at mid-block.

I started up through there after the light changed. A semi-truck pulling a huge earth moving machine on a flat bed turned and followed me. His load was easily 12 feet wide and had the requisite 'wide load' placards front and back. The truck was heavy and going up that grade only a little bit faster than me.

Now, as regular readers of CycleDog know, I'm an assertive commuter. Not aggressive - assertive. I did the Train A vs Train B calculations in my head and found that he'd overtake at that S bend, more or less. As far as most other vehicles are concerned, I'd maintain my road postion. But I didn't want a driver with a large, heavy load behind me as the bend loomed up ahead. There are 2 cross streets also. Hmmm. Cyclist, huge truck, potentially distracted driver. That's not a good combination.

I moved over to the right to let him by, then accelerated again and tucked in behind a minivan as we went north at only 17 mph. The truck had a police car right behind, then the van followed. I was drafting it as another police car sat behind me. More cars were behind him.

All the drivers were VERY polite. No honking. No engines revving. No shouted comments. Imagine that.


At work, I'm known as the 'bike guy' - a source for information about our lycra-wrapped clan. One of our engineers, Matt, stopped by to ask some questions about bike commuting. He wants to leave the family car parked in the driveway, save some money, and get some exercise. I'm all in favor of it, although my ideas of providing exercise for engineers consists of over-sized hamster wheels and mild electric shocks. Of course, this rests on the as yet unproven assumption that engineers have learning curves.

Anyway, Matt wants to try bike commuting. He has a mountain bike and plans to use a backpack to haul his work clothes and lunch. I suggested fitting the bike with slicks rather than knobby tires, and told him it would make a perfectly acceptable commuter. Still, he's taking up bike commuting at mid-summer when daytime temperatures are routinely in the upper 90s. His first attempt will be tomorrow.


Blogger Bujiatang said...

I was wondering if I could ask a bit of advice myself about commuting.

I wear cotton boxers and the weather in Minnesota has been a bit hot and muggy too.

do you suggest a different garment? A better fabric?

any advice is appreciated.


10:43 PM  
Blogger A Midnight Rider said...

Good for your friend Matt.

I'm taking the above comment with tongue in cheek.

If you ever read bike snob you can agree with him about the excessive number of stupid people in our world. Even though we do our share of stupid things, mixing danger into the equation makes it stuipider.

11:41 AM  
Blogger Tom said...

lycra-wrapped clan?

1:21 PM  
Blogger Ed W said...

I'm going to treat Buji's comment as serious, though it seems to be fishing as to whether I wear boxers or briefs. And the answer to that is "depends."

Oh, wait, not Depends. IT depends.

Much of the reply reiterates the "Ewww, what's that smell?" post from a few weeks ago. I don't have a problem with that because while a post may fall on deaf ears once, if it's re-phrased and tweaked slightly, it may hit a resonant chord with another person. It's analogous to trying key after key in a lock until you find the one that works.

4:43 PM  
Blogger Jonathan said...

I'm going to take Buji's comment seriously as well.


I recommend actual bike shorts and a bike jersey. I personally wear Pearl Izumi's attack shorts with a pair Fox Sergeant mountain bike shorts on top. It's been bouncing from 105 to 118 with about 57% humidity in Phoenix, AZ and I'm okay. Oh, I wear knickers or mountain bike shorts to limit the redneck road complications. I switched the dress code last September and haven't had the statement "F___ing Faggot!!!" with the complementary drink thrown out the window at me since then.

There has to be something we can do as cyclists to improve the safety of our roads, isn't there? I was almost purposely ran down a week and a half ago by a road raging lunatic. The first time in a long time I've dealt with actual road rage, since the above switch.

I know you have Critical Mass, but I haven't seen much success come out of those. I had one guy at work state that he'd love to live in one of the cities that have those rides, he'd put them in their place! I'm glad they laid that guy off earlier this year.

Is there something we can realistically do?

11:40 PM  

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