Maybe I Should Ride This Instead
Two out of the last three days, I have experienced what Steve A wrote about recently: sometimes areas that seem more dangerous are actually safer, paradoxically. Monday afternoon, and again today, Wednesday, I was riding along at my moderate commuter pace, on a clear afternoon, on a wide, quiet street, in a bike lane, with little or no other traffic around. Both days, I saw a white Prius approach on a side street on the right, with no obstructions or distractions that I could see, and both times I sensed that the driver didn't really see me. (I don't think it was the same white Prius or driver, not certain). Sure enough, both times, the driver rolled the stop sign, and made me swerve (today) or slow suddenly (Monday) to avoid a collision. Monday, she saw me after it happened, and did a SMIDSY sort of apologetic gesture, while today, on the other hand, the driver just continued rolling along without stopping or looking.
I just smiled and shook my head. I get it: you drive through the same stop sign at the same time every day, from your quiet side street onto a larger, often quiet street, and you tend to think of that big red octagonal STOP sign as more of a suggestion than a law, so you get into the habit of rolling the stop and making your turn and getting on with the actual purpose of your trip. You have a lot on your mind, after all. Things to do, places to go, consumables to purchase, spawn to ferry hither and yon to stick to the demanding play date schedule. Then one day WHOA WHAT WAS THAT? A BICYCLE?
Compare that to the shopping cart above, sitting in a construction zone, at a busy intersection, at rush hour. And notice: NO ONE IS RUNNING INTO THE SHOPPING CART. No one is even swerving to avoid it at the last moment. As far as I know, the shopping cart doesn't even have legal status to be in that spot: you could smash into it with the bolt-studded oak bumper on your '73 Chevy pickup and squash it like one of the aluminum beer cans that are rolling around in the bed of your pickup, and everything would be OK as long as it was the only thing damaged.
Maybe I should commute to work through 100% construction zones, in a shopping cart, instead of taking quiet streets with bike lanes on my bicycle. Look at this corner, below! This is the intersection of Scottsdale and Camelback, narrowed down to one lane going south, and also with barriers across the intersection going east. I have been riding through here, in the street, at rush hour, with no issues, close calls, or anything but other drivers sharing the road and exercising caution in a construction zone. After these two incidents, I feel safer making a left turn from one busy street to another, at rush hour, in a construction zone, than I do on that quiet street in a bike lane. The feeling may not last, of course, but at the moment I can't shake the feeling that the next white Prius coming at me on a wide open side street on a bright sunny day while I'm in the bike lane may be the end of John Romeo Alpha.
Do carts come in titanium? Carbon fiber baskets? Aero wheels? And can I download current construction zone updates to my GPS so I know where it will be safe to ride? Get up. Go ride.
My New Scheme is to Paint Bike Lanes So They Look Like This (for Safety)