Wednesday, January 26, 2011

I Am Traffic

This street is better for bicycle commuting with no bike lane and no through sidewalk.

I have discovered that this street, a non-arterial, single lane each way, residential street with a few cars per minute, traveling 25-35 mph, is best for commuting by bicycle when the sidewalk and bike lane are closed. Yes, you read that correctly. For the simple reason that when they are closed, I am traffic, and all doubts and ambiguities are removed from the equation. I have started to love these sections of my bicycle commute, because I look over my left shoulder, signal, merge, then ride down the middle of the lane: there is nowhere else to go. The signs, barriers, trucks with flashing lights and backup beepers, men with shovels, and holes in the pavement make it crystal clear: I AM TRAFFIC!!

White car parked illegally in the closed bike lane: I LAUGH AT YOU!! I AM TRAFFIC!!

I do not ride in the construction zone lane so long that cars back up behind me. I wouldn't do that in my car, neither do I do that when I am cycling. I would pull over and let them pass when safe to do so, although that's not necessary very often. These zones are pretty narrow. The cars slow down a lot, and I am not really that much slower than them anyway here.

OK, JRA, but why's this better than when the bike lanes are open? Because cars don't back out of driveways here partway into the traffic lane like they do into the bike lane. Instant turn drill, anyone? Twice in one week! And kids pushing grocery carts seem to think it's fine to roll them into the bike lane in front of me, without looking (instant turn drill again), which they may be more hesitant to do to a line of cars. Maybe not, you can never tell about kids with carts, I guess.

Back in July, I also wrote about construction zones and shopping carts, and bicycle commuting safety. These are not topics I generate, they choose me, out there in the streets. But now I am gaining clarity on the factors behind the safety for cyclists in construction zones: the alternatives are removed, the cars are slowed and herded, and the situation is crystal clear to all involved. I am traffic: hear me roar. Get up. Go ride.



  1. I agree completely. In fact, I often avoid the streets with bike lanes entirely, and take parallel streets that lack bike lanes, for this very reason. Also, many of our bike lanes are in the door zone, so they are actually And if the road has a bike lane, drivers expect me to use it, even if it's not safe.

    The problem is compounded when it snows. Bike lanes usually aren't plowed, and in fact when they plow the main lane, a lot of that snow ends up in the bike lane.

  2. Apertome, also the wrong-way bike lane riders are triple threats (to themselves, to me, and to others) that I didn't mention. I am hesitant to lecture them. But as I ride WAY around them, I feel the urge to mention something to them. But, snow is a four letter word to me. I avoid it with more emotion than wrong-way bike lane riders.

    limom, are YOU traffic??


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