Sunday, April 7, 2013

On Biking (Part Two)

Yesterday, I wrote about some of my thoughts on why I am not really up for switching to cycling right now, even though my left knee continues to have some pain a year after I last ran.  I do try to walk often, of course, although not more than 5-6 miles at a time right now, other than when hiking.  My last really punishing distance on foot was a year ago March when I ran - with some walking - the Shamrock Half Marathon.  The knee pain has made me wonder if cycling would be better at some point.  I did try a bicycle recently, but think I might have to buy a better one, so I guess I need to save my pennies...

My biggest concern about cycling is the traffic.  Most places do not have roads designed to accommodate large and fast cars along with bicycles, in my opinion.  I'd love to see separate bike paths that would keep cyclists away from traffic.  And drivers are often just awful - I see it all the time as a fellow driver and as a walker.  Some are courteous but they are in a minority.  Running red lights is epidemic here in the Richmond area.  I've almost been run over several times while on foot, crossing with a green light.  Once, I got in an argument downtown when a driver insisted on turning right on red (for him) as I tried to cross the street (on green) in front of him.  I see drivers texting, talking on their phones, even doing their nails!  C'mon!  Doing your nails while driving?  Really???  And as to texting - there is no safe text while you are operating a vehicle the weight of a rhinoceros.

Now, let me share some peeves about cyclists.  A lot of them act as if they are invincible and above the law.  If you want to read an account of a cyclist who lived because of a one second difference, go here in my blog.  When I see cyclists do stupid things, I think of this guy and how I nearly killed him when he did maybe the most stupid thing I've ever seen a cyclist do.  If I had taken one less second getting to the point where we almost intersected, he would be dead - and I would be haunted the rest of my life for killing a man.  If he continued to ride his bike with such disdain for safety, he is probably dead by now.

So what are some of the things I see cyclists do?  By the way, these tend to me more what I would call "casual cyclists," not those out doing miles for fitness.  They routinely run red lights in the city.  To my cycling brothers and sisters, the same traffic laws for cars apply to you.  A red light does not mean slow down and then go through.  A red light is not just a suggestion!  Now and then, I will see a cyclist speed up to zip though a red light just ahead of oncoming traffic.  About a week ago, I saw one make it - just barely - with yards to spare.  Insane!

I see cyclists riding on the wrong side of the road - always ride with traffic.  They sometimes go the wrong way on one-way streets, which is a very dangerous thing to do.  Downtown, they often ride on the sidewalks, and from my experience, they rarely let walkers know that they are coming up on them from behind, which is a disaster waiting to happen.  As a walker, a huge peeve I have is when cyclists, runners, and walkers share a path and the cyclists don't warn the pedestrians when they are coming up from behind.  From my experience, about half do call out a warning and half don't.  Bicycles are very quiet on a paved path.  As a walker, facing away and ears oriented forward, one rarely can hear a bicycle from behind.  A bike going 15 mph travels about 22 feet in a second and can be on a walker before they know it is just behind.  So call out a warning - "passing left!" - and/or ring your bell.  Otherwise, it may be you and the walker who's bells are rung!

All these things being said, most cyclists I see - especially those that routinely cycle - are riding in a safe manner.  Sometimes though, there is just not enough room for bikes and cars safely together on our roads - roads were designed to move car traffic, and to move it fast.  So as a taxpayer, I am very much in favor of putting in more bike (to share with pedestrians) paths.  Some cities and regions have a nice network of bike trails, and I'd love to see that for Richmond.

Bike safety is very visible here since a young woman was killed on her bike last year.  From all accounts, she was riding properly.  But she was riding at night (with flashers) about 10PM on a fairly narrow road.  It has raised discussions about safety.  After writing yesterday's post about why I am not ready right now to take up long-distance cycling, I started to read the paper and saw this article (linked here online) about drivers being aware of cyclists, and operating their vehicles safely.  There is plenty of room for improvements among both drivers and cyclists.

As always, I am not trying to offend anyone, and I welcome differing viewpoints.  I know that most cyclists ride safely - their life is much more on the line than that of the driver of a 4,000 pound vehicle.  But I also know that I do see cyclists - frequently - doing really stupid things, especially in the city, and that sometimes their survival comes down to luck - or to a single second.


Happyone said...

Great post Art. As always there are two sides to a story. You showed us both sides. : )

Racn4acure said...

Yep, and human beings being human beings, we all do dumb stuff. Most of the time it is not fatal, but sometimes when I see things people do, I shake my head and am amazed they survived. Thanks for the comment!