Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Don't Kill Me

If I can get through tomorrow and Friday, I will have made it the entire week without driving my car. I commuted on my motorcycle today [Wednesday] and Monday and on my bicycle yesterday. Actually, yesterday I biked to school, rode back into town after school to go to the bank and run home and then rode back to school for a function. In all, nearly 25 miles yesterday-- saved just over a tank of gas in Pompey, my trusty Maxima.

Gas prices have fallen in the last week, but they will go up again. Part of what we need to do is find alternatives to conventional means of transportation: mass transit, carpooling, work from home and, yes, bicycling.

I know, the Ducati is somewhat cheating since it uses gas. But one of the reasons I bought it was to save gas. The 50 or so miles per gallon is so much better than the 23-25 mpg of my car.

That being said, please look out for me. And people like me. We are everywhere. Whether I'm on my motorcycle or bicycle, you are bigger than me and will win any collision.

I realize there are a lot of idiots on motorcycles. I really don't need to be fast. I do like the rush of riding. But I get that at 40 MPH. I don't need to go 90. Look for me and my bike as you approach intersections, change lanes and make turns. Drive with extra caution; it could save a life.

I also know there are a lot of people who say bicycles don't belong on the roads. Fair or not fair, until the laws are changed, cyclists are entitled to the same rights on the roads as cars. I believe that we do a terrible job of educating motorists about the rights of cyclists and how to share the road with them. Here are a few things I'd like to pass along as someone who has done a lot of road riding in a lot of places and a decent amount of commuting here at home:

  • I did not wake up in the morning thinking, "What can I do to inconvenience the world?" Trust me, if I could go faster I would.
  • If I do not ride on the far right of the lane, it is intentional. I am trying to force you to go around me instead of "squeezing" by me in the lane.
  • Another reason I sometimes don't ride on the far right is for my own safety. Riding more in the lane gives me room for error in case there is an obstacle or drain or something. Plus, the road is cleaner, thus safer. If you've ever walked or ridden on a road, you'll realize how much debris there is closer to the edges-- pebbles and rocks, trash, nails and bolts, glass, etc.
  • Many states have passed laws that require motorists to give cyclists 3 feet (or 1 meter) when passing. See article in USA Today. Of course, North Carolina is not one of those states. Though it's not a law (yet), it's still a good rule of thumb to follow.
  • That being said, if you are on a four lane road and the left lane is free, why not get over when you pass? I ride Four Seasons Boulevard to work, one of the main thoroughfares in Hendersonville. Where I have to share with cars, the speed limit is only 35. If it were 55, I would not ride it. Yet in my four trips yesterday, there were at least 8 cars that, with no traffic in the left lane, either "squeezed" by me or barely moved left to pass.
  • I really believe more people would commute if it were safer. Some of the ones I've talked to are just terrified to share the road with these large cars and inconsiderate drivers. And probably rightfully so. To me, it would be a good investment in future paving projects to add bike lanes. They look aesthetically nice, promote safe commuting and minimizes conflicts between cars and cyclists. I noticed that almost most of the roads in rural Colorado had paved shoulders (photo below). While not designated bike lanes, they allowed me to ride out of traffic and a safe place to pull off if you were in a broken down car.

Again, it's spring and the weather is warmer. The people on two wheels are coming out. Please be aware of them. They would really appreciate it.

Example of how North Carolina is behind: I took this photo last summer during my bike tour on US 64 between the NC/TN border and Murphy, NC.
I understand the need for rumble strips. They've saved lives. They've alerted me when I have driven. But why not put them on the white line? What could have been a decent place for a cyclist to ride was made useless. I had to ride in the road with traffic going 55-60 MPH. Fortunately, there was not a ton of traffic, so cars could mostly get over into the left lane. But still-- Oregon, Colorado and even Kansas would never allow this.

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