I Ride My Bike on Main Street
By: Matteo Favero (Collegeville Resident)
For the past two and a half years, I have been riding my bicycle up and down Main Street here in Collegeville and Trappe. I do not do this just for the fun of it. Though I do enjoy it! I do it to get to places in OUR hometown.
Most of the time, I have my two young daughters in tow. Maybe you’ve seen me on the yellow tandem. My 5 year old rides in front (don’t worry, she doesn’t steer!). My 3 year old is in the trailer. We go mostly to places like Happy Days Pre-school, the Community Music School for lessons, Redner’s grocery or Sears down in Collegeville Shopping Center, church, the doctor’s office, Dunkin’ Donuts (their favorite!), the Dance Depot for class, the park, the post office, haircuts, and on and on.
How do I get to all of those places on my bike, especially with two young children, you ask? On the same roads that you use to get to those places!
· Why don’t you ride on the sidewalk? That would actually compromise my safety more! Drivers do not expect to see another vehicle on the sidewalk, and could easily turn into me.
· Why not use the trail? Well, because the trail does not go to where I usually need to go.
· Why don’t you just drive? Well, it’s so close, I’d like to get a bit of exercise, and I want to save a bit of gas. Plus, it’s just plain FUN to ride the bike!
Isn’t it dangerous to be out there with all the cars? It does seem to be in ways, but our perceptions are often in-accurate. After over two years of riding up and down Main Street multiple times a week, I am still alive! Yes, it is true. I have not been hit by a car. I’m not trying to say that it can’t happen, but maybe the idea of riding a bike on Main Street in our hometown isn’t as scary as you may imagine. In my experience cars have been able to pass with ease, and I do NOT hug the curb.
· I ride about one to two feet from the curb (or more at times) in the lane of traffic. I do that to be more visible and increase my safety.
· I communicate my intentions to drivers with a bit of eye contact and a few succinct hand gestures.
Most drivers have been friendly and accommodating.
By the way, as a friendly, accommodating driver, if you stop for me on Main Street to allow me to turn left (for instance into Dairy Queen), and I don’t immediately turn in front of you, I don’t mean to be rude. I do appreciate the gesture.
· I may not turn too quickly because the driver behind you is often maneuvering to the right to pass you because you are slowing down. If I were to make my turn without watching them, and waiting to see what they are going to do, I might get hurt.
· If you see me waiting in the middle of the lane at the 113 intersection, it is not because I think I am God’s gift to the world. It is to be sure that opposing left turning vehicles see me as I come into the intersection. If they don’t, they could easily turn directly into me without realizing I am there; because I was not in their immediate line of vision.
But people speed on Main Street! Yes, they do, but it can still be safe and fun to ride your bike there. I learned something interesting when I attended a Trappe council meeting, at which Gilmore and Associates were discussing the current plans for future Main Street design. When determining certain infrastructure changes, PennDOT (Pennsylvania Department of Transportation), took into account, first, the documented average speed of traffic, as opposed to taking into account, first, the actual posted speed limit. They gave precedence to what people were actually doing as opposed to what the law states should be done. The average speed recorded was about 10 miles over the posted speed limit (45MPH for Trappe). In Trappe the posted speed limit is 35MPH and in Collegeville, it is 30MPH.
· So, instead of making decisions that would help slow traffic down to the posted speed limits on Main Street, they were making decisions that would accommodate continued speeding on Main Street!
Did you know that bicycles were invented before the motor? But it was pretty tough going on a bicycle (especially the old Penny Farthing high wheeler) on the roads of those early days. So, one of the first organized bicycling clubs in our country, The League of American Wheelmen, began petitioning for paved roads to smooth out their ride. This was before 1900. Roads were first paved for bikes! Ever since, it has been, and remains perfectly legal and appropriate for bicycles to use our roads.
But please realize, I am a car driver too! It is convenient to be able to get far fast, but that is our privilege, not our right. It is my right (and yours) as a driver as well as a cyclist, to use the road. As both, I (and you) are responsible for our own negligence in regards to the other person.
· When I come upon a cyclist in my car, I simply slow down, assess the situation, and pass in a safe manner. When it comes down to it, the time lost by slowing down for a cyclist is a matter of seconds, literally!
I love riding my bicycle around Collegeville and Trappe! So does my 5 year old. When we’re leaving the house she often asks with a hopeful tone, “are we taking the bike!?” When I say yes, she squeals joyfully, “yay!” We feel the breeze on our faces, we get to see and hear the wildlife (squirrels, birds, BMX’ers), and we smell things like the tasty food being cooked on the grills of Trappe Tavern, or freshly baked donuts (from you know where). We have a wonderful bike shop, Bikesport, right there on Main Street (behind Dairy Queen), who will gladly help if you get a flat. So get your bike out of your garage or attic, and experience our town in a new way! You don’t have to be afraid to ride on Main Street. Besides, I could use some company!