Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Charlottesville Drivers on Hyper-Alert (most anyway)

Let's start with some night-time visibility discussion.  On the way home, it was getting dark, but it was a very peaceful night ride.  I have to say I don't prefer to ride at night, but I try to be as prepared as possible for it.  Above are a couple of pics of what motorists might have seen as they came upon me tonight as I was headed home.

Almost all of the brightness you see is reflectivity.  In the front photo though, the middle light is my battery operated headlight.  Lights are legally required, but they are not enough if you want motorists to really see you.  Reflectivity is extremely effective, and necessary.  Key reflective areas are your ankles and feet.  A video would be better to show that, because you would see the reflective ankle bands and stickers on my shoes moving up and down with the pedaling motion.  Also, anything you can put on your helmet is effective because it puts it up higher in the air, and helps motorists see your head!  I do have two rear tail-lights flashing, as well as a flashing white light on the left side of my helmet.  Judging from these pictures it seems I would be hard to miss, but I have never come upon myself on the road as I was driving at night.  :)

Another perception regarding my ride today...  I noticed at least two motorists coming to a stop at intersecting roads on my right.  The first direction they looked was to their right.  That means I was not the first thing they saw as they were beginning to determine if it was clear for them to continue forward.  A driver of any vehicle should be looking left first because that is the lane closest to them where vehicles will be passing.  

Well, it has been over a week since a UVA student was struck and killed while on his bicycle here in Charlottesville, and I noticed a big difference in the way drivers treated me today on my trip out to Cville Bike and Tri and back.  First, as I was going over the Avon Street bridge, a city bus was behind me, but refrained from passing me.  This was highly unusual behavior!  At least it was not what I was expecting.  (The cyclist who was struck and killed, collided with a large city truck.)  By not passing me, I was actually able to move into the left lane for the left turn I wanted to make at the next stop light.  I am used to being crowded out by a city bus, and being unable to maneuver comfortably into the left turn lane.  This was not the only motor-vehicle that gave me time and space.  It happened at least two other times.  Yeah for these drivers!  However it makes me sad that it has to take a death to change people's behavior.

However, there is always someone who cannot help but to show some attitude, and let their ignorance show.  I had a disappointing encounter with a motorist on Hydraulic Road between Four Seasons and Berkmar.  This particular stretch has a bike lane, and it is a 4 lane road with a middle turn lane between them.  So there is alot of space, with two lanes moving in my direction.  The bike lane (like many here in Cville) was cluttered with debris and rocks.  In fact, just before the right turn I had to eventually make, there was a dead raccoon directly in my path (had I remained in the bike lane).  I moved into the traffic lane and hugged the white line.  I believe the posted speed limit here is 35mph.  There was not much traffic on the road at this time, however I was passed within inches by a motorist.  There was no one in the other lane, and she could have (should have) moved over the dashed white line to give me at least the 2 feet required by law here in Virginia.  After she passed I motioned with my hand giving some kind of 'move over next time' sign.  She was looking in her mirror, and saw me.  Then she made a similar motion as if to say, 'stay in your bike lane.'  She didn't realize that I was actually trying to protect myself by moving out of the bike lane away from the debris.  I also wonder if she knows it is legal for me to be in the traffic lane as well, and if she knows she legally needs to give me at least 2ft. of space.  My point is that her driving was very deliberate, and she chose on purpose to buzz by me to try and make her opinion known.  

Again, it is going to take changes of knowledge and attitude before cyclists are truly safer on the roads.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

80's Dahon folding bike

You can read about my trips since getting this Dahon here and here.

I bought this older Dahon a while ago from someone here in Charlottesville who fixes bikes up from time to time and sells them.  Check out  I recently bought flight tickets to Milwaukee for this September.  I am going to attend a friend's wedding in Belgium, Wisconsin.  Belgium is about 45 miles away from Milwaukee, and most of the flat ride will be on paved trail.  The two trails are the Oak Leaf and Ozaukee Interurban Trails.  I found the case just the other day at the Salvation Army down the street from my house for $15.  It was my first try looking for a used, hard shell, travel suit-case.  It is like it was waiting for me.  As you can see the bike fits perfectly.  It is an older Delsey Delsey Helium Colours 30-In. Hardside Spinner Upright (Google Affiliate Ad)model, which I learned is a reputable French company that has been making quality luggage for almost 100 years.  I'm going to try to convert it to a trailer so that I can pull it behind the bike once I get to the airport.  I don't know what I would do with it otherwise.  The suitcase is regulation size so as not to be oversized, and the weight with the bike inside is 43 lbs.  That is under the 50 lb limit of the airlines too!  Hopefully I'll be posting about a successful trip with this bike in a few months, and I won't have had to spend $1,000+ on a newer folding bike.  I realize Dahon is not Fuji, but I haven't come across any quality fuji folding bikes for sale.  

Friday, April 23, 2010

A More Serious Note

Last Monday, a UVA grad student, was involved in an accident on his bicycle that took his life.  Read more about it here.   In a comment thread I read that this is the first cyclist death in Charlottesville since 1998.  

Earlier this evening, a vigil was held at the intersection of 4th and Main, where the accident happened.  The ghost bike you see in the pictures above was placed there by late Monday night.  The community of cyclists in town have been rallying together.  It is due to this death, but it actually had begun earlier this year with the formation of a new cycling group, Bike Charlottesville.

Of course there have been many responses to this occurrence regarding the safety of the road ways for bicyclists.  Sometimes motorists are fearful when they see cyclists on the road, and cyclists can unknowingly place themselves in compromising positions on the road.  Today I found myself, as a driver, behind a cyclist as I drove down Water Street by the downtown transit center.  There is not enough room there for lane sharing, and there were many parked cars on the side of the road.  It was a busy time of day, and there were many oncoming cars.  I could have tried to zoom past her during one of the brief breaks between cars, but it really would have been unnecessary, and would have made her nervous, as well as the driver of any oncoming car that might have appeared in that moment.  I decided to drive about 12-15 miles per hour as we came to the next intersection, where she turned right and I continued straight.  The tiny bit of extra time it took me to get to the end of that street was a small price to pay to help her (as well as other drivers and possible pedestrians) remain safe and comfortable and out of any compromising positions.  

The first changes that need to occur before bicyclists and motorists can truly share the road, need to be in knowledge and attitude.  It needs to work from the inside out, not from the outside in.  Our physical environment is not solely responsible for these accidents.  If that is the only place we focus any efforts of change, and attitudes and knowledge remain the same, nothing will truly go beyond where we are at this time regarding the safety of all road users.

Fuji Jersey Mishap

So, sometimes being fuji crazy does lead me astray.  I saw this jersey on ebay among 6 others, and 'had to have it.'  I did submit the winning bid (under $50).  It was worth it... for the other jerseys.  They all fit well, and don't itch underneath.  Also, the other jerseys do not have what seems to be a cut for women.  Check out this picture in which the fuji jersey is almost identical to this one.  I think it looks alot better on her though!  Actually, in the photos above, it doesn't look as 'sexy' as it does in person.  Despite that fact, I don't think I'll be wearing this in public anytime soon.  

Saturday, April 17, 2010

New Thoughts on the 250 Bypass

First, let me state that I do not regret, nor do I want to refute anything I've said in my previous posts regarding 250.  

So far, the feedback I have received on riding 250 is:
       One vote for yes, let's ride it.
       Three votes against it.

I've also recently learned that plans have been put in the works to build a paved trail along 250 in the exact section that I've ridden (between McIntire Rd. and Hydraulic).  My initial thought on that is that it is not a better option for cyclists than simply riding on the road itself.  One of the main reasons for that thinking is that there are at least two on/off ramps.  I've heard the trail plans include a stop signal of some sort that will allow pedestrians and cyclists to cross those ramps.  This will impede the smooth flow of traffic that everyone is already used to, not only out of practice, but that is what on/off ramps are for, to keep the traffic moving smoothly.  A cyclist riding in the lane will not impede the traffic as long as they are moving forward in a controlled, predictable manner.

Today I rode to the same destination as when I rode 250 previously.  However, I did not use 250.  I took a different route in which I crossed 250, and it took me 32 minutes, the same or less amount of time it would have taken had I used the bypass.  That is a viable argument against using 250.  However, I contend that I'm not necessarily safer going this other route.  Plenty of accidents occur between cyclists and cars where speed is not the main factor.

Again, I am not trying to brag or be controversial by discussing riding a bicycle on the 250 bypass.  In fact, seeing a cyclist on it shouldn't even bring up those feelings.  It is not an interstate.  The posted speed limits (35 and 45mph) should not deter an experienced cyclist.  There is room for lane sharing.  In fact, if the middle dotted line was moved about a 1/2 foot over, there would be even more room for lane sharing.  The main thing that makes it 'scary' is that many drivers speed on it.  Does 'Bypass' mean 'go really fast,'  or is it simply an alternate, more direct route to a destination?

Sunday, April 11, 2010

First Real Road Ride of the Year

Yesterday I finally got to ride my Opus III again.  Have I mentioned yet that I love this bike?  It fits me perfectly, is such a joy to ride, and I truly consider it a gift.  Total, I logged about 40 miles.  I want to say the weather was pristine, but it was a bit cold when I left, which was 7am.  I had my shoe covers on, arm covers, leg covers, something around my ears too.  Thankfully I was able to take all that off later in the day, when the weather really was pristine.  I rode from my house out to Walnut Creek Park for a Specialized demo-day hosted by Cville Bike and Tri, a local shop here in town.  I was invited there by the owner to help promote an 8-week bicycle course for novice cyclists that he asked me to teach through that shop starting next Saturday.  

On my way out to the park, coming up Old Lynchburg Road, I had my first real experience with dogs while riding in a rural setting.  Just as I began a long uphill, 2 mangy muts bolted after me.  I thought they might come to the edge of their yard, and not do too much more, but when they ended up right at my heels with no sign of stopping, I realized the chance I might get bit was increasing.  I decided it would be best to just keep pedaling until I got out of their range.  I picked up the pace, and they did back off after I got further up the road.  I was thankful for that, but then my adrenaline started increasing after the fact.  It was not an enjoyable experience to say the least.  I dread ever having to actually get off the bike and face-off with any dogs.  It really was a 'dog day' when later on a 16 mile loop from the park I encountered 2 more dogs.  I was with 3 other people, and the dogs saw us coming ahead of time.  The first dogs of the day came up behind me and weren't able to get in front of the bike.  This second set of dogs came out in front of the bikes, and kept getting in the way of the front wheel.  We had to swerve alot to avoid hitting them, but were able to pedal away from them by the end of it.  They say that if you have to face a dog, and get off the bike, to put the bike between you and it.  I was wondering what that might have been like had I had to do that.  Each time, it was not just one dog, but two coming.  Would I have been able to keep them both between me and the bike?  

By the end of the day though, it was a satisfying ride, and felt good to be back on the opus.  

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

More 250 Bypass experience...

So, I rode on the 250 bypass here in Charlottesville, VA again.  This time I went both ways.  On the way out to my destination it was rush hour.  (Bear with me.  I'm NOT bragging!) 

The part I rode was between McIntire Road and Hydraulic.  The posted speed limits on this section of 250 is 35 mph and 45mph, and I'll argue that I was closer to the 35 speed limit on my bicycle than anyone in a car.  I'll restate that the right lanes going in both directions really do have room for lane sharing.  Many cars were able to pass me on my left giving me a decent distance.  Of course there were 2 drivers who were probably trying to prove a point by buzzing by within the limits of my 'bubble,' but still even they did pass me in the same lane.  There were many more drivers who showed me the courtesy to give me space.  
By the way, McIntire dead ends into the bypass.  There happens to be a bike lane all the way down McIntire from the Intersection at Preston Avenue.  I have to say it is not the safest bike lane with the iron grates, warped cracks, and debris cluttering it. Again, it was rush hour, and I chose not to zoom down the right side of the long line of stopped traffic to make my way to the light.  I decided instead to act like a vehicle of the road as a cyclist is supposed to do, and waited my turn behind a car as we made our way through the crowded red lights.  Part of that decision was due to the poor bike lane.  But part of it was to be an example to the car drivers around me that I've got nothing to prove by being on a bike, that I'm simply trying to get somewhere too.  
Even though I wasn't making any left turns off of the bypass, and it was pretty much a straight shot, I still had to strive to communicate my intentions as I passed the off ramps.  I didn't really know how to do that, but chose to simply point ahead of me and a bit out to the side, trying to show that I wanted to continue on without taking the off ramp, and that I did NOT want drivers to jet in front of me only to take the exit themselves and cut me off.  I also had to scan right as I was coming up to the on ramps to be aware of any on coming traffic.  I know there are other cyclists who ride this part of the bypass (not many), but I certainly felt alone out there. 

 To ride to my destination any other way would have added at least 10 minutes if not more onto the trip.  I feel more convinced now that utilizing this part of the 250 bypass on bicycle is a viable option, and I hope more cyclists try it.  I also hope that someday, even within this year, 'sharrows' are placed out there on the pavement.  It would be an excellent spot to experiment with those here in Charlottesville.  Again, the speed limit is only 35 mph on that part of 250.  It is not an interstate!  With some help from the local police dept. enforcing that limit, some sharrow markings, and more cyclists utilizing it as their lawful right, there is no reason for any cyclist to be intimidated by that section of 250.

PS-  I was riding my 1982 Fuji Del Rey.   :)