Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Right of Way: Cars vs. Bikes

My right of way was taken from me tonight.  I was at the intersection of Monticello Avenue and Rialto.  I was heading north on Rialto, stopped at Monticello waiting to cross and continue in the same direction.  A motorist was on Rialto on the other side supposedly waiting to cross as well.  He did not have any blinkers flashing.  When the break came in traffic for us to go, we both started across, but he threw his left blinker on, and then completed a left turn in front of me.  It felt as if my presence was not even acknowledged, and the fact that I was on a bicycle made me lesser, not worthy of being given the right of way.  
As a motorist, do you think less of someone on the road when they are on a bicycle?  Do you feel that you inherently have more right to the road than a cyclist, and that you trump the cyclist as far as right of way in all situations no matter what?  This is an attitude that does exist, and hopefully will change.

Riding Fast

Are you a slow rider?  Do you feel that you are less safe on a bicycle the faster you ride?  How are your skills when it comes to riding with traffic?  
My riding style has been changing lately.  I have been going through intersections in the middle of the lane more often, so I am directly in motorists line of sight.   I also have been picking my speed up,  shifting into higher gears, and taking the lane in certain places around town.  One of those places is on Monticello avenue coming down from Avon toward Ridge/5th.  After crossing Avon, it is down hill all the way to the next light.  Now, there is a bike lane, but again, it is up against the parked cars.  I don't want to risk getting doored, so I take the lane fully, shift up into high gear, and pedal it down.  Because of the downhill I can raise my speed to match that of motorists, so I am not holding anybody up.  My handling skills have increased, so I feel more comfortable at the higher speed.  If I went at a slower speed, and stayed farther to the right, I risk getting doored.  Also, I feel squeezed in by passing cars.  I believe taking the lane and riding faster is a safer option.  Also, it demonstrates to motorists a higher competency level of riding, which hopefully translates into more respect.  
Another place where faster riding could be utilized is on East Market, coming from downtown.  Again, it is all downhill, and the lane is narrower.  There is not room for lane sharing, especially with the parked cars on the side.  
I suppose the main idea here is that if you can increase your ability to ride faster, it would allow you to put yourself in a more visible position, ride as a part of the traffic without holding cars up, and demonstrate a higher level of proficiency to motorists, in turn garnering more respect from them (hopefully).  

Monday, June 7, 2010

Last Southwood Bike Class

Today was our last bike class at the Southwood Boys and Girls Club Unit.  We held a 7 week class, which occurred every Monday for an hour.  The kids learned and practiced power pedal, straight line riding, scanning, and more.  Today, we went on about a 2 mile ride out and back from the club.  The kids stayed single file and did well controlling their speed on the downhills, and pushed hard on the uphills.  Afterward we went inside for pizza and to hand out their graduation certificates.  Everyone hopes to do more bike classes there.  This was one of the inaugural bike classes utilizing the new fleet bikes purchased with a grant from the Virginia Department of Health.  Hopefully there will be many more bike classes to come!

Thoughts from Today

The photo above is 5th street Extended here in Charlottesville.  This is heading back into town toward the Elliott/Cherry intersection.  You can see there is a decent bike lane.  However, at times there is debris and other hazards in it.  I've experimented a bit with my riding position on this road.  I'm not sure of the posted speed limit.  I'll try to take note of that at some point, but motorists drive fairly fast on this road.  When I am riding to the right of the bike lane white line, it seems that motorists are more inclined to remain fully in the right lane without getting over much to give me space.  I have felt the push of air as they pass me at times.  However, when I ride to the left of the bike lane white line, almost all motorists move into the left lane either fully or at least partially to pass me, giving me much more space.  The bike lane is definitely more sizeable, probably more than any other bike lane in Charlottesville.  However, you can see the curb, which could be hazardous, and sometimes there is debris forcing a cyclist into the lane.  

On my way out of town, a motorist passed me and honked while telling me to get off the road.  I was to the right, causing no hinderance whatsoever.  This person was experiencing some frustration simply from seeing me on a bike on the road.  I wonder if she just felt uneasy, not wanting to be responsible for any possible accident that could occur between my bike and her car.  Nonetheless, her ignorance of my rights to be there was apparent.  

On my way back into town, I saw a person on a bike in the bike lane.  That would be great, except she was riding toward me in the same bike lane!  She was going against traffic (very dangerous for a cyclist) not to mention that this particular spot has the bike lane up against parked cars.  You can be doored just the same going in either direction, and she was really hugging the side of the lane closest to the cars.  The other side of the street did not have a bike lane, so I assume she was afraid to be over there without it, thinking since she was in a bike lane (even though facing opposing traffic) that she was safer.  This is far from the truth.  A motorist most likely would not expect to see a cyclist coming toward them on their right side.  Remember, a bike should be driven like a car as much as is possible.  This increases your safety, and puts you in the best visible position for motorists.  

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Charlottesville Javanese Gamelan

Today I rode my "new" 1980 Fuji Gran Tourer SE to record the Charlottesville Gamelan performance at the Bridge Progressive Arts Initiative here in Belmont.  On Memorial Day of 2008, I came across the Charlottesville Gamelan as they were preparing to perform at the same venue.  My wife and I were walking home with our 6 month old daughter, and I was curious to know what was going on inside.  I was staring at the building when one of the performers (Bruce) came out to inform us what was going on.  I didn't believe him right away, wondering if the instruments were even real!   Having lived in Charlottesville since 2003, I had never heard of it!  Cindy Benton-Groner is the founder/director (see above photo).  Well, the instruments are real, and she brought them back from Indonesia about 30 years ago.  She has been teaching and performing with her gamelan since.  We ended up going back that day for the performance, and I took my Sony digital mini-disc recorder to record it.  
Last year, I was able to join them, and perform in it myself.  I played the demung, and we performed in the first World Music Festival at UVA in Cabell Hall.  You can hear some of it on my figura music website.  

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Fuji Frame Swap Out

When it comes to cycling, proper fit is important.  My 'workhorse' bicycle for the past year has been my 1982 Del Rey.  I didn't really like the yellow color of it at first, but it did grow on me, and I ended up really loving to ride this bike.  However, it is a couple of centimeters too big for me, so I was a bit uncomfortable on it.  The other day, I came across a local craigslist add for a 1980 Fuji Gran Tourer SE.  Asking price was only $40, so I checked it out.  The seller accepted $30 for it (it is pretty rusty looking), and I am now the proud new owner.  This one is more my size, a 21" (or 54cm) frame.  I should be more comfortable on it.  The Del Rey was actually lighter than this one since it was quad-butted.  I will miss that, but the Gran Tourer will certainly suffice, and is still quality.  I have to give alot of credit to Jay, owner of the Fuji Otaku blog, for providing so much info on this particular frame.  He actually owned the exact same one.  That helped me feel confident to go ahead and get it.  Since the bikes are from about the same year, and were meant to serve about the same purpose, it's almost like it will be the same bike but hopefully more comfortable.  All of the parts transferred perfectly with no issues such as brake caliper reach, wrong type of threads, wrong length of spindle, etc...  I also now have alot of extra parts since the Gran Tourer did come complete before I swapped everything out.  One special perk was that it came with the 'Fuji' engraved crank arms that I love.  My Fuji Fleet feels more complete now that I've acquired a better fitting one for my daily errands and riding with the kids.  Now I have to figure out what to do with the larger frame.