Wednesday, July 28, 2010

The temperature is 99 degrees, but the heat index is "Melt Your Face Off"

What a scorcher of a week it was! At one point the heat index was ridiculous, like 108 degrees ridiculous. That means that (unfortunately) I don't have a lot of bike-related photos to share with you all. I did get some biking in, but it was mostly of the commuting and work-related variety, rather than the fun and games variety.

I did want to share my thoughts on aggressive cyclists. As more and more people are cycling on city streets (and sidewalks), it seems they are taking their poor habits/ignorance with them. Let me share with you the following scenario: (I'm represented by the red cycle, and the "bike shoaler" is green).

As you can see, I'm stopped at the intersection at the red light on the right side of the lane. To my left is a vehicle, also patiently waiting at the light. It's one lane, so we're a comfortable distance apart, but still sharing the same lane. Mind you, I'm riding my cruiser so its a bit wider than a road or hybrid bike.

I'm day-dreaming, awaiting the light to turn green, when all of a sudden a cyclist squeezes past me, nearly running over my foot and knocking off the passenger mirror of the motor vehicle in the process. She then proceeds to pass both of us, pass the stop line and noses into the intersection, where she executed a poor trackstand attempting to beat the light while waiting for oncoming traffic to slow.

Did she beat the light? No. It turned green while she was still partially in the intersection ahead of us, causing traffic to have to move around her, and she didn't save herself any additional time.

Besides the blatant recklessness of her act, there was never a single "excuse me", "on your left" or bell-ring to be heard. I was completely startled when she passed me. Like one of those tiny field mice that squeeze through pin-holes to get into your house, I never would have considered a cyclist slipping past me on my left in a single lane with a motor vehicle. If I had just leaned ever so slightly to the left, we would have collided. A simple heads-up would have saved both of us a lot of potential woes.

CYCLISTS: Bells/noise-makers are your friend. So is your voice. Use them!

This is not a rare occurrence. I counted no less than 3 times this week when I was nearly wiped-out by passing cyclists who couldn't spare a simple "on your left",  and passed within inches of me. For those of you not familiar with riding in bike lanes, or any city street for that matter, there is often debris on the side of the road. Whether its glass from car break-ins, trash, or in the case of this past weekend, the storm debris from the freak thunderstorm we had, it always ends up in the bike lane.  This means that I may have to swerve to avoid it, and that means I might swerve into you if you don't let me know you are attempting to pass me! (I have the right-of-way, so it's your responsibility to signal!) Or you could actually switch lanes to pass, ya know. You don't have to stay in the bike lane. Either way, if you wouldn't want a motor vehicle to do it to you, don't do it to another cyclist!

That's enough of the rantings, I think. On to more positive things.

I had another opportunity to try out the new Penn Ave. bike lanes, and I still really like them, despite one flaw. The pedestrians. Since this is the season of the "touron", many of them like to stand in the crosswalk islands and gawk at the magnificence that is the view along Pennsylvania Avenue downtown.  Unfortunately, this is directly in the path of the bike lanes. Luckily, I have my trusty bell to warn them before I run them over, but on a crowded day this could be a problem. Still, it's a nice view, and even during rush hour I had minimum difficulty navigating traffic.

For those of you unfamiliar with the layout of the new bike lanes, this link kinda-sorta explains it.

I'm not 100% sure, but I do believe I spied new bike lanes being painted on 14th Street, NW (specifically between the 2900-3300 blocks). I couldn't tell whether it was a a parking lane/curb lane marker, or a bike lane because the "cyclist" icon hadn't been painted in yet. But it definitely looks like it might be a bike lane! (I forgot my camera, so I don't have photographic evidence yet). This makes me insanely happy. For more than a year, I've had to change my commute path because of the ridiculous construction that made it virtually impossible to bike on 14th St. NW between Harvard St. and Newton St. I tried a few times, and after nearly getting squashed by metro-buses, cars & construction equipment, or falling into gaping holes in the street, I just avoided it altogether. It seemed like it was never going to end. Well, the end is in sight! And it includes a bike lane! (I hope).

According to my trusty psychic Sparky, (and the folks at weather underground), it looks as though the upcoming week's temperatures will be much milder, so hopefully I can get some more bike photos in. Last weekend, I attended a wedding at Mt. Vernon and I was gazing longingly at the bike path that runs along the potomac from DC to Mt. Vernon. One of these days, when the weather is not so oppressive, I'll be on that path.

Ride safe everyone!