Thursday, May 26, 2011
bad cop is bad. stupid intersection is stupid.
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What you are looking at (unless Google maps decided to screw me over) is an intersection. On your right is a railroad crossing with some seriously freaked out cars. To your left is a busy road. Parallel to the street you are looking at is a hugely busy road that has no accommodation for bicycles and in fact experiences a higher than average incidence of both bike and pedestrian fatalities.
In front of you is bicycle nirvana.
That's too strong. In front of you is what a bicycle loves. A nice bike lane without a ton of traffic. Follow that road and you come to a bike bridge and cross that bridge and you are in Palo Alto and on your way to shopping or work or whatever. It is obvious to anyone with wheels that bicycles are to be funneled onto this road.
Behind you is a quiet road that passes a railroad station.
Looks simple, right?
What is not visible in the picture is a road sign that says "Only Left Turn"
It is illegal to go straight here.
Admittedly traffic from the left and right is heavy and a railroad crossing adds to the fun. Any bicyclist with a sense for self-preservation comes to a stop and has to wait. You wait for a pedestrian to halt the traffic or you wait for a break in the traffic or you wait for a passing train to stop the cars.
This is how I came to find myself waiting at a stop sign and being yelled at via bullhorn by an angry policeman.
He bellowed "YOU CANNOT GO STRAIGHT."
This is dumb but I seriously could not believe he was talking to me. Where did he expect me to go? There is no alternative for a bicycle at this intersection but to go straight.
He came over to bellow closer to my ears and the expression on his face telegraphed "Bicyclists are the D U M B." He told me I could not cross there. I asked for alternatives. He couldn't quite bring himself to suggest that I kill myself on nearby El Camino Real so he suggested that I get off my bicycle and walk it across the street.
This is a pet peeve of mine. I will get off my bicycle and walk it when automobile people get out of their cars and push them. We argue some but I need to get to work so ultimately I cross the street with my bicycle next to me, it's lonely pedals poking out to the sides and my shoes clicking on the pavement.
My commute takes me on different roads (now that I no longer drop the Contraption Captain and his Tikit/folder at the train station) and so the matter is if not exactly over...at least pushed to the side. Until I met M.
M is a nice mother. She has a nice upright bike and she has some very nice children. She likes to bicycle. The super nice road up ahead that is impossible to get to happens to go right past the local library. M was on her way to the library to return some books and pick up some new book for her children and herself.
M examined the intersection and unlike me took careful note of the "only left turn" sign and dutifully pulled her bicycle off the road and onto the sidewalk at the cross-walk. She was waiting at the side of her bicycle for the cars to stop when the cop with the bullhorn pulled up and screamed at her. M is made of gentler stuff than I am. M stood there at the side of the road with her bicycle and her library books and cried from anxiety and embarassment. Then the cop gave her a $250 ticket for having her bicycle on the sidewalk.
I hate you bad cop.