Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Sparkle Pony strikes out (mostly) on her own.

Sparkle Pony came to me Sunday with a plan called "I want to bake chocolate chip cookies and we have no chocolate chips and so I will ride my bicycle to Safeway and buy some."  Her wish was to execute this plan in the company of her staunch companion, the Best Friend.  The Safeway is less than a mile away.  I reviewed all the intervening intersections.  I reviewed my own life at age 12 and acknowledged that it had been rife with unaccompanied bicycle rides, in fact, unlike Sparkle Pony I have never seen my parents on bicycles.  I told Sparkle Pony and Best Friend that I'd see them when they got back and that was her first solo ride.

Monday Sparkle Pony came to me with a plan called "I will ride all over the neighborhood and up to the park in the company of Best Friend."  I paused a little longer but in the end agreed to this as well.  I peeked out a window and watched Sparkle Pony and Best Friend bike away up the street, helmets on, long braids floating along behind them like cheerful mascots.

Is it a little (a lot even) scary?  Yes.  It is.  I'm a bicyclist and I know what it can be like out there.  I've done a lot of bicycling with both kids though and Sparkle Pony is respectful and law abiding.  There are bike lanes.  Her friend is trust-worthy.  The Contraption Captain and I both rode everywhere as kids, every road and every neighborhood.  Nothing sets you free quite the way a bicycle can set you free.  The Pony sees me bicycle every day and knows that it is something I love.  She is ready to love it also and I am ready to open my hands a little so that she can start to find her own wheels.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Massachusetts mouth on a California body

I was minding my own business, bicycling home with the big Burley bike wagon neatly loaded with stacks of clean laundry.  My company has laundry facilities because otherwise the the engineers might stop changing their clothes once they ran out of clean stuff.

There's this funny little squiggle where El Camino Real meets Sandhill Road.  The bike lane is on the right side of the road and then it's on the left side as most people cross Sandhill rather than be turned into creamed chipped beef on El Camino.

I signal left and then check my rear view mirror and wait for a good moment and then I cross the road to the left hand side bike lane and ride up to the traffic light.  I'm thinking about what I want for dinner.  It's a long light.

Grandma rides up and stops her Mary Poppins bike on my right.  She gives me a meaningful look and then comes out with "That was so dangerous."

I blink owlishly.  I try and figure out what she's talking about.

"That was so close.  The way you just cut in front of that car.  I was so worried for you!"

My eyes narrow.  My finely tuned engineering mind translates the above statement from verbose mode to data mode and gets "I disapprove of you and am disappointed you were not killed."

My brain suggests "Fuck you" as a response but then I remember that I am seeking to improve my civility.  Instead I say "un-hunh" and hope grandma shuts up so I can go back to deciding between burritos or pizza.

"Very dangerous" Grandma repeats stubbornly.

I give her my full attention, bathing her prissy little face in the Eye of Sauron.  "Where's your bike helmet" I growl.

Grandma blushes and pats her blue hair.  "I must have left it home today."

"I think that's DANGEROUS."

A smarter grandma would have dropped the subject at this juncture but this is not a smarter grandma.

Grandma frowns.  Her tone turns from pink to frosty.  "You cut in front of that car.  THAT was dangerous."

"Fuck you Grandma.  I make this trip every day.  I signal and look in my mirror and check over my shoulder and go when it's safe.  Find someone else to harass.  And wear you goddamned bike helmet and get a mirror so you can fucking see what's going on behind you instead of guessing."

[a friend of mine said "You just thought that right?  You didn't say it?  I said it.  Lean on me hard enough and I'll say what I think.]

A smart Grandma would have dropped it but this Grandma is outraged at my lack of regret over a non-existent incident.  "At least I don't have a" [histrionic gasp of breath goes here] "BABY with me."

"Neither do I.  That's my laundry you idiot."

Moral:  scratch the surface of a California mom bicyclist pulling her little cherub home from daycare and you may find an engineer from Massachusetts with compromised social skills and a bunch of freshly laundered sheets and towels.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

bad cop is bad. stupid intersection is stupid.

View Larger Map

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.


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.

Friday, May 20, 2011

ok that was a little cute

The temperature of the herd (aka the giant mindless swarm of automobiles I traverse two times every day) was on the warm side today.

There was the woman with the white earbuds and the battered green Camry who couldn't make up her mind at the intersection of San Antonio and Charleston whether she wanted to take a left or go straight.  She moved into the line for people who were going straight.  She wormed her car into the line for people turning.  Lather rinse repeat.  I wanted to shout "Make up your damned mind!" because every time she moved into the lane for people going straight she ignored me and I had to drag my sorry self over to the right.  In the end I think it was a lot like those people who always choose the wrong line in the grocery store.  She wanted whatever lane would go first.  When the green arrow for a left turn came up she pulled back into that lane, got honked at, yelled "fuck you!" to a guy in a black Mercedes with a Obama bumper sticker and disappeared from my life.

When I was riding over the 101 overpass (in my meager skinny hapless teeny tiny bike lane that is sometimes blocked by a ROAD WORK AHEAD sign) I was nearly crushed by a huge white bus that passed me so close it sucked the air out of my lungs.  I was so traumatized by this experience that at the top of the overpass, that the guy driving the Ford Escort (must not be from around here) who attempted to yield and let me cross had to wait while I glared all around me like a senile dog that's started seeing postmen everywhere.

At some point I clear the majority of the craziness and am riding on Bryant.  I get to a 4-way stop that is usually deserted.  Today it's a (for this spot) mob scene of cars approaching in all directions.  I stop (yes really) and the car who has arrived first goes through the intersection.  I look at the other cars, one in particular, trying to remember if he was next or if it was my turn.  None of the cars are moving so I head across the road.  This guy in one of the cars has his window down.  He is smiling at me so happily that I wonder if I know him.  As I pedal by he yells out "Hi there bicyclist!  Have a great weekend!"

California on a rough day is still better than any state on the east coast on a good day --- if you are a bicyclist.

I don't like you either.

I'm on the last lap to work this morning which means I am heading down a steep hill towards a traffic light intersection where I need to take a right.  I start signaling that I need to get over into the right lane and I start looking to both sides.  On my left may be cars who want to cross the bike lane and turn right.  On the right may be cars driving fast and planning on taking a right and there may also be cars crossing the bike lane so that they can go straight.

It's not the safest piece of my ride.

I'm very very careful.

So I'm signaling that I want to go right and I am clear on my left and on my right a car is approaching.  They seem to be yielding.  I wait another moment.  Now I am sure they are yielding.  I pull in front of them, still pedaling hard, and do the move I learned after arriving in California, I wave.  I wave to say "thank-you for allowing me into your lane and allowing me to live another day." 

The driver of the maroon Prius with an easily recalled vanity plate steps on the gas and revs the engine of his car and then hurtles up the bike lane passing me on the left and then pulling in front of me and making his right hand turn on two wheels.

Yeah well fuck you too.

I got a good look at him as he went by and I learned a lot in those few moments as I realized that I would survive this encounter.

1.  Guy had a dog but it ran away.
2.  Guy is so fat it's an effort for him to fit behind the steering wheel.
3.  Guy is physically offensive to potential partners of both genders.
4.  Guy lists "software engineer" as his position when he files with the IRS but has yet to master Qbasic.

A final note. 

It's never wise to poop in your own backyard, you fascist pig.  I work around the corner from you.  If I encounter you again on the road (or the sidewalk) I'll remember you and I may remind you of the morning you behaved like a total asshole for no reason other than your own personal and very obvious short-comings.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

I worry about you. And you. And you.

People are always very interested in my varied child-bike transport systems.  One thing they ask about is the Burley bike wagon that I still use to transport my youngest to school when she does not feel like riding her own bicycle.  

What people ask:

1.  Has it ever tipped over with your child in it?
2.  Do you worry about running into $some_obstacle with the wagon while your kid is in it?
3.  Do you worry that the wagon will break free of the bicycle and roll into traffic and your child will be maimed or worse?

The answer to all three of the above questions is "No.  I do not worry about these things."

The person with all the questions looks surprised.  Their sad concerned little faces seem to say, "You don't worry?  Not even a little?"  

So I offer additional information because I am helpful that way. "The only thing I worry about is being hit by a car."

At this point the people look a little blank.  My theory is that cars are so ubiquitous that it's like saying "I worry that gravity will make me fall down."  

Let's get one thing straight here, gravity is a given and automobiles are not.  

If I were to tumble my wagon my kid might get a bruise or a scrape.  I guess if she were really unlucky she'd injure a tooth or experience a fracture.  Traumatic head injury seems unlikely as she wears a helmet and the wagon has a roll bar.

If a car tumbles my bike wagon...I think it's probably all over.  So yes I worry when I ride my bicycle, and it is the same worry whether my kids are along or not.  No I take that back.  I always worry and I haemorrhage ph33r when my kids are along.  I worry about exactly one thing:  being hit by a car.  It is the only worry that matters.

Anyways.  Now onto something more fun.  The next time you are on your way to collect your kid via bicycle coupled to bicycle wagon, try one of the following keeping in mind that pedestrians and cars can't see that your wagon is not occupied:

1.  Hit a curb with one wheel such that the wagon flips onto it's side.  Continue biking like this, dragging the wagon behind, for about half a block before leaning back to casually right the thing and continue on.

2.  Mount the bike wagon onto the back of a recumbent bicycle.  This will tilt the entire thing such that if you were carrying a real kid he/she would probably get a nose bleed.

3.  Say loudly "I have had ENOUGH" and cut the wagon loose and leave it by the side of the road.  

Saturday, May 14, 2011

bad cop good cop. this is good cop.

Police get a bad rap and some of it is deserved.  But not all of it.  They have a rough gig.  They always see people at their worst --- couples fighting in front of their kids, drunk husbands beating their wives, guinea pigs stealing prescription drugs and selling them on the black market.*

Cops get mad at bicyclists because we are obviously having a good time and they are not and because we play fast and loose with the traffic laws and that kindof works their nerves.  If you've ever been pulled over by a cop while driving your car you know they get cranky about cars playing fast and loose with the traffic laws as well.  Car drivers!  Bike drivers!  We really share so much, we should all get together some time and play cards and do shots of tequila and really bond.  

But this isn't bad cop.  This is good cop.  

I was riding home from work on a bicycle that has since been stolen damnit.  Hey, asshole who has my Trek 2.1 with the BRC sticker on it, your momma eats kitty litter!!!

Where was I.

Riding home from the preschool actually.  In those days I biked from work to the preschool, collected Rapunzel, and then rode home from the preschool.  At the time of this encounter I would have been pedaling hard for fifty minutes or so and had reached Palo Alto in the twilight.

Bicycle lighting.  I had a red flashing light on the back of my wagon, a second red flashing light closer to the ground, a red flashing light on the back of my bicycle, and a bright white light on the front of my bike.  Despite all this I still had to deal with people who could not "see" me.

middle-aged man in silver Lexus rolls down his power window at a traffic light.
me:  hi
him:  I could barely see you.
I consider my three red lights and my one white light.  I nearly have a seizure staring into the collective flash.
what I say:  un-hunh
what I think:  see an ophthalmologist before you kill someone.

But that was another time.  On this occasion I was coming up to downtown Palo Alto when a cop turned on it's blue lights.  I moved towards the right wondering what I had done.  Was it my kid?  Had I not come to enough of a stop at the last 4-way?  What was it?

The cop pulled up on my left.  His power window went down.  
"I love your little red light!! 
I must have looked blank because he pointed back towards my wagon.  
I nod uncertainly.
He beams, "Just like on Kojak!!"  He looks (channeling Junie B Jones, readers with young daughters will know this series) ...very delighted.  
"Uhhh, thank-you"

*okay probably not the guinea pig thing but I realized that I'd used up wives husbands and kids and guinea pigs had a certain flow.  

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Bike to Work Day 2011 - Doing it Better

Our culture (and yours too, probably) values and praises people who have even features and display athletic prowess.  Every four years countries come together and compete for supremacy at the Olympics.  And then..  for one day a year or so people who are amputees or have Down's Syndrome or are differently-abled in some way come together for the Special Olympics and for that day (or maybe a few days) everyone cheers them instead.  Then they return to the usual beauty-standard/athletic-prowess thing for the rest of the year.

Today was the Special Olympics day for bicycle commuters, aka Bike To Work Day.  I rode the same ten miles I always ride but there were people outside with little tables offering bicyclists muffins, cake, juice and coffee.  Also a modest goody bag.  People cheered and waved at me as I did the same thing I do every day.  I think it's nice of them to stand out there and hand out muffins but it's a little embarrassing too, as if one day I were walking to my office and people started cheering "wow, look at her walk!  hey, thanks for walking!  looking good with that walk of yours!"

I'm not going to be so arrogant as to describe why a person competes in the Special Olympics.  I do know that their situation is one that is with them year round, and this is the day they have the opportunity to compete and perhaps excel, the day they can earn recognition for how they live year round.  As I was thinking this over I was bicycling up Charleston Street and I saw a group of my co-workers riding the company Conference Bicycle up the road.  They looked crazy ridiculous and they were laughing and shouting and pedaling very hard (that thing is heavy) and the cars were slowing to check out this strange beast and hands extended out windows to snap cell phone photos.

That was when it came to me.  One day a year we demonstrate that our restraints have set us free.  We have no powerful engine, no airbags, no gasoline and no oil.  We have no windshield wipers and no dashboard, no stereo system and no power windows.  It's raining and the water falls on our shoulders and soaks into our socks and the people driving by see us and think we're crazy or pity us.  What I don't have when I ride my bicycle has shown me what I do not need.  What I do not have by choosing to ride a bicycle does not limit me.  It has made me better.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Pattern Recognition

Yesterday I biked home sans wagon and sans Contraption Captain.  This left the field open for my favorite commuting activity:  racing against unaware bicyclists.  I crossed El Camino and was smoked by a fast roadie on a pretty bike.  I gave chase and figured out that he was the better bicyclist, faster and stronger, but with the cooperation of a few traffic lights I found I could keep up.  I liked the way he operated.  He stopped for red lights and waited.  When he wanted to pass a slower bicyclist he signaled to the cars and went around the bicyclist with enough room, once it was safe.  He had the strong confident behaviors of someone who doesn't need to cheat to win.

Then came the incident.  As I told the Contraption Captain later, as incidents go it was a minor one.  Neither of us (the bicyclists) were hit and even if we had been hit it probably would have not been particularly bad.  Scrapes and bruises.  A fracture if someone got really unlucky.  The roadies and I were riding up the bike lane with heavy congested stalled traffic to our left.  We approached an intersection with a green light but the cars were backed through the intersection and were not progressing.  The roadie slowed somewhat and continued.  A car that wanted to make a right turn further up started to pull his car part way into the bike lane (an act of desperation, he would not be able to continue on, not enough room) and the roadie slowed more.  The car stopped and seemed to see the roadie but when the roadie tried to get by the car pulled forward again and looked briefly as if he would hit the roadie who slammed on the brakes.  I gave a short sharp scream of warning and the car stopped.  The roadie continued and then I continued.  Just life in the bike lane.

The two of us hit the steep part of the hill next (he is first, I am second) and I badly wanted to make the green light and keep up.  I worked really hard and this is the end of my day and the end of my ride so the burst of speed I produced was hard won.  I cleared the light and continued on up the hill feeling great about myself, about bicyclists, about the evening ahead.  Tired and sweaty I put my bike away and went upstairs, changing rapidly from Champion of The Intersection at Alpine Road to middle-aged mother who needs to make dinner.

Fast forward and a mom-friend of mine shows up to pick up her kid.  She is sorry she was late, she was stuck in traffic with her friend.  Actually they saw me go by on my bicycle.  I glow a little with pride.  I think that I look great on my bicycle.  It is one of my few vanities.  I am hoping she saw me charge Sand Hill Rd.  She's a marathon runner and athletic in her own right and maybe she'll appreciate the speed I got when I went through the intersection.  She says "Yeah my friend said you were nearly killed."  I blink.  Was I nearly killed?  Then I remember the above incident with the car.  "Oh" I say, "there was a thing with the bicyclist in front of me.  Maybe that's what he means."  She nods.  "My friend says it was a really close."  She has the look of someone whose opinions have been confirmed with data.

This was depressing to me.  It's depressing because after she said this I had to consider, "was it close?  Was I nearly killed?  Is there something I don't remember even?"  I was reminded of my High School chemistry teacher.  He said that people see what they expect to see and gave an example of a guy who said that only crazy people hung out in Harvard Square in Cambridge.  He went to Harvard Square and saw a bunch of crazy people run up the street wearing only underpants.  Except what he actually saw was a road race, and a group of runners going by wearing race kit.

My friend expects bicycling to be dangerous.  She often tells me about the drivers she sees engaging in road rage or doing their hair or not paying attention.  So when she sees me bicycling she expects to see a near death experience and that's what she gets.  What do I expect?  The majority of cars are effectively a herd of cattle traveling to their destinations.  Some of the ornery ones diverge from the group and so the entire herd bears close watching but steady state is...just life traveling on a road that I share with a lot of other people.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011


What is annoying:  Roadies who can't accelerate.  Roadie is at a red light.  He can't do a track stand so he is inching forward hoping the light turns green before he goes critical.  Maybe he gave up and unclipped.  Light turns green and with agonizing slowness he rolls forward, apparently still in top gear.  If he actually unclipped it will take him (or her, both genders are equally guilty) the next five minutes to get his shoe clicked in because he does it in the super slo-mo generally reserved for football replays. 

What is yucky:  Chunky roadies who wear blue spandex that has big sweaty blocks all over it and they won't let you go by even though they can't seem to get past the 17mph mark.  I'm looking at you middle-aged guy on the white Cervelo whose shorts were so tight I was reminded of a balloon with a string around the middle.

What is so disgusting I almost lost my lunch:  Bicyclists who cover one nostril with one finger and blow snot out the other side.  I can't believe I have to say this people.  USE A FUCKING HANKY.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Argue for your limitations, and sure enough, they're yours.

Really Philadelphia, really?

Philadelphia columnist Stu Bykofsky says "Philadelphia streets are too small and clogged. Bicycling will never be a serious alternative form of transportation here."

That got me curious about Philadelphia. I'd been once and visited a zoo. I have an idea they have a bell there that cracked on it's first excursion into the ring-tone world. What else is true of Philadelphia?

1. Philadelphia was once the United States capital city.
....but then everyone decided that malaria infested Washington DC would be way better.

2. Philadelphia is home to the cheesesteak sandwich, water ice, soft pretzels, and TastyKakes.
Ok. Explains the weight issue...People in Phildalphia are not small.

3.  Apparently Philadelphia has a problem with people getting murdered

Anyways according to Stu Bykofsky, their streets are too small and clogged for anything else.  Wow.  That's incredibly sad.  Philadelphia, a place which was once a capital city and is now known for it's TastyKakes will never be a place that people can commute by bicycle.  Never.  Never.  It's always going to be the same in Philadelphia.  It's always going to be the same old shit-hole where people get murdered and drive cars and eat TastyKakes because they're so damned depressed. 

Who is Stu Bykofsky?

I do an image search and this is what I hit first:  

...because apparently Philadelphia isn't entirely prepared to turn themselves over to the TastyKake conspiracy.  

His profile picture which is the same as his High School yearbook photo:

What he actually looks like (guy on left) (aka giant purple people eater)

Ok.  So fat guys in purple outfits say bicyclists don't belong in Philadelphia.  Philadelphia is just too washed up to ever support anything new or interesting.  It's sad to Philadelphia will never be anything more than a place where people eat TastyKakes and get murdered and frankly, call me an optimist, but I think the guy is wrong.  Don't listen to him Philadelphia!!!  Get out there and ride your bikes and show that your city is not yet a smoking hole, that life can change and the air can be cleaner and a city can rise from it's own ashes.

Here's a different city to provide encouragement.  It's name is Davis, California.

Bike counts for Davis, California are pretty fucking impressive.

Davis has a diverse bike community that has achieved the coveted (to non-Philadelphians) Platinum bike city status.  Palo Alto (a city where real estate values and economy are generally considered to be superior to Philadephia) is a mere Gold level bike city but continues to try.  We're pulling for you Paly!

Here's Davis, California.

Here's Philadelphia.  

C'mon.  Which picture do you want to be in?  Hint:  the guy being carried out of the building wasn't killed by a bicyclist running a red light.

our thing is a good thing.

I wish I could write more during the week.  I think about what I want to say almost every day but then the job that pays the bills intrudes and when I get home and put away my bicycle I have a family to enjoy.  My feeling all week was "this thing I have, this bicycling thing, it's a good thing.  And it's a thing I share with a lot of other people.  It's our thing."

Our thing is definitely better than this thing as an aside.

My bicycling thing is shared with cars as well.  The bad times we interact stand out because terror makes a person remember but the good things are more frequent.  I was on my way to school with the bike and wagon and Rapunzel and we were waiting at a red light and wanting to go left.  The light turned green and a giant Suburban rolled forward, she had the right of way.  But she sees us and smiles and gestures broadly that we should go ahead and I wave and we both (I think) go away happy with our place in the world.

Thursday I get out of work and hightail it towards home.  Almost immediately I get shoaled at an intersection by a guy I've seen around work.  He's riding a vintage fixie, not a single note wrong to my admittedly un-tutored eye, I don't think it even has brakes.  He's slow through the intersection and holds the rest of us up.  I don't like that so I pour it on and haul past him doing 25mph uphill (which is strong for me) and I make the next light and he does not.  He runs it anyways.

At the bottom of the hill we split up and I continue on but then our routes re-converge again and I clear a light he's waiting for.  Now I've passed him twice.  Our routes split up again but we meet up three streets further on and I pass him again.  Three times.  I'm enjoying myself.

I work hard and put a lot of distance between us.  I love racing with the other bicyclists.  Left to myself I'll noodle along, especially if it's windy, but today I mean to show this shoaling fixie riding yoga fanatic (yes) that I'm the faster bicyclist.

I see another bicyclist up ahead that I know, and catch up.  He's on his road bike and making pretty good time himself.  He gives me his usual sideways look and we catch up on things like kids and weather and bicycles.  We're a little slower now and Fixie-Guy catches up and drafts.

Next comes Palo Alto and the Contraption Captain arrives pulling the now empty wagon.  He hauls his rig around and now there are four of us bicycling together (no, angry hostile people, not all in a row, but together as this is bicycle boulevard after all...) for about a mile before Nice peels off towards his home, Fixie heads towards wherever he's going and Contraption Captain and I turn our rides toward Sand Hill Road.

It was the moment when we were all together, four people with variations on the same bicycle theme that I experienced a short feeling of being in a majority, of being the norm and not the outlier.  It is those moments that I feel sure that bicycling has a future on all our roads, everywhere.  That people will meet up with their friends and race each other home or slow down to talk.  That no one will question that we bicyclists have a place on every road that leads to home. 

Monday, May 2, 2011

pet peeve #712 ROAD WORK signage

Every day my bike ride to home takes me across a highway overpass.  There is a bike lane and I am really grateful about that, really grateful.  A narrow slip of a thing but a bike lane and mostly travels are fine.  Lately though the bike lane is blocked by a giant orange "ROAD WORK" sign.

What the fuck is it with the ROAD WORK signs always going across the bike lane?  I'm struggling up this incline and the cars are accelerating towards their on-ramp to the 101 and suddenly I have to get out of my lane and into their lane.  Today the ROAD WORK sign was at the very top of the climb and I had this powerful desire to tip the entire tippy affair over the edge and down onto the cars crawling along below.

Not that I'd actually do such a thing.  I don't care so much about injuring the cars, I mean they're pretty much begging for it with their four wheels and aluminum siding.  Motorcyclists are an entirely different story.  I'm watching for those motorcyclists every second of the day and wouldn't want to risk hurting a single lane-splitting hair on a Ducati rider's head.

After whining about motorcyclists in my last post I got into the car to go to a soccer tournament in Pacifica.  The car was entirely laden.  Contraption Captain was driving, I rode shotgun, Sparkle Pony, Rapunzel and Friend of the Family were in the backseat.  Five of us.  As we rolled along the 280 there were two separate occasions of giant signs arching across the highway with the digital (temporary) message of "SHARE THE ROAD.  WATCH FOR MOTORCYCLISTS."

This is a fail from a few different perspectives.

Fail 1.  As a bicyclist, I can say with absolute confidence that those "Share the Road" signs are about as effective at getting cars to share the road as Cheesecake Factory desserts are a help to those trying to slim down.  If I were a motorcyclist (which I am not because those things are ugly and stinky) I'd be thinking "Yeah, like some sign's gonna make a difference.  Where's MY lane anyways.  Fucking bicyclists."

Fail 2.  We should watch for everyone on the roads.  Do I need to say this?  Killing people with your vehicle is just a junky crappy thing to do.   A "Watch For Motorcycles" sign?  How about watching for cars with little kids in them?  How about watching for sleepy people because they're super dangerous drivers?  How about watching for dads and moms on their way home from work with excited little kids waiting to see them?   If we start prioritizing who lives and who dies on the roadways of America, well,  I just don't see by what criteria motorcyclists should come out on the top of the heap.

Anyways.  Back to the overpass where there is a big orange sign blocking my teeny tiny part of the road and absolutely no one is watching for me because they're too busy checking around for motorcyclists.

If I make it past the giant road sign I head down a steep hill at the bottom of which is a traffic light (usually green) at which I need to hang a sharp right.   At least two times a week the following scenario plays out.

1.  I bike up one side of the overpass.
2.  I signal and then try and go around the giant orange ROAD WORK sign.  Some car in a hurry doesn't give an inch and I scream a little as they whip around me but I don't die (yet)
3.  I head down the other side of the overpass.
4.  The car that already killed me wants to make a right but they get to thinking.  "Wasn't there some thing up there?  That got in my way a little bit?  Could it be a bicyclist?  Is that bicyclist about to hurtle down on my right and get all over my door when I try and turn?
5.  I signal as I hurtle down hill, showing that I want to turn right myself.
6.  The car looks around vaguely.  Something about a something something somewhere.
7.  Now I stop signalling so that I can brake so I don't spin wide on the turn and plaster myself on a windshield.
8.  The car remains at the bottom of the hill, signalling right, looking around vaguely.
9.  I get to the green light and turn right and continue on.
10.  The car breathes a sigh of relief and turns right also and then passes me too close and cuts me off at the next intersection.


SHARE THE ROAD   (With a developmentally challenged  mildly autistic chunk of steel.)