Monday, December 17, 2012

I want what she's having.

We live on a quiet cul-de-sac that is just off a fairly busy road.  The busy-ness could be worse, the road has a nice wide bicycle lane at least on the segments in the vicinity of our house.  It has a traffic light up the road from us and another traffic light downstream from us both of which serve to "calm" the cars or "outrage" the cars depending on who you are talking to.  Taking a right on this road is no problem:  You come around the corner of our street and start pedalling up the decent sized bicycle lane.  Turning left is harder, you have a stop sign and you need to wait for the cars to clear so that you can (this is legal, really cars!) ride across the road and complete your left by heading down the bicycle lane on the far side. 

This is mostly fine as in, no worse than most parts of the US and quite a bit better than many.  When it's just me, or the Contraption Captain, we wait at the stop sign and when the going is good we hurry across the two lanes and head downhill. 

Rapunzel, now eight years almost nine, complicates matters slightly.  Her school is to our left so we have to get across the road.  Rapunzel is not a hurrier. 

Rapunzel is a nice steady bicyclist but a powerful start is not her forte.  She prefers to roll gently forward, getting her wing flaps lined up, tuning her ailerons and only then beginning to pedal.  Meanwhile, up the road, the light turns green for the cars and they charge towards us.  They see an eight year old but they laugh at eight year olds, haha!  Or maybe they don't see an eight year old because the sun is in their eye or they had a bad day at the office or who knows what the fuck goes through their heads really.  In any case they do not slow down and each time we are in this spot I feel a little stressed as we hurry across and they barrel towards us. 

Have you read Mouse Stories by Arnold Lobel?  It doesn't have a bicycle in it but it's really fantastic, recommend.  In one story this mouse decides to visit his grandmother.  He gets in his car and drives and drives until the car falls apart.  Fortunately, at the side of the road, there is a many selling sneakers.  So he puts on the sneakers and runs and runs until the sneakers fall apart.  Fortunately at the side of the road there is a person selling boots.  He buys a pair of boots and tromps and tromps and tromps until his boots fall apart.  So he takes off the boots and starts walking.  He walks and walks and walks until his feet fall apart.  Fortunately, by the side of the road, there is a person selling feet.  He takes off his old feet and puts on the new ones and runs the rest of the way to his grandmother's house.  She is so happy to see him!  She says "How good of you to come and visit, my darling.  And what nice new feet you have."

So there we are at the side of the road, with a need to go left, and with a legal right (haha) to go left but we are unable to make a secure crossing.  Fortunately, just a little bit down the road from us, there is a person by the side of the road selling crosswalks.  So we buy a crosswalk and ...  no not really, no crosswalk-seller but there is a mild somewhat unobtrusive crosswalk that we could use (somewhat inanely considering we are bicyclsits not pedestrians but any port in a storm) if only we could get to it.  We can't get to it because it is down the wrong side of the bicycle lane and it's somewhat far to walk. 

What do we end up doing every morning?  We bicycle down the wrong side of the bicycle lane (yes) which is fortunately wide so we squeeze to one side if we see any bicyclists heading towards us.**  When we get this short distance covered and are at the crosswalk we quickly get off our bicycles and the moment our feet are on the ground on the same side of the bicycle (can't have one foot to either side of the bicycle and expect to be seen) we become visible to the cars.  Everyone who ignored us a quarter of a block up the road when we waited hopefully to cross is now wondering if they can get away with ignoring three peds in a crosswalk.  Contraption Captain usually takes the lead and a trifle grimly walks us out.  Cars stop.  If one car does not stop the other cars take it to task.  They wait (a little unhappily) as we walk our bicycles across the road.  Then we get back on and immediately disappear again.

Try this experiment at home.

With one foot on either side of your bicycle stand waiting for an opportunity to cross.
Now stand with the bicycle beside you like a friendly Labrador Retriever.
Now repeat both the above experiments with small children.  If you don't have your own small child borrow one. 
Try the entire thing at an intersection of two roads and then at a crosswalk. 
Publish results.

**We've only seen a few bicyclists during this narrow window and none ahve complained.  I almost think they look a little sympathetic. 

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