You know how in Orwell's 1984 we have always been at war with Oceania? Well on my commute we've always had the road construction. It's has no start and it has no end, just like that war with Eurasia we got going somewhere awhile back. The road is being ripped up or pipe is being put down or an office building is being torn out and replaced by a bigger glassier office building. Me I'm just on my increasingly grubby bicycle trying to get to work or trying to get home from work or (for variety) trying to get to the food store.
Road construction is not my friend. It starts with a gigantic sign that says ROAD WORK which is always perfectly centered in the middle of the skinny little sorry-ass excuse for bicycle infrastructure lane that I ride in and that I fantasize gives me some little delusional protection from the cars. So that's right out, the bicycle lane.
Next you see a sign saying "Lane Closed" and all the cars bunch up like cows lining up for a slaughter house and the more desperate ones go to the front of the line and moo in low anxious voices while the more patient cars stay in a fixed lane with a centimeter of space between bumpers so that the cows (I mean cars) that are queue jumping have to stand to the side.
Where does this leave the bicycles?
Not in very good shape thanks. We sometimes get a helpful nudge in the shape of BICYCLE LANE CLOSED. Sometimes the cars are actually shunted into our lane because their own is being made smooth and lovely and so they use our broken sorry ass lane during the repairs. Mostly we just fend for ourselves, sticking our arms out as we signal that we want to move away from the backhoe beeping along in our direction.
Yesterday I was pointed towards the sidewalk by a guy in a yellow vest. Oh yay. O Frabjous Day. I ride onto the sidewalk and pedal uneasily up the broken bit that's actually for pedestrians and I am dodging angry strollers and throwing apologetic looks at the other bicyclists limping along in the other direction. We get moved onto the sidewalk but somehow the cars never get moved onto a teeter-totter to get to work. So unfair.
Once I saw a sign that said "Walk Your Bike" and I thought to myself "I'll walk my bicycle when you get out and push your goddamned car you dumb sow."
Some days there is a long line of cones with cars to the left and no road construction to the right. I mean eventually they plan to do a little bit of a something but why bother taking down all the cones just for lunch break? When this happens I ride on the construction side of the cones and I watch out for yawning holes and snicker at the cars the way the cat thumbs her nose at the dog when he's on a leash.
It's a special hoot when they shut down Bicycle Boulevard because unlike the cars who can detour around using another road, we only have this one street. The result is that the construction workers put up barriers and we pause and then flow around them, like ants at a picnic. Each day they make the bicycle deterrents a little more stout but each day we find our way around anyways, weaving around piles of gravel and crap and on and off sidewalks until the road returns to something like normal.
And then there was yesterday. I'm hurrying along Charleston when I see that the entire road is blocked off and there are police everywhere. The cars are detouring around. I stop and ask "could I go along here? On the sidewalk maybe?" The cop explains that there is a gas leak and I will have to go around. So I set out completing an extra circle that involves me heading up San Antonio in a tangle of angry detoured cars ad then having to take the left lane and getting beeped at and harassed. Two other bicyclists arrived and huddled in my shadow. We talked before the light turned green and agreed that we wished we could have just taken our chances with the gas leak.