Saturday, May 21, 2011

My first Month

ALLEN (Apr. 15, 2011) – Today I reflect on the last month of bike commuting to see what it has been like.
From the surface it has been a good month considering what Spring time in north Texas can be like. Yes, the ride home today was tough with wind gusts up to 40 mph. Both riding in to work and coming home I saw trees that had broken in the wind. I preferred riding home in the open and not under those trees.
But overall, it has been drier than normal this past month (too dry in fact and we see that drought planning is starting already). Anyway, because of the lack of rain I was able to ride to work 19 of the possible 25 work days since Desiree first wrote the bike commuting article on March 14th. That is a 76% commute average compared to my yearly 60+%. And believe it or not, one of the days I drove because I needed to get to a bike club meeting in time after work – doesn’t make sense but that is how it goes.
The time change left the mornings darker and cooler but still very nice. The colors of the sky coming through trees and clouds are amazingly vivid even for a color blind person. The fog on the pond with geese and ducks landing leaves a very peaceful mindset which is in direct opposition to the chaotic stress that surrounds me on the streets.
The warmer weather also brings other things out – like gnats and other bugs in the air. I hate those swarms that fill my face and ears but it is part of the deal. Wear glasses and keep your mouth closed!
The past month also gave me some more learning and information to share with the cars I share the road with every day.
1) Why don’t bikes ride on the sidewalk instead of the streets?
Well, I thought I would try and see why. I usually come up the bike path from the twin creeks golf course area to the stoplight at Twin Creeks and McDermott and then get in the street lane to cross McDermott. Instead, I thought I would stay out of the cars way and I tried to cross in the crosswalk a few times. I soon found that cars turning right are not looking for me. They are looking for a gap in traffic and turn right whether I have a green walk sign or not. One morning I almost got hit as I tried to cross on a green walk sign and a car turned right in my path. I stopped to avoid getting hit and then the car behind him kept honking at me for stopping and being in his way.
I have talked to the city already about the quick ‘walk’ sign that turns red so fast. They say it is fine that way. I think otherwise.
Okay, I will stay in the street – a little safer for me. Yes, lots of people are in a hurry and turning right without watching for bikes or pedestrians. Oh, and hello to the guy in the black BMW that is in such a hurry every morning that he turns right then does a U-turn at Suncreek church to get through the intersection without having to wait at the light. No, he is not looking to slow down for bikes.
It is also a pain to ride on sidewalks and try to stop at every street crossing. You have to be very careful for cars turning in front of you. When I am in the street cars can see me easier.
And when people are walking dogs or have small kids with them, it is not safe to ride fast past them. The street is a better place for direct ‘location to location’ bike commuting.
2) Why don’t bikes stay way to the right of the lane?
The more space I give cars, the more space they take in the lane and the closer they get to me. I opt to take the whole lane if I can so the cars can go by in the lane next to me. I realize this is not always a good thing so when I see a bunch of cars coming I often hop on the sidewalk to let them go by easier and then come back to the labne. I think we can co-exist out there.
So, has it been a nice and easy month of commuting? Not always.
Has it been more enjoyable and cheaper than driving? Definitely!
For me, it has been the right thing to do and I am looking forward to another great month ahead.

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