Sunday, October 14, 2007

Bike Thoughts

There's some stuff, some debris, some once-but-no-longer drifting garbage on the streets that I take to and from school every day. There is a small chunk of what looks like a dipstick that I ride over daily, which is fortunately flat and doesn't puncture my tire or otherwise impede my riding. There is a blue glove, somewhere between the surgical and dishwashing categories. There is an empty can of Hormel chili, which makes me wonder why a hobo was in that bus stop so far away from the railroad tracks. This stuff, this debris, has been on the street for at least two months, in the exact same places in the bike lane and under the bus stop bench, and I begin to wonder if that street is some kind of dead end in the garbage tide, where stuff can go to but not get out of.

Along this same route there was a dead dog for a day. He didn't linger long- maybe his owners came and buried him, or animal control scraped him off the road, or perhaps there was a very content vulture in the neighborhood, I don't know. While his corpse was quickly gotten rid of in one way or another, his stink of death remained for a good two weeks.

It occurs to me that the students at my university must not understand that there are rules to the intermingling of bikes and pedestrians. The rules basically are to be aware of your surroundings and not act like a jerk, but perhaps I can flesh out my thoughts a little:

1. Know where you are. If the sidewalk is painted to look like a little street with yellow lines down the middle, you are in the bike lane. Also know when you are. If it is between ten till and the hour, there are so very many people out and about, all trying to get from one place to another.

2. For pedestrians: Do not walk down the middle of the bike lane. This is not a place where you belong, and you will eventually get yelled at or run down by a cyclist who either didn't expect you to be there or has had people walk in front of them all day long and finally lost it.

2a. For pedestrians: When crossing the bike lane, as you must in order to get from point a to point b, do not change your pace. Do not hesitate at the border of the lane and dart at a time that seems good to you. The bikes know you are there and want to cross, and can easily avoid you if you walk steadily across without weaving or speeding up. The cyclist is likely counting on you to continue in your path (see Newton's Laws), so when you walk partway into the bike lane and suddenly stop, their plans of riding behind you are thwarted because now "behind you" is where you are still standing. Stopping in a pathway generally makes everyone around you, cyclists and pedestrians alike, annoyed at you.

3. For bikes: Do not ride in areas that are marked with big crossed-out bicycles on them. These signs mean you should walk your bike in this congested or otherwise-unapproved for vehicles area. It might not make sense, but it is much safer when everyone knows that everyone else is more or less going the same speed. Especially when you go through dark underpasses.

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