06 July 2011

Sidewalks vs. Streets

As I drive my bicycle more and more as a driver (operator) of a vehicle, I am amazed by the strength of the counter-intuitive way we are taught to drive our bicycles in traffic.  Moreover, I am further moved by the revelation and power of actually operating my bike as a vehicle in traffic.

Every flat I have had in the past 5 years (on my road bikes) have been due to riding further into the shoulder and/or otherwise making it easier on our motorists.  Likewise nearly every close call I have had is when I was doing something "unexpected" or otherwise not acting like traffic or a driver of a vehicle on the roadway.

This Saturday was a perfect example:

  1. Due to my ending destination and traffic at the time I elected to use a right turn lane to transition to the crosswalk to access a sidewalk to my destination - a fruit stand at the end of a parking lot.  After waiting at the light, I proceeded to enter the crosswalk at pedestrian speed and cross the side street (keep in mind I was also pulling a trailer, have a blinking headlight and bright green flag on the trailer), and I observed a young driver in a Camaro coming up a bit to quickly so I got read to un-clip and slow down, sure enough, he would have continued all the way past the marked crosswalk, except I noted his window was open and gave a strong "hey!"

    Well, he looked up from playing with his phone or radio (probably texting in secret since now that is illegal here, maybe an un-intended consequence of the new law, now people have to hide it more, further taking their eyes off the road); he just gave me a dumb look with his cigarette hanging out of his mouth.  Had I not been so attentive and prepared to make an emergency stop and gave a warning, I likely would have hit him or him me.  (Family Center on Redwood)
  2. Now, just a few block down the road on my way to my next stop, I had to make a left on a 8 lane roadway (actually it is a double right on then double right off with no stops CFI 45mph).  So I decided to take advantage of the double wheelchair ramp on the opposite corner and wait for the cross light.  Still with my trailer, flag and red flashing light on the rear.  The light turned green and I started to proceeded on the crosswalk, and a right turning vehicle, completely didn't see me, fortunately she was making a wide right with one hand on her steering wheel and again another cigarette hanging out of her mouth.  I again let this driver know I was in the cross walk (how she didn't see me is really puzzling). Just just responded with her hand up in "I'm sorry" but rather than stopping, just continued on her way after slowing enough for me to have to track-stand for her to get by.  (6200 S & Redwood)
Now keep in mind, I just traveled 2 miles of Redwood in the right lane (no shoulders, 7 lanes of traffic) without incident, and even negotiated the CFI in traffic without problems operating as a driver of a vehicle, albeit at my "slow" 20mph on a 45 (50) mph roadway.  So in the two very short incidents where I elected to use the pedestrian walkways, I was nearly hit twice!  So where do bikes belong?