Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Becoming a bike commuter

My bike is tuned up and I successfully completed a test ride to my new office and back.  It took twenty-one minutes, cycling at a leisurely pace and coasting on the downhills.  That's a few minutes less than it takes me to walk to work now. The hills were more manageable than I was expecting.  The worst one is the first one I encounter after leaving my house (Elliott Ave, westbound, approaching Ridge St, for locals who are following along).  It's not the steepest hill, but it's the longest.  I used to ride up that hill on my way to the hospital when I was in patient care and I would recite the alphabet to myself over and over to distract myself from the difficulty.  This time, I summoned the admonitions of my cycling instructor when we are doing hills in class.

My ride to work


It's a relief to know I can handle the hills, but I identified some more dangerous traffic spots.  Our department is being moved to a "research park" on the edge of town, near a junction with the interstate.  I'll need to make a left turn into the park, and fighting my way into the left turn lane, among the hundreds of drivers who either also work at the research park or those who are going straight to get to the interstate will be difficult.  The entrance to the park is a steep uphill, at the top of which I'll have to turn left again, so I'll be desperately trying to stay ahead of drivers who might be pissed that there's a bike in their way.  Honestly, this intersection will be potentially so awful, I might have to cross to the other side of the street at a safer spot and then just walk my bike the last bit or ride very, very slowly on the sidewalk.

I'll also need to cross the north/south railroad tracks.  Yesterday, on my test ride, there was a Norfolk Southern freight train stopped just short of the crossing, like a beast waiting for its prey.  I guess this is where they wait if there's a train on the intersecting CSX/Buckingham Branch line.  It was still lurking there when I crossed the tracks again on my return trip.

I haven't ridden my bike in three years and my helmet was God-knows-where during all that time.  Then, the other day, I noticed it sitting neatly on the brick wall of the patio.  It was as if my guardian angel placed it right where I would find it.  It was caked with mud and and housing a few spiders, and assorted bits of straw and weeds, which I evicted.  I wore it, mud and all for my test ride.  Now I've hosed it off and it's as good as new.  I've decided not to buy a pannier, but to just use bungee cords to lash my work bag to the back. (I used to ride with a backpack, but I hate the resulting back sweat.)

All this fuss about a six-mile round trip!  I spoke to my father yesterday.  He's in his seventies and casually mentioned the thirty-mile bike trip he took yesterday.  If it weren't for the cars, I would love commuting by bicycle. Many drivers are courteous, but the few hostile or ignorant ones ruin the experience.

11 comments:

  1. Good luck on the sketchy intersections!

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  2. I wondered if you might be commuting to that particular part of town. That left into the research park is sketchy, but you do at least have a left turn signal, yes?

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    1. There is a left turn signal, but just getting over into that lane seems daunting at such a busy intersection, and then the second left at the top of the driveway.

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  3. Those left turns sound daunting. I would probably use the crosswalk at the first one, particularly during rush hour. It's just not worth it. I ride mostly on the trail (I'm so lucky that we have it!), and I have a hard time with road biking. Just too many cars around here...

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    1. Yes, I'm considering the "cross as a pedestrian" option. I hate, hate, hate making left turns on a bike.

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  4. So frustrating to ride when the car traffic is horrible. Good for you to give it a go, though. I'm a bit envious. I wish I had a safe route to ride a bike, but a county highway before school is too busy and dangerous for my blood.

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  5. I wouldn't want to ride on country roads either. It would be heaven to live in a truly bike-friendly community.

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  6. It's such a shame that US towns are set up for bikers and pedestrians. We'd all be so much healthier :-) I hope you will be able to stay safe.

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    1. "aren't"! As if that weren't obvious.

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