Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Lubbock on a Bike: 3 Steps to Driving Bike-Friendly

[Blogger's note:  I have been working on this post in my head for about a year now. The list grew, then shrank. Then blew up, and now it's pretty short. The post on the other view (Cycling Car-Friendly) will follow soon.]

I can't point at any big reason other than getting caught up in the normal rat race, but yesterday was a crappy day. It felt like a dark cloud had formed just behind my eyebrows before I even sat down in my chair at work. We had high chances of rain yesterday, so I drove my truck to work. I don't think that riding a bike to work makes or breaks my day, but I do know that days are better when I ride. So today I rode, and the day already feels better.

But I left the house (and coffeehouse) a little later than usual. [Grizz and I were discussing  the virtues of a 1958 Greyhound Bus, the Chevy Volt as a gasless commuter, the Radwagon as primary transport, and a local band - Fellow Americans. It's always hard to leave good company!] When I pedaled away from the coffeehouse I dreaded the heightened traffic. There was a lot of traffic.

Strangely, though, traffic was very courteous to me. I usually feel that drivers in Lubbock view a bicyclist as a moronic nuisance, but today I did not get that feeling. Thank you, Lubbock drivers!

I'll stop rambling and do the list thing now.

In case you would like to be a more bicycle-friendly car driver, here are three tips:

Communicate - Use your blinkers all the time. Even when you don't think anyone is around.

A lot of cycling frustration for me comes from drivers not letting me know what they are up to so that I can adjust my actions courteously. If a driver is sitting at an intersection preparing for a right turn but not using a blinker, they are putting a cyclist's life in danger. The cyclist needs to get through the intersection too and proceeds straight ahead. The uncommunicative driver turns right and either hits the cyclist or forces the cyclist to bail out. Using your blinkers is a simple way of avoiding dangerous misunderstandings.

Stop! Come to a complete stop BEFORE entering an intersection.

Very few things are more terrifying and dangerous for a cyclist than the rolling stops and late stops.

My commute home includes a 3/4 mile jaunt on the Memphis Avenue bike lane. It should be a place where I can open it up and pedal fast, but it's not. Too many drivers use the bike lane as the last stage of their stopping zone where they can decide whether or not they need to come to a complete stop or barrel on through. And they get downright angry when they realize that I have invaded that space. UGH!

I also pass through one of the busiest intersections in town on my way to and from work - Slide Road and the South Loop. It's very dangerous. The scariest part for me is the southwest corner - very few drivers stop at the red light when making a right turn. And they get angry. I get honked at and flipped off on a regular basis for passing through the intersection on a green light. I operate on the assumption that they are not planning to stop there and make sure that I have made eye contact before crossing in front of any vehicle. If I were a little more of a videographer I would borrow Spencer's GoPro and make a daily clip of the panic turning to anger and then to rage (or shame) when they see a bike intruding in the land of the car. Spliced together, they could make a very enjoyable film!

Please, stop before the intersection, take a close look, and pull through if it's safe (and legal) to do so.

Get over yourself - it's not all about you!

Look around as you travel. Each vehicle (car, truck, bus, motorcycle, bicycle, skateboard, flip-flops) is being operated by a human being who has one single reason for being there - to get somewhere else in one piece. And each of those human beings is just as important as you are - really. If we can start viewing others as people and not as obstacles in our paths, we might make some progress.

May you arrive safely without rage. May the people around you do the same.

PS. Here are a few things from the longer list.

Hang up/put down the phone.
Leave home five minutes earlier.
Use your headlights at dusk and dawn.
Take a deep breath every few minutes.
Chill out, Dude!