I've been thinking that I really need to put up my principles of safe practical cycling. This requires some preparation, though, (creation of graphics, etc.) so I've been putting it off and getting immersed in political blogs. Enough, as the politicians are so fond of saying. So look for a series in this area coming up.
As for right now, I just want to talk about a very eventful commute home last night. My commute is 9 miles, more or less, but last night had a series of interesting observations. First, it's worth noting that yesterday, I probably saw more bicyclists on the road than I ever have on a weekday. It's early fall weather and the cool evenings here in the Baltimore area are perfect for recreational cycling. So, by milepost, here's what I saw last night:
Mile 3.1: Cyclist (young, fit looking female but in street clothes) riding without a helmet, wrong way on a narrow sidewalk, across a bridge where if she came down off the curb, she would be in the oncoming traffic. (I almost stopped to lecture her, but restrained myself.)
Mile 3.2: Father and daughter cycling, same direction as traffic, her on the sidewalk (with traffic), him on the street. Both with helmets. The same sidewalk as the young lady above. Interesting lesson soon.
Mile 4.1: Passed by a young road rider, maybe in his late 20s. He said "hello, sir" (I gritted my teeth -- hate those "sirs".) I picked it up a little and kept with him for about 1/2 mile. At the end of this section, he ran a red light, crossed 2 lanes of traffic and made an illegal left turn to continue on his way. Sigh.
Mile 5.3: Passed an inexperienced rider (with helmet, but laboring in too tall a gear, and taking frequent coasting breaks) to arrive at my "nemesis" stop light - a demand-based unit that my bike won't trigger. (I've got to get organized and use this trick from Instructables!) While waiting for the light to change, passed (in the right turn lane) by a doofus, waving and smiling, apparently trying to identify with me, because he had a bike strapped to the back of his car.
Mile 7.9: Stopped at a red light in the left turn lane, ready to make the home stretch. (Only two more hills to go!) I'm all alone until a driver comes up in the right turn lane, rolls down his window, and we have a conversation:
Him: "You know, you're the first cyclist I've ever seen obeying traffic laws."Mile 8.5: I came up on a rec cyclist as dusk was beginning to fall and it was getting dark (7:10 pm). This cyclist (female) was moving along pretty well, but had no lights, no reflector in back, nothing. She was very lucky the cars were making space for her on a busy street (typical of suburban MD -- posted speed limit 30 mph, typical speeds 40-45 mph.)
Me: "Well, I commute a lot, and this is the only way to be safe. You wouldn't believe the crazy stuff I see cyclists doing."
Him: "You be safe, and God bless you." (takes off.)
So. There you have it. Encounters with 6 cyclists and 2 motorists. Of the 6 cyclists, 3 (being generous here) were making mistakes that could turn out to cause serious accidents. I've talked before about cyclist education, but this really illustrates my point. Cyclists in the US have a very poor skill level. Until we have a way to develop vehicular cycling skills, there will be accidents (bike lanes or no.)
Not all days are like this. Some are more interesting than others.