Sunday, September 16, 2012

Another Guest Blog from the Cycling Yogi

Even though he objected last time to being referred to as my "partner," I am nice enough to share another guest blog from the cycling yogi - who thinks that "lover" better describes our relationship. Whatever...his observations can be read along with a recent article in the Philly Inquirer, claiming "more cyclists means fewer accidents"

With cyclist traffic up sharply, the city has set up 220 miles of bike lanes including these at 13th and Spruce Streets.

Photo Credit: RYAN S. GREENBERG / Staff
With cyclist traffic up sharply, the city has set up 220 miles of bike lanes including these at 13th and Spruce Streets.

When I started riding in the city forty-something years ago, there were no amenities for cyclists, and I learned to be bold and visible in traffic, giving clear signals and ever watchful for the motorist who wasn't. I had my routes and my habits and so, believe it or not, it kinda went right by me when, umpteen years ago, Philadelphia sprouted bicycle lanes.

Today for the first time, I discovered that Pine St has a full car-sized lane reserved for cyclists, that goes all the way across midtown from West to East. On the way home, I looked for a parallel route and sure 'nuff, found that Spruce St had the same deal East to West.

Both streets have converted what used to be two miles of parking spaces into a bicycle lane, and both have painted lines for a separator zone, a no-man's land about three feet wide. Lights are timed at 20 mph, a little faster than I can manage, but slower than the cars, which tend to zoom from one light to the next, then brake for the red and sit and wait.

As I discovered the bike lanes, I also discovered that they have become a favored landing for every FedEx truck and Coca-cola delivery in the neighborhood. Also people who were parking with their flashers on – just for a minute, I'm sure – while they wait for a date or run in to pick up a friend. Every three blocks or so, I ventured out into traffic to go around somebody or other.

In one place, traffic was tied up, and drivers were sorely tempted to slip into the bike lane to get around the snarl. So I got huffy. I yelled at a driver, and knocked on the roof of an encroacher as I passed him on the right. How quickly I have come to feel entitled!

At the end of the day, I waxed philosophical and came to think that bike lanes are less than perfect, more than useless. Perhaps the best thing they are is an agent for transformation of social attitudes. For now, the city cyclist must remain hyper-vigilant, with brakes at the ready. Most motorists will “be nice” to us, with some sense of liberal condescension. But few will acknowledge – on those rare occasions when we are more of an obstacle to them than they are to us – that we have an equal right to the pavement.

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