Because I didn’t do a hell of a lot on Thursday, I will consolidate it here with Friday’s rants. 

The riding I did on Thursday was down to the farmer’s market and over to the grocery store (Bayview) and back home. Then in the evening I rode down to the Eastside bar and my girlfriend used bicycling to our advantage in that classic college-age fashion: we didn’t have to worry about DUIs. That said, I once saw a COPS episode (no, I don’t usually watch COPS!) in which a drunk man was harassing a neighbor while riding a bike. The police gave the drunk guy a citation for operating a vehicle under the influence. I suppose if you’re using your mode of transit to be a menace, the cops are likely to give you hell. I had no idea you could be cited for riding  bicycling drunk, but this segment was in California. Maybe things are different here?

I did once have a cop in downtown Olympia tell me to not ride in the road because it was after dark and I had forgotten my headlight. Now I remember that legally you need to have a headlight after dark. He told me I needed to ride on the sidewalk. I don’t like riding on the sidewalk. It feels too much like an obstacle course  and a punishment. I guess I need to remember my headlight when I ride after dark. 

Friday morning my girlfriend and I were craving some bagels. All that stood between us and San Francisco Street Bakery was that damn hill up Puget Street. There were bike lanes on Puget…. once upon a time! At the risk of going over the top: if we the citizens are to be encouraged to abandon our automobiles in favor of bicycling those routes must be maintained. Clean the fucking bike lanes!!! So often all the road debris seems to be swept out of the way of cars and into bike lanes which is curious because all that debris is a hell of a lot more noticeable on a bicycle than in an automobile. A section of the bike lane heading south on Puget somehow had been completely erased. The bike route on Division has been disfigured in sections with sink holes around the new subdivision sites. Sinkholes! How long does a sinkhole last in a car lane???

I was wondering if bicycle powered lane sweepers exist. That would be a neat job to have for the city/county. While I didn’t ride any of the rural bike routes this week (Yelm-Tenino, Chehalis Western, or Woodland) they seem awfully dark at night. Especially as you travel through the woods. I suppose it would be expensive, but I think it would be nice to have some small lights on the path that might be motion sensitive so that they only turn out when someone’s around. Maybe they could light up to a distance of a hundred yards in front and behind you. They would turn off after you had passed. 

Friday afternoon I rode to work and back. On the way home I was bringing some plates of food. Leftovers. Not all of it fit in my shoulder bag. I rode down Legion one handed without terribly great brakes. Maybe not a great idea, but I survived. I am reminded now of just how useful brakes are. When I had my road bike I was able to ride in traffic much more aggressively because I knew I could stop on a dime if I needed to. Without those brakes I am obligated to provide much wider gaps between myself and my two-ton compatriots. 

On the drive up to the work site in Lakewood a coworker of mine was telling me about a friend of his who had decided he was going to ride his bike to work more often. As it got to be fall and the weather started to turn he had to devote more and more effort in the morning deciding whether the weather would allow him to ride his bike. Finally, it got too difficult to keep making those decisions every morning and he decided to ride all the time, no matter what. For this friend, that was a very freeing experience. From then on, when he woke up, the decision had already been made. I liked this story. I can absolutely believe that people put too much though into their options. After all, I am the type who will spend twenty minutes staring at the jam selection in the grocery store. Almost three years ago I tried to eliminate one of my transport choices when I sold my car. That plan was foiled when I started dating my girlfriend, who still owns a car. 

Now to mention another frustration for bicyclists: the stoplight. Most bicyclists would like to be respected as a legitimate form of transportation but they are ignored by stoplights! Idaho, of all places, has solution! For bicyclists, stoplights are treated as four way stops if there are no other vehicles approaching; stop signs are treated as yield signs if no other vehicles are approaching. The simplicity of this solution is amazing! I remember reading recently that in Portland (of all places!) cops were starting to crack down on bicyclists who performed rolling stops. Could you imagine being ticketed in the most bicycle friendly major city in the country for not putting your foot down on the pavement and coming to a complete stop at a stop sign? That’s stressful! Bicycles are not cars, they are not motorcycles, and they are not pedestrians! Let them have laws that make sense!!!

Earlier I said I don’t like riding on sidewalks, and that’s true. But I also don’t like being the first vehicle (as a bicyclist) at a stoplight. Waiting for the light to change I feel like I’ve really invaded someone else’s space. I feel like a fish out of water, alone on stage for everyone to see. I feel vulnerable. I don’t feel like that’s where I belong. 

There’s one other subject I’d like to touch on: equipment. I’m undecided as to whether a helmet is needed in an ideal world. Those crazy Europeans we see in videos seem to rarely wear them. Ideally bicycles would not travel in traffic, at least not in traffic that was moving much faster than the bicycles. Of course helmets are always helpful to reduce head injuries, but maybe not as necessary if your main worry was colliding with another biker rather than a three-ton Chevy Suburban. Bike headlights are very nice to have in my opinion. Not just to be seen, but they can help when there’s really no light around (like in the forest on a rural bike path). And bike fenders, oh how I wish more bikes came with them in this climate! This week we were really lucky with the weather, but at least six months of the year you have to be ready to ride in the rain and it’s a much pleasanter experience if you know you’re not going to get soaked by your own rooster-tail. 

Finally, a question to ponder: what motivates us to ride? Global climate change? Exercise? Affordability? Habit? Nature? Convenience? Sometimes we’re not aware of some reasons until we’ve given riding a chance. For example, until today I didn’t realize that there is no time advantage to taking the bus to campus. It’s a fifteen minute walk to the bus station and a thirty minute bus ride to campus compared to a forty five minute ride to campus from my door. Just one more reason to hop on the saddle!