North Main and Meeting Street: Gravel Pit of Despair

I have a pretty easy commute home. It’s less than 2 miles, drivers generally give me plenty of room, and I bike through a beautiful old neighborhood. There’s a significant hill, but other than that, I don’t have much to complain about. But when did I ever let that stop me? There’s one particular intersection that has been vexing me. I’d grown accustomed to it since I ride it every day. But Spouse only rides this way 2-3 days per week, so it stands out in her mind more. Anyhow, she recently pointed it out to me and once I’d thought about it I realized that yes, it is dangerous. First things first:

For part of my commute, I must get from Point A to Point B:

A is the corner of N. Main and Washington (or Waterman, it changes names right at this intersection because… well that’s just what New England street names do.) By the way, this is where the RIPTA Bus driver yelled at me to get off the road. Still no satisfaction on that front. B is the corner of N. Main and Olney. I have two potential routes. I can take N. Main all the way and then turn on Olney:

N. Main is two lanes in each direction of travel. It starts off one way near A, then meets with its other half around the area marked “Constitution Hill”.  For part of this road, there is a “parking lane” that I usually stick to unless there are cars parked in it. Then I take the right third of the right-most lane. I am well within my rights to do this and the cars have plenty of room to go around me (I can often pass them since they get stopped by a light.) Right around Constitution Hill, this road loses its parking lane and starts to get a little steeper. I can keep a decent pace, but the cars passing me are going 15-20 MPH faster. It’s rush hour, so everybody is in a big hurry to get home (although they are about to get stopped by another light at N. Main and Olney). It’s pretty rare that I take this route. Instead I opt for this one:

This puts me on Benefit street for most of this leg of the commute. For the outtastaytas in the audience, I should let you know that Benefit Street is one of the most beautiful streets in North America. It’s full of well-preserved homes from a variety of eras. It’s also relatively flat. I only have to go up one block of very steep hill on Meeting Street in order to get to Benefit, as opposed to a longer hill if I stick to North Main. Benefit is one lane in each direction, plus parking on one side of the street. At many points, there’s not room enough for cars going in each direction. But the cars usually seem patient enough to pass me when the street is at its widest. Both streets have a marked speed limit of 25. On North Main, people drive 35 and on Benefit they drive more like 20-25. In general, the Benefit route is a far more pleasant ride. Except for one little place, North Main & Meeting.

To execute this turn, I have to stay out of the door zone, brake, signal (so the drivers behind me realize that I’m slowing down), turn right, and shift down to one of my lowest gears in order to climb this street. It’s all a little complicated, but I could handle it much better if it weren’t for this:

No, not the BMW Z3. The styling is a little bit cutesy-retro, but I don’t mind Z3s so much. I’m talking about all of the G-D sand!



And then there’s some more!

That’s not even sand. Those are frackin’ rocks sitting in the road. So, in order to make this turn I have to: avoid the door zone, slow down, signal (hope I don’t get rear-ended), TURN EXTRA WIDE TO AVOID THE SAND TRAP, down-shift, start up the hill, and hope that no one is driving down the hill in the middle of the street like the white Oldsmobile pictured above. Yes, I can tell that that’s an Oldsmobile from a satellite picture – don’t ask how.

Oh yeah, further up the street there’s this little gem:

I guess they'll fix it one of these days

At the top of the hill, I have to unclip very quickly (on an incline) in order to stop and look for traffic. But that’s really more on me, I chose to “go clipless” and there’s a stop sign there, so I guess I could unclip a little earlier (which I often do.)

In summary, this intersection sucks. But I still prefer going this route. I do it just to avoid the traffic. Basically, I don’t like to delay cars if I can avoid it. I know that I would not significantly delay a motorist going in the same direction by chugging up the hill at 10MPH. In fact, if I feel like it, I can usually go faster than a car once you factor in the stop lights (all while obeying the law). Maybe I’ll try notifying the city about the road hazard. Something tells me I’ll probably get just as far as I’ve gotten with RIPTA.

Oh I forgot, I still haven’t revealed my new road bike. Well… I’m still going to wait on that. Here’s another teaser photo:

Who thought white bar tape was a good idea? I guess I bought it!


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