Breakin’ The Law – (slightly less)

In a post last October, I outlined my general philsophy regarding riding one’s bike according to the letter of the law and I provided a few illustrations. I have since changed my view a little bit, and I’m not taking a different route that is slightly less law breaking (kind of ). At the time of my original post, I did not yet possess GIMP image manipulation technology, so to recap, here’s an unmolested image of one of the intersections I have to go through on a daily basis:

Olney St., North Main St., and Benefit St.

That’s Olney coming in from the East, N. Main is the 4-lane road from North to Southwest, and Benefit heading straight down to the South.

Here’s my old route:

I would ride down Olney, check behind me, move over to the left part of the lane, signal a left turn, turn into a parking lot, ride on the sidewalk as it curves around a blind corner and a few feet away from my dentist’s office door, then hop back onto Benefit Street (watching for motorists coming from Benefit eager to merge onto N. Main). I used to do all of this just so I could enjoy the serenity of riding down Benefit Street.

But Spouse has tipped me off to a quicker route, that requires slightly less law breaking. *

For this alternative, I signal left, move into the left side of the lane, roll up to the stop light. When there is a green right arrow (I rarely have to wait long), I go through the intersection, but instead of turning right, I head straight for the walkway that crosses the median. What, you can’t see the walkway? Time to use my image manipulation skillz to ENHANCE!

The red dots represent places where I may have to stop. Like the first one which is at a stop light. I actually do that. On my bike (almost all the time).

I often stop at the second red dot because there will be some cars lined up at the left-turn lane stop line (or ahead of the stop line as the car in the satellite image illustrates). It’s hard to tell when they might get a green, so it’s safest for me to wait there until there are absolutely no cars. It’s definitely a case of trading 15-30 seconds for safety. At this second dot, there’s a walk signal button that I’ll push to insure that I have a safe crossing. Of course, if I can see that there are no cars coming for quite a distance, I’ll just cross the street and pull into the far-right lane.

Spouse prefers a slight modification to this, and with two bikes, it is easier to use her route:

For this modification, we ride up onto the sidewalk at a parking lot that is slightly out of frame to the right. We then hit the walk button at the red dot and wait for the light to change in our favor. We can then cross both sides of the street at once.  However, we still have to watch out for cars turning right (like the white car right at the corner), because many motorists turn right on red here despite the sign indicating that it is illegal to do so.

You’ll note that for both routes, after we have crossed the street and joined N. Main St. heading south, we do not go over all the way to the right edge of the street.  Instead, we ride in the right hand side of the right-most traffic lane. The area between the solid white line (the “fog line” I guess you’d call it) and the edge of the street is always open, but it disappears just over the crest of a hill. If we were to ride in this area, we would have to merge into a traffic lane just at the crest of a blind hill with a slight curve. Bad idea. Better to stay in the travel lane early and piss off the drivers a little (and you know what I say to impatient drivers.)

Taking this route means that I miss out on the beauty of Benefit St., but I do get a fast downhill section. Unfortunately, the downhill section ends in this monstrosity:

Which I navigate thusly:

That’s a full stop, a yield, and then another full stop. For this last intersection (previously discussed as the Worst. Intersection. Ever. [for pedestrians]), I often ride in the middle of the lane indicated. This makes my intentions completely unambiguous, allows cars in the right turn only lane plenty of room to pass on the right, and other cars plenty of room to pass me on the left (and everyone else …. ). For this intersection, I line up behind whatever cars are there, in true vehicular cycling form. I could split the lanes or pass people on the right, but in this case that wouldn’t really get me very far. The next section of road is long enough that they would all pass me very quickly, and I would only temporarily gain a slight edge (while unnecessarily pissing off a bunch of motorists). The more I ride my bike in traffic and read about riding a bike in traffic, the more I resist the urge to pass a line of cars on the right. There are times when it is appropriate, but I’ve come to realize that most of the time, it just doesn’t do you any good.

Okay, enough with the boring description of my commute. How about another sneak peak at my new road bike? Here it is in my basement, glowing from within, and being admired by the rest of the stable:

Some people might consider a glowing head tube to be a bit of a luxury, but I consider it a safety upgrade.

*I should note that it is legal for a cyclist of any age to ride a bike on the sidewalk in Rhode Island. Bad idea, in my book, but that’s the law!


10 responses to “Breakin’ The Law – (slightly less)

  1. This is a timely post, because I just rode this route yesterday! I pick up my CSA vegetables on Tuesdays near Hope and Olney, and I follow the route you (actually your wife’s version) describe to get back to my apartment near Smith and Orms.

    The worst parts of this route:
    1) The yield merging onto Canal from North Main: this yield is bad enough on a bike, but during the summer there’s a tree in the median with leaves that block the view north up Canal/Charles Street. You can see sitting low in a car, but not on a bike.

    2) Descending Constitution Hill on North Main: the “traffic lane just at the crest of a blind hill” that you mention. I usually wait at the top for traffic to pass to minimize my interactions with cars along the downhill.

    • That’s my CSA too! Have you found a favorite kohlrabi recipe yet? They’ve really been piling it on this year. Spouse has found a few ways to make them delicious.

      1) That is a wicked yield merging onto Canal. I’m fortunate that traffic is pretty low most of the time I’m on it. I would have gone into it in more detail, but I was getting close to 1000 words about 1/2 mile section of my commute, and that just seemed silly. I’ve found myself leaning down to look under the branches.

      2) I’ve used that same strategy, but again, I’m fortunate enough not to encounter much traffic because of the time of my commute.

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  3. Unfortunately, nothing I do can make kohlrabi delicious, so I’ve been skipping it for the last couple of weeks.

  4. You’d like Ottawa’s recent approach: the city is asking cyclists what the most dangerous spots in the city are for riding a bicycle (presumably to update infrastructure).

    • Oh, Canada, is there anything you can’t do better? (Answer: Mexican Food and Hip Hop – they can’t get either one quite right)

  5. Hey spouse (and Jason), that kohlrabi recipe might be good, but it’s not the one you were looking for. The really good one is this recipe, using kohlrabi in place of both the celeriac and swede (there’s something very close to this in Ottolenghi’s new book Plenty. I definitely wouldn’t recommend adding capers or dried cranberries to the asian slaw recipe linked above, but whatever floats your boat I suppose. Re. the bike route: I actually don’t mind descending the steep hill on N. Main because I can go really fast and own the whole lane (since there’s zero shoulder and it’s actually signed for bikes, vehicles can hardly complain). And everyone has to stop at the stop sign at the bottom so I’m not slowing anyone down. But again, I’m usually doing this around 6:45 a.m. or on the weekend when there is not much traffic.

    • One of the stands at the farmers’ market today donated a Kohlrabi to a Recycla-A-Bike volunteer. The farms really have to give that stuff away. What Kohlrabi needs is for a hot restaurant to pick it up as a specialty item and make it the next hip thing. Or the NY Times could write a “fake trend” piece about it. As any journalist can tell you, three instances makes a trend. Maybe I’ll suggest it to some reporters I know. How’s this for a headline, “Sputnik-like vegetable burning up on re-entry to local kitchens”

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