Courtesy Report: Main Street, Pawtucket

No time like a long recovery period from a major injury to bring out a backlog of cycling stories. I shall dedicate the next few weeks to this task.

As a dutiful reader, you know that there are few things I enjoy more than basking in my own smugness. And what could be more smug-inducing than piloting my sustainable human-powered vehicle to a farmers’ market in order to buy locally-grown vegetables and the most-free of free-range eggs.

Nothing, that’s what.

Actually, I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with the farmers’ market. For one, it’s held at the Hope Artiste Village. I like the HAV as a concept, and even as a real place. But that name! All they needed to do was leave off the extra E and I would have been fine with the whole thing. I mean, it’s not really a village, it’s an old mill. And it certainly houses more than artists, but I don’t mind a real estate developer co-opting a little bit of artist chic. But seriously, “Artiste?” There are no “artistes” living or working in the building. My new goal in life is to earn enough money so I can buy the place and change the name.

The other thing I don’t like about the farmers’ market at HAV is the fact that it is completely jammed with people. I feel like I need to throw a few elbows just to get through there. Also, the bike parking is sub-par.

But hey, I can’t resist tasty vegetables, smugly sourced.

Riding a bike to the market requires going on Main Street at some point and negotiating this intersection:

I’m riding north on N. Main Street and I have to take the split to the left to get to Main Street, Pawtucket. (The line between Providence and Pawtucket is right around the big purple arrow).

Here’s a closer look at the intersection:

A little bit closer, labels removed, arrows showing my route:

This intersection presents a few challenges to the urban cyclist. For most of North Main, there is a break-down or parking lane. Depending on the time of day (and the amount of sand and broken glass in said lane), I ride in this lane, giving the motorists plenty of room with the other two lanes. When there are cars parked there, I ride in the right most lane, well out of the door zone. Motorists then have to change lanes in order to pass me. The vast majority do it with ease. On a trip to the market a few weeks ago I moved from the right lane to the left lane well in advance of point A indicated below:

At Point B, the road is too narrow for a car to pass me. So, by the time I move into the left lane, I have to ride pretty much in the middle of the lane – a practice known as “taking the lane.” This isn’t too hard to do with a little bit of foresight. I check behind to see how far away the cars are, and then pick a spot to merge into any traffic. There’s a traffic light shortly before this point which helps create some gaps in traffic. After checking my six, I signal and move into the middle of the lane. At point C, I have to look out for cars at the intersection to the right. These cars have a stop sign, but it’s always a good idea to make sure they actually see me. Shortly after point C, I can move back over to the right and allow any cars to pass me. I usually give a little “thank-you wave” as they pass me. Sometimes I even smile. All in all, the cars are forced to slow from 25 to 15 MPH for about 30 seconds.

On a recent trip to the HAV, I took the lane as usual and noticed a car behind me. The driver passed me, and we both continued on. After buying the usual selection of veggies and eggs, I was loading up my bike when a man came up to me and said, “Looks like we’re leaving at the same time, too.” Me, a little apprehensive: “Uh, what?” Man: “Oh, we got here at the same time and now we’re leaving at the same time. I was behind you on Main Street up there. I saw you ‘take the lane’ there – you did that just the right way. You’re a vehicle, with the same right to the road!” Me, kinda surprised: “Cool, thanks for noticing. And thanks for not honking at me.”

My faith in humanity was restored.

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