Sunday, February 10, 2008
Weekend Snapshot: Number 23
I thought I'd feature bicycles for my weekend snapshot. Since I'm combining a post about bicycles and WS, feel free to flip through the photos and skip the long post. I know there are a lot of WS to visit for participants. I may not get to many weekend snapshot posts until later as work is starting to interfere with my blogging. Imagine that.
Bikes are a great way to conserve fuel, and also fun for recreation. I have family members who use bikes for their main form of transportation. I will admit that I haven't ridden a bike in three years but I do try to walk to stores that are close by, and am going to try to do more and more of that. I have mixed feeling about what is the safest way for someone to ride a bike on a major road, like the bicyclist I photographed above while Bill was driving. On the one hand, I feel like if a bike is on a road without a bike lane, the bike should take up a full lane like a car does. That way, cars would have to pass when it's safe in the passing lane and the bike could pass a car the same way, if they had that much steam. If I don't feel like it's safe to share a lane with a bike, I stay behind them and wait until I have room to pass. However, in this particular case, the bike passed us staying near the shoulder as we slowed for the stoplight, and then when the traffic moved again, Bill safely passed the bike staying near the center lane (both our car and the bike were sharing a mutual lane). To my mind, a regular size lane is barely wide enough for that and my concern is the unexpected.
The town where I live has rather extensive bike lanes and recreational bike paths. The map above shows those lanes. All the dark lines indicate special lanes for bikes, although the green ones are off the road and are part of the recreational paths so the cyclist and pedestrian share lanes. The state where I live has a division of Bicycle and Pedestrian Transportation and in my city alone there are 150 miles of signed bicycle routes, according to the site. I was surprised to find that as part of the highway bike lanes, NC has nine different routes with 3,000 miles of bike lanes. The mountains to sea bike lanes which go from one side of the state to the other is 700 miles. As impressive as that sounds, most of the roads where I live don't have bike lanes. Sometimes to get from one place to another, it's necessary for a bicyclist to ride on roads where they share the lane with cars.
Yesterday when Bill and I went on a walk, bikers of all sizes and shapes were out on the recreational trails full force. It was an unseasonably warm day and perfect for a walk or a bike ride. I related to the man jogging with the children on their bikes because I used to jog behind my daughter when she was a small child on a bike. One combination that always makes me nervous is when there is a parent with a toddler in a seat behind them on a bike. It's sort of hard to see but in the photograph below, that pink blob in the small of the bikers back is actually a bike helmet on his toddler who is riding with him. I think it's great as long as he doesn't wipe out. Having seen a few bike accidents on the trails I always get a little nervous about the toddler seats. There was another cyclist with an infant in a pack on his back but I wasn't quick enough to get that shot. I was very nervous seeing someone with a baby on their back while they rode a bike.When I decided to feature bikes on my weekend snapshot I knew I was going to talk about bike lanes. I think bike lanes are a great way to make it easier for people who want to safely use bikes for transportation. Something I didn't know, until I found the site which had the information about what is available to encourage safe bicycle routes where I live, was that there is a program to encourage children to ride bikes and walk to school. I was pleased to find that there was a safe routes to school program. There is both a program in my home state as well as a federal initiative to encourage programs throughout the U.S. where there are initiatives for children to walk and ride bikes to school, safely.
When I was in junior high and high school, I road my bike to school. The only school my daughter attended which was close enough for her to ride her bike was second grade through fifth grade. When she decided she wanted to ride her bike in third grade, I walked or jogged behind her because I didn't think she was old enough to go by herself. I did let her go the long way by herself in fifth grade but she had to promise me not to take the more direct route on a busy street. I'm glad my city is trying to encourage safe routes for children to walk or ride their bikes to school.
In terms of bike safety in general, I think it's like everything else. If we would all be considerate and pay attention there would be less accidents. I've seen people in cars speeding by a bike when there was barely enough room and every time it makes me want to scream. I have had trouble on the recreational paths which are shared by walkers and bikers. Occasionally I've been walking along staying all the way to the right when bikers 3 across have come speeding up and I've ended up jumping off the path. A few times I've thought I was going to get run over by someone on a bike. It's mostly a matter of everyone using their head. The NHTSA site (U.S.) has some basic information about bicycle safety. I found a good article about a study showing that bike lanes prevent over correction by drivers. I am sure that I'm guilty of over correction because I'm so fearful of hitting someone on a bike that I pull as far away from them as I can get. The danger there is if another car isn't aware that I'm pulling over and they come zipping by me. I haven't had a bike related accident but I understood that over correction can be a risk.
Since I mentioned at the beginning of this post that I haven't ridden a bike in three years you may wonder why I've written this long post about this topic. At a personal level I have a sister who uses her bikes as her main form of transportation. My daughter lives in the midwest now and hasn't been riding her bike during the bitter cold winter, but she used a bike for one of her main forms of transportation during the warmer months. I have many friends and family members who do a lot of recreational bike riding (my friend Guess Who comes to mind). But even without the personal connections, I see people on bikes all the time where I live. Some are riding safely, some aren't. Some of the cars are considerate, some aren't. It's a no brainer to me that with rising fuel costs, people should be encouraged to ride bikes to work and school but the safety issues have to be tackled.I have been insecure about riding my bike in recent years because of my physical issues. However, when I was thinking about doing a weekend snapshot post about bikes, I thought I'd take a picture of my bike. If I do build my confidence up, I will inflate the tires to an appropriate level with the tire pump. I will wear my red helmet which makes it easy to spot me. I will fill up the thermos with water and stay hydrated. If I'm sharing a recreational trail with a walker, I'll holler passing on your left and I will pass leaving the pedestrian enough room to stay on the trail.
Happy riding to the cyclists who read my blog. I hope I've at least covered the basics.