Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Ride Cincinnati

Today was too beautiful to stay inside and I had too much work to do to take a nap, although I was tired from my early morning trip to the gym before heading to school to meet with the students on my Key Club Board, so I hauled my commuter bike out of the basement and rode down to Deeper Roots Coffee Shop in Oakley to get an afternoon pick-me-up and work on my lesson plans.

I've been riding my road bike around different parts of the city for a few years now, but when I moved to East Walnut Hills, I bought a commuter/fitness bike to ride around town.  It is outfitted with a rack and panniers (bags that hook onto the rack) to haul stuff like groceries or my laptop and textbooks, fenders to keep my clothes clean and obnoxiously-flashy front and rear lights so that no one can miss me coming.  I often ride my bike to Hyde Park for running group, to one of the nearby coffee shops and downtown to catch some music in Washington Park or to pick up groceries at Findlay Market.  It takes me longer to do all these things, but I'm getting exercise, fresh air, sunshine and interaction with others while I'm doing it, plus I don't have to worry about finding or paying for parking!

Free parking downtown where no parking is allowed. 

Most of the places that I ride either have designated bike lanes or are 4-lane roads, so there is plenty of room for me to safely ride in traffic.  However, I'm often upset and frustrated on these rides that should bring me nothing by joy and satisfaction.  In the past few weeks, I've had several conversations with multiple friends and they've mentioned annoying things that cyclists do and I want to explain why people who ride bikes do these things so that you can be an informed, understanding and kind driver.  I know that I was very confused about what to do when I encountered a biker when I first started driving.  I'm the first to admit that many cyclists don't know or don't follow the rules and I'm the first to judge them for making the drivers of Cincinnati angry at all cyclists. 

Why cyclists do what they do:

Running Red Lights
     -Should we: NO.  Do we: YES.  Cyclists have shoes that clip into their pedals and it is quite honestly a pain in the ass to unclip and stop.  You can judge them and be mad at them at flat intersections, but show some mercy on hills... it is really hard to get started again!
     -Cyclists are not heavy enough to set off the light sensors, so they are lawfully-allowed to treat red lights as stop signs if the light doesn't change and there are no cars coming. 

Riding in the middle of the lane
Cyclists are supposed to do this. It is safest for both drivers and rider for them to ride in the middle of the lane, this is because that is where it is easiest to see them.  Plus cars are more apt to pass them by either changing lanes or crossing over the double-yellow line instead of trying to squeeze past in the lane the cyclist is traveling in. 
Cyclists are also supposed to "hold" their lane.  They should not dart in and out of the lane of traffic when there are no parked cars.  The only exception of this is when traveling on a two-lane road.  It is important for cyclists to be predictable and the best way for that to happen is if they "hold" or own their lane, just like any other car. 

Move into the lane of traffic when there is a bike lane present
    -The "Right Hook" is very dangerous to cyclists because drivers sometimes misjudge how much room they have to turn right in advance of a cyclist going straight.  This can result in a serious collision for the cyclist.  It is safer for them to move into the forward lane of traffic so drivers who wish to turn can stay behind them.  This actually happened to one of my friends and was incredibly scary.
    -There is sometimes debris in the bike lane
    -Cyclists have the legal right to ride 3 feet from parked cars.  This is so that they don't get "doored" by people getting out of the car.  Bike lanes are typically right next to parked cars, so the lane of traffic is actually three feet away from those parked cars.  

Ride on the sidewalk
No grown adult should ever do this!!   It's a nuisance!  If you're not comfortable riding in the road, take your bike to the trial or walk it on the sidewalk.  You don't want to run over a group of grandmas or a little kid on training wheels!

Not wear helmets
Just like motorcyclists, they're taking a gamble and you should judge them.  I don't go anywhere without mine because I'd never forgive myself if I got in a wreak and hit my head.

What you can do when you encounter a cyclist: 

Give them room!!!!
Cincinnati City Law and Ohio State Law mandates that drivers give cyclists three feet when passing.  This protects the driver from hitting a cyclists and having to deal with the repercussions and gives the cyclist room to maneuver around potholes and manhole covers.  The road presents a lot of obstacles when you're on very skinny tires! 
Also, if you can, change lanes when passing a cyclist in a bike lane, because why not give them and yourself more room?

Don't Honk!
We are outside and we can hear your car, unless you drive a Prius, in which case, you're probably pretty conscientious anyway and will give us the room we need.  Plus, we turn around to look behind us all the time to make sure no one is going to run us over!

Be Patient
In all honesty, the amount of time you're going to lose in getting to your destination if you get stuck behind a cyclist is negligible.  Take a minute to think about how much you loved riding your bike when you were a kid or check out our spandex-clad behinds.  We're pedaling as hard as we can and know that you're stuck behind us and we're trying to get out of your way!

Don't throw shit at them
I know no one reading this would ever do this, but it happens.

Cross the double-yellow line to pass
It is okay to cross the double-yellow line to pass a cyclist or an emergency vehicle.  Pass us just like you'd pass a cop who has pulled someone over.  This is not illegal, it is safe.

Don't pass on the right
You're not supposed to do this to cars, so don't do it to cyclists.  Bikes aren't supposed to travel in the parking lane and neither should cars.  Pass on the left, just like your momma taught you when you were 16.

Don't pass on windy downhills
Most cyclists get up to the speed limit on downhills.  If it is a curvy two-lane road, just enjoy the view and don't try to pass.  Cycling downhill on windy roads at the speed limit takes a lot of concentration and oftentimes the berm is non-existent or riddled with potholes and the safest place to be is in the middle of the lane.

If nothing else, remember to pass with three feet and tell all your friends!!!!
Thanks for reading and for seeking to understand! 
If you want more info, please see this link to Bicycling Street Smarts to learn more!!