Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Last Week I...

1. Went to a Bike Maryland meeting. My review is mixed, although I now have had the (dis)pleasure of actually encountering one of the vehicular cycling spawn of Satan advocates in the wild and I'm cautious about doing any more advocacy work with this organization until I am convinced they are advocates for separated infrastructure, or at least, not advocates against it.

2. Rode in my first Critical Mass! It won't be my last.

...but I don't really feel like talking about those things right now. Instead, let's talk about pedestrians, in particular Baltimore pedestrians. What the hell, Baltimore pedestrians? I recognize that pedestrians are our most vulnerable road users and should be protected at all costs and any car (or bike) that hits them is the one who's at fault, not the pedestrian. Whenever I am off my bike, I am a pedestrian, and I would like other road users to look alive and be aware of the very-slow-moving humans among them. Yes, this includes bikes.

But, man, sometimes it's hard to care about pedestrians! Last week I witnessed a man in a motorized wheelchair crossing against the light. In front of a bus. At. Night. Luckily, the bus ground to a halt. That's the worst single example of Baltimore jaywalking I've seen, but on every commute, I have pedestrians literally throwing themselves at me. It's not really better if you're in a car, according to my husband, so it's not a case of pedestrians not understanding that a bike in motion can hurt them.

There's a certain attitude inherent in Baltimore jaywalkers that is different from, say, Pittsburgh jaywalkers. If you are jaywalking in Pittsburgh you do it fast and make sure to look apologetic while you're doing it. Baltimore jaywalkers, though, take their sweet time. They give you an expression that seems to say "yeah, I see you, what are you going to do about it?" as they saunter across the road, only five feet away from the nearest crosswalk. They are a very diverse group in sex, race, and most visibly, age. You'd think an eighty-year-old woman with a cane wouldn't want to take the chance of walking against the light on a moderately-trafficked road during rush hour, but hey, she's managed to live this long and I haven't, so maybe there's things she knows that I don't. Baltimore jaywalkers are the true kings of the road.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

The Week of Fail

Hola, amigos. I know it's been a long time since I last rapped at ya, but I've been living it up, enjoying my great new job (and, relevant to this blog, the most perfect 4.5-mile commute), and attempting to work on my "real" writing. After taking care of the house and the cats, there isn't much energy left for blogging

This has been... not so great a week for cycling. My troubles started on Wednesday morning, when I decided to bike to work despite it being a cool thirteen degrees out. Cold weather doesn't bother me any when I'm on the bike because I heat up like a motor (this is probably also the case for you), but it sure did bother my bike! The back wheel froze up causing me to skid. I tried everything to unfreeze it, including loosening the brake pads and attempting to unlock the quick-release back wheel, but it remained frozen until I reluctantly dragged it onto the train, at which point it heated up enough to spin. I resolved not to ride anymore if it's under twenty degrees.

On Thursday, though, it was a bike-approved thirty-five degrees when I set out, so no problems, right? WRONG! I normally take the Fallsway to work, a gently down-sloping back road with almost no traffic and no stoplights, which runs alongside the Jones Falls. Scenery-wise, it is very pretty and a great way to spend half my commute. The Fallsway's upsides are also its downsides, though, since there was a thin sheen of ice on it that hadn't been melted away from the crush and heat of cars. And when I swerved to avoid that ice, there was an invisible layer of ice just to its left.

So, I fell off my bike, for the first time since I was a kid probably. I ruined my pants, removed the top layer of my knee, and was late to work again. I had no idea what was going on for like two minutes, at which point I figured, oh crap, better get the bike out of the road before someone hits it (hey, I told you that road never gets traffic). At that point a friendly motorist asked if I needed any help, but I didn't want to take a ride from a dude and I was only three minutes from my house, so I painfully pedaled back and took the train to work. Hello again, MTA! Really really wasn't expecting to see you again so soon.

Not that epic.
I wasn't going to bike to work yesterday and actually considered calling off the rest of winter, but it was Rob the non-cycling bikes-are-dumb-and-I-hate-them husband who convinced me to ride, because he knows that I'm miserable without my daily dose of exercise. Just avoid the Fallsway and leave extra early, he said. So I did, and I was completely fine. Bypassing the Fallsway adds an extra ten minutes to my commute, but hey it's not like I don't enjoy riding, right? And I'm sure I'll find ways to shorten that commute once I ride it for a week or so.

So basically, the moral is, if life kicks you once, get back up and do what you want to do. If life kicks you twice in two days, well... still do that. Or maybe the moral is that my impatience will someday be the death of me!

(P.S. The fact that the Fallsway is in such bad condition now makes me a tad leery about the in-progress Jones Falls Bikeway, which I previously wholeheartedly supported. I think I'm going to have to get some reassurance that the lane will be cleaned on a regular basis, or else I'm going to have to ride through the city, traffic or not, at least for the four months out of the year when ice/slush is a possibility.)