Good Biking

Snow Mobile, Rock Island

I have been fighting a wicked cold. The sucker started in my sinuses, dropped down and slashed the back of my throat with some kind of razor blade apparatus, then decided to shut off the supply of fresh air through my nose. When I sneeze it feels like someone is standing behind me and whacking me in the back with a pizza peel.

Today, though, I decided that one day wrapped in a blanket on the couch with a box of tissues and a gigantic cup of water was enough. I gargled some salt water to kill the pain in the back of my throat and decided to run some errands on my bike. I made two separate trips — one to Lakeshore Avenue in the morning, the other to Grand Avenue in the afternoon. Let me say that the well marked bicycle lanes on the part of Grand Avenue where it passes through Adams Point were a delight. Where the road narrows to the point where there is no longer room for a bike lane, the right driving lane is marked with a very visible bicycle logo to encourage road sharing. These are fantastic changes. When we lived here 15 years ago urban biking had not fully entered the collective consciousness.

Today, my experience tells me that the car driving public is becoming aware and willing to share the road with their two-wheeled brethren. At least three times today, in two short excursions, I encountered drivers who took extra time to be sure they didn’t cut me off at an intersection. One driver even buzzed past me at one point, only to stop in the road several car-lengths ahead of me and waited for me to pass him before he pulled into a parking spot. He made eye contact in his rear view mirror and signaled with his hand that he was waiting for me to pass before he parked.

Only once on the whole trip did I encounter an impatient driver. Forgive me for stereotyping but it was a guy in a BMW who just needed to prove that his sportscar could get to the red light before I did. (He nearly over-revved second gear trying to whip past me and then nearly skidded when he saw the red light ahead.) When I pedaled up next to him and turned to flash him a smile while we waited for the light to turn green he refused to turn his head and glance my way. Ah well. It takes time, but eventually all the changes painted on the road are going to make changes in the way we relate to one another in our cars and on our bikes.

The photo above is to memorialize the big difference between biking in the Midwest and biking in Oakland. I will admit my bike did not get much use in Moline during December (or even January, February, or March). And while there are marked bike routes throughout the Quad Cities, there are still plenty of drivers in that area who are baffled by the presence of bikes on the roadway. Several times while riding in Moline and Rock Island I encountered drivers who suggested that I should be riding on the sidewalk.

Neither the Quad Cities nor the Bay Area have any bragging rights about accommodating bicycles when compared to Amsterdam. In that city, Bikes rule. The photo below shows a parking garage near the center of old town Amsterdam. I wonder how you’d find your bike in a lot like that after having a couple of Heinekens?

Thats a lot of bikes

Wednesday December 30, 2009 — Mark —