I had an appointment at Crealde this morning. I considered using the Cady Way Trail even though it’s longer than my regular route, but I ended up not having enough time. My regular route is to travel the neighborhood streets to get to Glenridge just west of General Rees, then take Glenridge to Lakemont, Lakemont to Whitehall, then use parallel neighborhood streets.
I try to limit my exposure to the bike lanes on Glenridge and Lakemont as much as possible because they nearly always produce conflicts that make me cranky. Today’s adventure was a notch above typical.
Immediately after General Rees, there were bits of broken reflector scattered across the bike lane. I had to dodge them within the bike lane because of overtaking traffic. About 50 ft later there was more broken glass. Again, overtaking traffic required me to dodge the pieces within the bike lane. After the school entrance, the bike lane was full of organic debris. With the sun in my eyes, I couldn’t tell if it was harmless or not. Fortunately, I was able to move into the travel lane.
I checked over my shoulder for large vehicles before entering the pinch zone, to make sure I wouldn’t get startled or sideswiped. In the pinch zone, the overgrown bike lane is next to a narrow lane constrained by a median. The total space from median curb to grass is ±14 ft. Anyone who has been passed by a bus on this stretch knows that is not enough space!
Just past St. George, there was a pedestrian in the bike lane, walking with his back to traffic. There is no sidewalk on the south side of Glenridge there. The low sun was flashing into my eyes from behind the trees. I couldn’t be sure if vision-challenged overtaking drivers would see me signal and leave the bike lane. I slowed and looked back. No indication from the approaching SUV that the driver saw me trying to communicate. I slowed more, twisting around and hanging my left arm out, looking for an indication someone would let me out. The SUV passed. The next driver let me go. I passed the ped and waved a thank you to the driver.
I made it uneventfully around the curves. Previous experience with cars cutting the corner there, along with the blinding sun, made me nervous.
I was a little farther than I wanted to be from the light at Lakemont when it turned green, but I sprinted hard and made it. There was a car behind me, so I went straight into the Lakemont bike lane as soon as I rounded the corner. Still moving at a good clip, I was suddenly facing a salmon in the bike lane. There is a curb and a wall to the right. I didn’t have time to check for overtaking cars, so I hit the brakes and came to a complete stop in the middle of the bike lane. As he slithered past me in the gutter, I barked, “you’re going the wrong way.”
“I know,” he said, with a hint of guilt in his voice.
“Those arrows are there for a reason,” I grunted, as I stood on the pedals to get the bike moving again in the gear I’d used to sprint for the light. In my wobbly, slow start, I managed to drop my front wheel into the gutter pan and caught it on the lip for an added moment of excitement.
I was ever so happy to slip into the neighborhood streets, whereupon my trip went back to being pleasant and uneventful and all I had to do was ride in a straight line, a happy 5 ft from the curb and not worry about avoiding obstacles. I was in a good mood again by the time I got to my appointment.
Glass, pedestrians and salmon are not an issue for cyclists controlling a standard traffic lane. They are a hazard when we are forced to operate in a segregated space barely wider than our bodies.
A note about Glenridge
Because it is a busy 2-lane road, cyclists do benefit from having extra space on Glenridge. I prefer that space not be delineated. But if it must be, it needs to be more than 3 1/2 ft. It needs to be kept clean. This bike lane doesn’t just suffer from debris, it has grass growing nearly a foot into the pavement. It is also totally unacceptable to create a space where large vehicles are forced to track within a foot of a narrow bike lane. There are 2 Lynx routes, school buses and an endless stream of utility trailers and box trucks using that road.
It’s not a mystery why most cyclists (and all school children) use the sidewalk on the north side of the street. When headed westbound, I almost always use the bypass. I certainly did on my way home today.