Vanquishing Demons in the Devil’s Vortex
Most of our arterial roads, we know from the windshield perspective—insular, disconnected and too fast for realistic perception. We have a story about these roads. The story is rooted in the beliefs (control mythology) of a culture dependent upon private automobiles as well as local lore of the road itself.
That’s why Dan and Brian can create excellent video of them riding on Southern California arterial roads and people in cities with much more docile traffic will shrug it off and say, “well, you can’t do that on our roads.”
Colonial Drive looks like a run-of-the-mill commercial traffic sewer to anyone from anywhere, but to Orlandoans it holds additional mythical properties. It’s C o l o n i a l! Even I used to go out of my way to avoid riding on Colonial. That is, until one day I paused to examine my route choice and realized that riding a section of Colonial would provide a far superior route solution to what I had been doing. Now I use parts of Colonial regularly.
At the beginning of the month, Mighk and I went to St. Louis to train a group of CyclingSavvy instructors. We asked Karen Karabell to provide us with a map locating the most fearsome intersections and interchanges within a reasonable 15-17 mile route. From there, we examined the Google satellite and streetview to see which would make for good lesson features. Our three basic criteria are: it looks intimidating (99% of cyclists would never consider riding a bike there); it’s easy when ridden with an awareness of traffic flow; and the best solution defies the “far right” bias. Bonus points if it makes the easiest connection to a desired destination or between two bike routes.
Planning a road tour in a place you’ve never been is interesting. For one thing, our Orlando road tour specifically includes a few features that are intimidating entirely because of local lore, yet incredibly easy to ride. That’s part of the strategy of CyclingSavvy—to bust through the lore, false strictures and irrational beliefs that cause people to ride in ways that expose them to risk and limit their ability to use a bicycle for transportation.
So back to St. Louis. When planning the CSI road tour (where candidates will be preparing lesson plans, teaching the features then sending their fellow candidates through one at a time), we were attracted by the craziest stuff you could see from outer space. And St. Louis did not disappoint! Here’s the route:
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Even though we selected all of these features because we knew they could be ridden easily despite how intimidating they seemed, when we went out to ground-truth them we found them even easier than we imagined! In fact, they were incredibly fun!
But we also upended a bit of local lore for our host:
When Mighk and Keri suggested riding on Kingshighway Boulevard between Barnes Hospital Drive and Manchester Road, I did not confess that when commuting on my bicycle I have always avoided this particular stretch of roadway.
Read: Nothing to fear but fear itself and check out the video of us riding it.
Looks scary, doesn’t it? Well, it’s really a big purring pussy cat when you drive your bicycle through it properly.
While portions of this route seem intimidating upon first glance, even for the seasoned road cyclist, Cycling Savvy provides the skills, information, and confidence necessary to navigate the features, breaking them down into manageable chunks for cyclists of every level.
For the perspective of a seasoned cyclist—someone with decades more cycling experience than I have—check out Illinois’ first CSI, Gary Cziko’s introduction: CyclingSavvy: A Course for All Cyclists, Novices to Veterans
When CyclingSavvy came to the midwest in April and June 2011, I took both the Three-Part Course and the Instructors’ Course in St. Louis. I believe that I learned more in these few months about cycling safely and comfortably in traffic than I had learned from my previous 50 or so years of cycling.
I, too, found this training quite rewarding. As with every new experience, I learned even more about what I teach and how to teach it. And the Midwest Region is blessed with a terrific crew of CSIs!