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Posted by on May 17, 2012 in General | 7 comments

Bike to work with me, Mayor Dyer?

Dear Mayor Dyer,

Thank you for the invitation to bike to work with you again, on May 25th of this year. Maybe you would like to bike to work with me some day. I leave a little bit earlier than you do, so you would need to meet me no later than 6:45 AM. We won’t have a hundred other cyclists with us, and we won’t have dozens of Orlando Police Department patrol officers to escort us and block intersections so that we can ride straight through without motorists. But it’s a fun ride, and you will have some options.

Allow me to take you through a little taste of what’s in store for you the first 1/2 mile section.

Here is the view of Primrose northbound, just south of the 408 expressway, from a driver’s perspective. As you can see, there’s not much road space here.

If you try to ride the “white line”, as far to the right edge as you can, you will need to have narrow handlebars, nerves of steel, and the good luck to be alongside compact cars. There’s a little surprise awaiting you in the form of a particularly brutal grate. Good luck with that! Here’s what it looks like in the daylight with no double lines of cars.

If you decide to ride on the sidewalk, which, as you know, is illegal in the City of Orlando, you will want to watch for drivers backing out of their driveways and motorists turning east onto Anderson Street. Also, there is no sidewalk on the west side of Primrose south of Anderson, so you may have southbound sidewalk cyclists coming at you.

When you reach the corner of Primrose and Anderson, the sidewalk has the cut in the curb (ramp) to the left, rather than straight ahead. This will put you in a position where motorists will be unsure of which direction you may go. Or you can hop the curb (hope you have good, sturdy tires!) and ride straight across the pedestrian route, which for some reason is not striped off as a crossing. Hopefully, motorists turning right on Anderson will notice you.

Once you cross Anderson as a sidewalk cyclist, you will be on the raised walkway (to the right of the striped off safety zone) under the 408 Expressway. Beware of broken glass.

After you cross South Street, as you get  back on the sidewalk, you may need to duck for overhanging oak branches and look out for a particularly bushy palmetto. You will find some interesting pavement challenges, too.

Hope you are riding a mountain bike with wide tires. (Be grateful you are not trying to navigate the sidewalk in a wheelchair!)

Watch for cars at intersections and driveways and for pedestrians. And especially for pedestrians with dogs.  Good luck!

I have noticed that cyclists who ride the white line, to the extreme right edge of the road, tend jump the red light at Anderson, ride in the striped off emergency zone under the 408 Expressway, and also jump the light crossing South Street. I am confident that you would wait for the green light to cross these intersections, though, Mayor Dyer.

Here’s what riding in the safety zone sets you up for.                                                    

As you cross South Street, what next? Will you get on the side walk, or will you try to find some way to ride that right edge through the obstacles (grates, multiple manhole covers, broken pavement) as you aim for the nearly non-existent bike lane?

Oh, the wonderful, intermittent, partially obscured, fading away, almost imaginary Primrose bike lane! It comes, it goes, it’s narrow, it’s wide. It has patches of sand, leaves, grass, landscaping mulch, and dead animals.

But hey, this ain’t Amsterdam.

OK, back to the sidewalk rider choice…. when you cross the intersection at Central, there’s a bit of a tight spot here around the utility pole, so slow down and be careful.

And there’s a bonus challenge as you round the utility pole, in the form of a recessed utility access cover. Clever!

Just a bit further is a house where there is nearly always a car or two partially (or sometimes completely) blocking the sidewalk. This driveway is a good place to get off the sidewalk and into the bike lane. If you don’t, you will find that the sidewalk ends abruptly, without warning, and at that point, you would have to hop the curb into the bike lane.

Bike lane riders will notice that the bike lane disappears south of Central to make room for a left turn lane.  If you try to cling to that white line at the right edge of the pavement, you will find yourself trying to share a completely inadequate space. Remember basic physics? Did I mention that Primrose is also a bus route?  http://vimeo.com/7860775

Well, that’s the first little half mile section of my commute to work. There are many more interesting parts ahead, and the return trip is another story entirely. (By the way, I took most of these photos on a Sunday morning, but the sidewalks and bike lane and roadway look more challenging during rush hour commuter traffic.)

My explanation of northbound cycling through this short section of Primrose is based upon the behaviors I observe daily of other cyclists. Many bicycle riders I see weave around on some combination of sidewalk, bike lane, and white line edge. It is the sort of rat run I tried before I was lucky enough to take the Cycling Savvy course. I likened it to running a gauntlet. It was an unpleasant and sometimes unnerving way to start my day. Learning a better, safer, virtually conflict-free way to ride has made this section of my commute easy. Learning where to position myself on the road, how to communicate with drivers, and how to avoid obstacles makes a difference. I would certainly encourage you to consider taking the Cycling Savvy course yourself and see what a great contribution this course is making to our community.

Considering that it is difficult to get that section of roadway and bike lane maintained or the sidewalks repaired, I can safely assume that the City isn’t going to build me a superior separated cycling infrastructure during my bicycling lifetime. But the good news is, I don’t need it.  (And truth be told, I don’t want it!)

Looking forward to your Bike To Work Ride, Mr. Mayor!  Good thing I had Cycling Savvy, so that I have the skills to ride Orlando’s roads to the meet-up place, and then to my job after we drop you off at City Hall.

 

Tailwinds!

 

7 Comments

  1. thanks for this, Diana. it’s good to know i’m not the only one who sees the mayor’s ride as a joke and something of an insult to people who cycle to work every day- people who get harassed by police for riding safely and legally, are seen as sub-human by the majority of road users, and are routinely put in harm’s way by the actions of incompetent and asinine motorists. i also think it’s hypocritical for the police to consider CM a lawless protest, but in this event they’re the ones corking the intersections!

    • It’s my understanding that, aside from the actions of a few officers a couple years ago, OPD has been tolerant of CM and has even ignored the crybaby motorist calls about it.

      I always enjoy the Mayor’s ride. I don’t make it anything more than it is — a fun bike parade to celebrate bike month. It’s an opportunity to hang out with my bike buddies in the morning and connect with people I haven’t seen in a while.

      I think Diana has done a brilliant job of calling attention to the reality of bicycling in Orlando. Not just the infrastructure, but the choices many people make when they don’t know what would help them be more successful bicyclists.

  2. I’m willing to believe the Mayor is well-intentioned and sincere in trying to encourage cycling in Orlando. But crappy bike lanes (and I’ve pretty much come to think that bike lanes are not beneficial to cyclists no matter how you paint them) just marginalize cyclists and make matters worse. Maybe some of the people who come out for the Mayor’s ceremonial ride will be encouraged to get involved in riding their bikes and in cycling issues, beyond looking chic or letting the (bike lane) paint think for them. More clueless people on bikes is not going to make cycling safer.

  3. Clever and witty essay. Sometimes it’s the best way to make a point and have others to take it seriously. I urge Mayor Dyer to attend Cycling Savvy school and really lead by example.

  4. Great idea,Larry! Keri, maybe you could publicly offer Buddy a scholarship to Cycling Savvy! Dians, great piece. My commute is a 9 mile stretch of OBT from Pine Hills to Parramore, and could be equally harrowing – except Keri and Lisa taught me how to take the lane!

    • I actually did that last year when the CyclingSavvy team was getting our photo taken with him ;-)

  5. My hats off to Diana for her urban guerrilla riding skills and to Robin for riding the OBT. I had never been propositioned on my bike until I rode there! (the hooker said she would even take my VISA card ! :)) Currently I have an easy 3 mike bike ride down Corrine and through Baldwin Park to work, so I have it easy. If you all can ride through your obstacle courses, what I want to know is why more people with easier routes to work dont ride whenever possible? The rodes are much safer when I am not driving my car, and we need to get more cars OFF THE ROAD!!! Kudos to you all!