Beware the little cyclists (and big people, too)

Experienced cyclists like Mrs. Smith and yours truly know a good bit about avoiding road hazards. I learned some of that the hard way – once by going too fast around a curve on an asphalt trail that was covered in wet leaves, for example, and once by hitting a rough railroad crossing at a bad angle in the rain.

Some of the scariest moments on a bicycle involve children, the scary part being fear of running into and hurting them. After witnessing a number of hazardous situations the other day on some busy, beautiful trails in Summit County, I thought it might be good to state the obvious that is not obvious to everyone.

  • You are not quick enough to avoid hitting a child who swerves into your path if you are riding as fast as you want to. Slow down. Trust me. A child walking or pedaling on a trail or anywhere else will be in your way at some point. They are learning.
  • Many adults are still learning. Some never will.
  • Don’t assume a cyclist or pedestrian you’re passing hears you say, “Passing on your left.” Not everyone has good hearing, and many others are listening to music or podcasts.
  • Far too many people will not give you a polite “Passing on your left” as they approach you from behind.
  • You cannot trust anyone who is driving a car, truck or other motor vehicle. That includes me. We are human and we all make mistakes, not to mention those who are drunk, texting or otherwise negligent.
  • You cannot trust other cyclists, so be responsible for your own safety. I’ve had a cycling friend yell out that a road was clear to cross only to see him nearly hit by a speeding car a second or two later. Always check for yourself.

Summary: Pay attention.

Pedal on.

B.J.

Motorized bicycles that are ‘non-motorized’? Say hello to my ‘cat’

This morning was perfect for a bicycle ride from Longmont to Lyons, a distance of about 10 miles if you start at the Smith place. It’s always great fun to be on the road with nearly as many cyclists as motor vehicle operators. Mrs. Smith and I aren’t the slowest people on bicycles, but we’re not so fast that we miss the scenery, the road-killed snakes, and all the yellow skins apparently shed along the way by bananas that no longer need them.

We’re also noticing more and more of those e-bike things, which I thought were referred to as such because they have electric motors. Silly me.

I read in the Denver Post after our human-powered morning ride that the U.S. government has decreed that e-bikes are actually “non-motorized.”

And up is actually down, unless I have that backwards.

My favorite and funniest part of the article, even though this is no laughing matter:

“The Interior statement said riders must use the motor only to boost their pedaling on the trails, and not zip along on motor power alone.”

The absurdity is obvious: The Department of the Interior has determined that the riders in question don’t have motors. What’s more, we all know that cyclists, motor vehicle operators, and even riders of non-motorized contraptions that do have motors routinely fail to do many of the things they must do.

I wouldn’t deny anyone the opportunity to enjoy the outdoors, as much as or even much more than I do. The arguments in favor of using e-bikes to get around are numerous, and many of those reasons are actually good.

As a writer and editor who cares about language, however, I do take exception to calling things and people something they are not.

By the way, I thought I’d share a picture of my cat, since people love cat pictures so much.

Pedal on, my friends.

B.J.

Now Jeep-less after all these years

Back in the day, by which I mean since x number of years ago until a few hours ago, I had a Jeep. Not just any Jeep. I had a 1991 Wrangler Renegade, which I bought from my car-salesman brother-in-law. He got almost all of my business while he was in that business.

wrangler1The story went that the previous owner lived in Madison, Wisconsin, and drove the red
Renegade mostly to church on Sundays. She was the proverbial little old lady.

Stop laughing.

The Renegade had only 30,000 or so miles on it at the time, after 10+ years, so I was inclined to believe it.

That thing could handle snow. When I bought the Renegade, we lived in Iowa, halfway down the hill on a dead-end street, so 4WD was important. I drove it to work and back for years. I could go anywhere. I drove it from Iowa to Colorado twice, and all the way back to Iowa once.

We went fishing together. We drove some bad Colorado mountain roads that tested our nerves, and our wariness of heights, and our shocks. We flew down the highway topless, usually when it wasn’t raining and the sun was hot overhead.

Then came the day.

The choice: Sell the 2007 Prius, which faithfully takes us 50 miles on a gallon of gasoline, or the Renegade (17 mpg on a good day). Something had to give if we were to leap into the 2017 Escape we were eyeing.

What would you do?

Used to be it was easy to spot my ride in a huge, crowded parking lot. A boxy, rusting, red thing the likes of which I’ve never seen elsewhere. Now, to find my car at the park-n-ride or the parking lot at DIA, I will look for the teeny Iowa Hawkeyes sticker in the left-rear window of my little black Prius among a sea of little black Priuses. I have to hope no one else out here puts that same sticker anywhere near the same place.

Mrs. Smith Compound drives the sleek, white Escape. It looks great on her.

 

More fuzzy thinking on Boulder County roads

There he goes again.

Boulder County Transportation Director George Gerstle is quoted in the Daily Camera as saying a canyon road will be closed to cyclists for several weeks, but open to motor vehicles.

Why is it closed to people who travel by bicycle?

View of Ward from below along Lefthand Canyon Road
View of Ward from below along Lefthand Canyon Road (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

His explanation:

“It’s not wide enough for big trucks and bikes at the same time.”

Apparently it is wide enough for big trucks and automobiles, though.

As I said before, we are all traffic. Either allow traffic on the road, or don’t.

Pedal on.

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Do some traffic signs increase risk to road users?

Our community’s pernicious motor-centric bias is on display along U.S. Highway 36 between Lyons and Estes Park.

As we drove that route Monday to Rocky Mountain National Park for some hiking, I couldn’t help but notice the road signs that singled bicyclists out for special attention. Bicycling was “not recommended,” the signs said, and cyclists were advised that they did so “at their own risk.”

Some questions

  • When do cyclists ever not ride at their own risk?
  • Were we driving our car at someone else’s risk?
  • Are motorists less inclined to be careful and polite around cyclists when they see such warnings?

By telling the community that some roads are unsafe for non-motorized travel, and telling all road users who can read that cyclists really shouldn’t be around, our transportation officials reinforce the notion that roads are just for cars and trucks. They make the roads more dangerous for bicycling.

Tell them they need to stop doing that.

Boulder County Transportation

Colorado Citizen’s Advocate for Transportation

U.S. Department of Transportation

Share the road

Having bicycled up Highway 36 to Estes Park a couple of summers ago, I’m not really eager to do it again, but that’s beside the point.

Whenever you see someone on a bicycle, people, pass with care.

That’s what “share the road” means.


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