The writing on the bus

The Flatirons rock formations, near Boulder, C...
The Flatirons rock formations, near Boulder, Colorado. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Writing on the bus makes the commute go faster. Sometimes too fast.

My morning commute to work is complicated, which to me is a good thing. It varies from bicycle-bus-shuttle to Jeep-bus-shuttle, to bike-shuttle, to pure bicycle. If my bicycle makes it to work with me, I almost always ride it the 18-20 miles home and sometimes farther, depending on which of the innumerable possible routes I take.

Five or six times a year I drive to work.

My commute is never boring. I’m either reading, or doing a crossword puzzle, enjoying views of the Rocky Mountain foothills and the Flatirons over Boulder, or writing something.

Writing fiction, I’ve concluded, is the quickest way to get to work and back home to Longmont.

I hope those who’ve read my first Red Shaw novel will be pleased to hear that I made fairly significant progress just today on the next one. The working title is North of Grand.

Forget the crossword puzzles.

Cyclists banned from some Boulder County roads: Reasonable or not?

It’s reasonable to ask people to avoid unnecessary trips up or down canyon roads that are being rebuilt after their destruction by devastating floods.

If traffic of any sort is allowed on the roads, however, is an outright ban on bicycle traffic reasonable?

The question is prompted by this story about Boulder County roads that are now closed to cyclists but open, apparently, to anyone else.

It is a reasonable distinction to make:

  • If you do not consider the bicycle a legitimate mode of transportation.
  • If you assume that everyone who needs to get somewhere has or has access to a motor vehicle or public transportation.
  • If you assume that cyclists are on the roads only for recreation.
  • If it is true that the most serious hazard for cyclists is the lack of a guardrail or shoulder (as if cyclists must always ride next to the road rather than upon it).

In my experience, the most serious hazard to a cyclist is an inattentive or hostile motorist. Sometimes our own mistakes cause us harm, of course.

The article quotes Boulder County’s transportation director, George Gerstle, as saying shoulders “typically separate vehicular and bicycle travel or allow pull-offs by cyclists and safe passing by vehicles.”

Our transportation director seems to believe that safe passing by vehicles is dependent on not having cyclists in their way, while in fact safe passing is more dependent on cyclists and motorists alike being responsible and obeying traffic laws. Around here, as I understand it, drivers are required by law to pass cyclists no closer than three feet, and cyclists can travel the public roadways quite legally.

We don’t need our county transportation director reinforcing the beliefs of all too many motorists that cyclists do not belong on roads and should just stay the hell out of the way.

The article says Bicycle Longmont president Ryan Kragerud thinks closing those roads to cycling is reasonable. Ryan is wrong about that.

Asking motorists and cyclists to avoid certain roads is reasonable. Responsible, courteous citizens of all persuasions will comply, whether they move about the county on two wheels, four wheels or more.

If roads are not safe for cyclists, they are not safe for motorists.

We are all traffic. Either allow traffic on the road or don’t.

What type of bicycle rider are you?

Some researchers in Montreal have come up with an interesting way to look at people who ride bicycles. Classifying them by motivation and how they use their bicycles, they sorted riders rather precisely by these categories, according to a Forbes article:

  • Path-using cyclists (36 percent)
  • Dedicated cyclists (24 percent)
  • Fairweather utilitarians (23 percent)
  • Leisure cyclists (17 percent)

As an increasingly dedicated cyclist who uses paths, often to get to roads, I prefer fair weather to foul, and I’ve been known to ride at a fairly leisurely pace.

Where do you fit in?

Twain’s quote on bicycling: Here’s the context

“Get a bicycle. You will not regret it, if you live.”

Those words from Mark Twain pop up now and then in Twitter. Sometimes tempted to retweet, I always have second thoughts because the quote makes cycling sound scary and dangerous.

Context is important to understanding words, as always, and sometimes it’s hard to find. Here you go:

The bicycle Twain rode had little in common with today’s cruisters, road machines and MTBs.

It had two wheels, of course, but it was considerably more difficult to ride, according to Bicycle: The History by David V. Herlihy.

As Herlihy writes, Twain “made light of his epic struggle to master the imposing beast” in his essay “Taming the Bicycle.”

Twain wasn’t writing about pedaling down today’s trails, streets and highways. With some common sense and basic equipment (lights at night, for example), bicycling is a great way to get around.

Let me put it this way: Get a bicycle and ride it. You will not regret it.

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