Friday, April 2

Cyclist Choice


Here and here, I talked about parking lots that I ride through on my route from home to work. With the ChipSeal Highway 287 thing, I’ll reveal that, at least one place along my route to work, I usually ride on a shoulder. What’s more, I’m not ashamed to admit it. I even discussed it with Chip, and I came away convinced he supports my right to ride on it in accordance with Texas Law. Actually, now that I think about it, given my current route to work, I could sound more dramatic to simply state that, on my route to work; I ride the shoulder at every possible opportunity. More to the point, just as Chip does on his rides, I make the choices that work in my riding circumstances, and I'd rather not be second guessed by others. It is my butt on the saddle.

In the photo, you can see the shoulder I ride on. It’s the only shoulder actually ON my 20 mile route to work (which is why I can say I ride on it at every opportunity). It is the shoulder of the northbound I-35W Service Road between Cabela’s and Westport Parkway, near Fort Worth Alliance Airport. It exists because there is a “right turn only” lane behind the photographer; facilitating entry into Cabela’s. In addition, a couple hundred yards back up the hill, there is a four way stop, so traffic coming down the hill is unlikely to drift onto that shoulder, having been woken up by the stop sign and the right turn lane. The stop also results in a debris-free shoulder. What’s more, the shoulder turns into a third traffic lane well before Westport. There are no driveways or crossing traffic anywhere. Off to the right is a large buffalo pasture. Anyway, there is little danger, whether I ride on the shoulder, or the right hand traffic lane. The left hand traffic lane is more hazardous (it would actually be legal for me to ride there since I’m usually the only one on this road), because traffic exiting I-35W can be merging into it at a high rate of speed. Anyway, my usual sequence is to turn right from Cabela’s, coast down the hill on the shoulder, making a head check shortly before the shoulder disappears into the new right lane. Shortly thereafter, I move left into the rightmost of the two hand left turn lanes as I approach Westport. I delay the leftward move until I can be sure I will not be endangered by people exiting I-35W. While it may seem odd, this overtaking traffic actually has the right of way over those they overtake. Some places emphasize this by posting “Yield to Ramp” signs. Basically, I treat the shoulder as just another traffic lane. Except on the rare occasions when trucks are parked on the shoulder, there is no discernable safety or other advantage to me to ride in that right hand traffic lane. On the other hand, I can’t imagine anyone would be terribly upset to actually see me riding in that right hand traffic lane, because I rarely see motorists in ANY of the lanes other than those exiting from I-35W. By the time those motorists see me; I am usually in the middle lane, looking left, and waiting for the ramp traffic to sweep by before changing into that left turn lane. This is a location I use extra caution with my left turn signal, because I do not want a motorist, flying down that ramp, to alter his/her course or actions. I flip the left turn signal out ONLY after the motorist has committed to an intended course of action (left, straight, right). Then we communicate so each of us get where we want to go with no fuss or muss.

Yes, I agree that riding shoulders is not something that is wise in the abstract, but like many "all or nothing" positions, I think the best policy really depends on circumstances. What's more, I believe the Texas Legislature agrees with me, which is why they used "may" in their wording about cyclists and shoulders. Some cop wants to charge reckless driving against ChipSeal for NOT using the shoulder. I'll oppose that strongly, and some might claim I oppose it beyond any rational point. Some ideologue that wants to attack me FOR using the shoulder, I'll oppose that too. Either way, I want to hear the facts and data that say why I am wrong, and they are right. This is a country that was purposely set up to support minorities and avoid extremes. I like that. And THAT is part of the point of THIS post. Yeah, I DO stand with Chip, and I think he stands with me as well.

7 comments:

Bill Smith said...

I have expressed to everyone I can the difference between "may" and "shall" and "must". IMHO, there is a lot of difference. I'm looking forward to seeing the result of Chipseal's case, and what the result is afterwards.

Steve A said...

Anonymous, to your first question, the law as written allows Chip to ride anywhere he feels is safest in the right hand traffic lane. In accordance with the established rules of the road, overtaking traffic must use due care, which they did, in the police videos of his traffic stops. To your second question, a motor vehicle cannot safely pass a cyclist in either a 12 or 14 foot lane, even if the cyclist is riding at the fog line. It is physically impossible if a cyclist is actually riding in the lane. While it is not part of the post, I will usually ride in "the line of sweetness" on such a road. The shoulder in this post we are commenting on is unusually travel friendly and I know every foot of it. I was perhaps not clear, but this is the only shoulder I ride on on my commute to work. There are two shoulders on my route home and I ride on neither of them, but I have to save SOMETHING for future posts.

As for the prevalent opinion, the prevalent opinion is not at risk, and the prevalent opinion has not studied the alternate routes, which in Chip's case are both poor. The cyclist on a road is always the rider at risk, as you note in the last paragraph. In that way, cyclists are no different than motorists.

Rollz said...

Steve what is happening to me? You have been making a lot of sense to me about how and where you ride. I am no yeti but I do try to ride safe.

Steve A said...

Rollz; I'm glad I make sense to you on how I ride. The point of this post is that it's the call of the cyclist to make in a given situation and even Yeti (not that there ARE such), may make decisions at times that appear to be unyetilike.

PS: I miss your blog.

Steve A said...

Doohickie, while I may not share your inclination to take photos while riding, I am confident you share mine not to harm motorists, especially using my bike and body to do so.

Velouria said...

You may have mentioned this somewhere - but how long does your 20 mile (is that 1 way?...) ride to work take? I just got a new studio that is 12 miles from my home and no doubt requires travel through similar roads to shat shown on your post. I don't think i can stomach that, shoulder or no shoulder. Will most likely take the subway, but will keep a dedicated "studio bike" there. (How do you cycle on that road, my God!)

Steve A said...

I allow 1.5 hours. I've done it ten minutes quicker. With a stiff headwind and a Starbucks detour, it can take 2 hours. A 12 mile commute isn't a lot harder than a shorter one, it just takes longer.

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