Friday, August 20

Lane Position Gone WILD!

A Cyclist has Three Lane Position Choices. Through Broken Pavement, Skirting it, or
Darn Near the Middle of the Road. Most Motorists Take the Third Choice as this Pickup Driver Has Done
Despite the Road Surface, Many Motorists Really Take the 45mph Speed Limit as a Directive.
I know there are some pretty savvy cyclists that occasionally peek at this blog. I know there are also some people that read this blog, on occasion, that are a bit nervous about the whole concept that one of your jobs on a bike is to help your motorists succeed in their prime objective, which is to not hit anything, and especially not you.

Mostly, this is a pretty simple task. The rules of the road are a simplified way for road users to communicate with each other and accomplish everyone's task of getting places with no crashing noises. However, sometimes it gets a little messier, like when a road is gradually getting beaten back into the earth by a combination of heavy use and patchwork maintenance. Old Denton Road in the far Northwest corner of Fort Worth is such a situation. It is like nothing in Effective Cycling. All in one place, the road dynamically functions as either a two-lane road with really narrow lanes and a brutal shoulder, or as a one-lane road with a lane wide enough for sharing.

This Pavement is Pretty Sad, as You can Judge
by the Shadow of the Wheel
I would be THRILLED to see how various people of BOTH extremes would ride up this road. You see, I don't think I have found any lane position that will consistently avoid close passes. Going DOWN the hill is easy - just ride far enough left that you get the sweetest smooth pavement, while allowing oncoming traffic enough room to avoid a head-on collision, and ride like hell. Any other lane position will result in some sort of ugly event whether motorists are in the vicinity or not. If you're lucky, you'll only break a wheel.

Going up, as you may see from the photos, Old Denton Road has become effectively narrow enough that it is almost a single-lane road. If I ride in my usual "line of sweetness," anyone passing will wind up hitting broken pavement with his/her left wheel, and I'll get close passes as a result. Broken pavement under the left wheels make motorists even more nervous than an assertive cyclist. As I observed this, I tried moving right, so that I was riding toward the right edge of the unbroken pavement; about four feet to the left of where the right edge of the road would normally be. It's where the left edge of the right tire track would be if everyone didn't just drive down the middle. This improved things, but NOW I get close passes from motorists that are, understandably, trying to avoid running on to the broken pavement to their left. I suppose I COULD just ride through the broken pavement myself, but that pavement is broken because people continue to go through it, breaking it down further. I think I'd rather shoulder the bike and walk up the hill than try to ride through that crud on a bike with skinny tires.
Riding Further Towards the Road Center Would Actually Give the White Car a Choice
Between a Close Pass or Venturing into the Broken Pavement on His Left (or Just Not Passing at All)

What would YOU do? Now, before you say "I'd take a different road," you should know there are really only three road choices to the east and south for Fort Worth Alliance Airport. One is Westport Parkway which I have talked about in prior posts, such as "Stinky Road." One is the Alliance Gateway Freeway, which I DO ride on the way TO work, but it represents a bit of a detour to go home, and it also has a lot of traffic in the afternoon. Old Denton Road is the third. One GOOD thing about this stretch is that I always feel like I've accomplished something when I reach the crest of the hill. At that point, it turns into a massively overbuilt four lane road with a median, right after I turn off to head east. The four lane portion has the same 45mph speed limit.

The SUV is Just a Skosh Towards the Center of Where Most Motorists Would Choose When Passing a Cyclist
HE was only Passing a Cyclist Standing off the Edge of the Road Shooting Photos.
I'm Pretty Sure this Big Boy Would Have
Been a Foot or Two Further Left Had I Actually Been ON the Road

Another Shot of the Pavement Nearing the Ridge. Up Ahead, SMOOTH Pavement. YAY!
and Things Get Simple Again

Looking Down on the Tricky Part. Going Down, I'm usually About Six-Eight Feet Left of the Right
Road Edge and Accelerating. Prevailing Wind Helps the Downhill Run


John Romeo Alpha said...

Accepting the assumption that there's no alternate route, this looks like an unavoidable nasty surface condition that may require rethinking the bicycle itself, starting with the tires. If I was stuck taking that road, I'd ride fatter tires. There's different options to get to that result, but skinny tires on a couple of miles of that is suboptimal, and I shoot for optimal.

Steve A said...

JRA's point is well taken. I have an easier time with this stretch with the Tricross and its 28c Contis. Upon reflection, it also seems to me that everything seems a bit hectic this last week. The schools open Monday. I switch back to the Tricross a week after that.

Steve A said...

The road is bad like this for less than a mile out of the 20 mile commute.

cafiend said...

I'm running 32s for daily wear on the Cross Check. Coming from a roadie background I had trouble accepting wider tires. Now I wouldn't go without them. I put 28s on my road bike.

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