Saturday, October 30

Bicycle Bailout

Left Turn from Anita on to FM 1709 Keller Parkway

One thing I hate; riding my bike to work, is a “wave” or “pack” of accelerating motorists overtaking me, all at the same time, on a multilane road. I doubly hate it in the morning darkness. The thought of someone behind me attempting to change lanes while the next lane over is occupied with another motorist is unsettling to me. Similarly, the notion of what might happen when the full acceleration of the motorst behind me suddenly becomes a full brake while the next motorist back is still accelerating also seems potentially unpleasant. While I would not be involved in the initial collision, both involved motorists might do all sorts of dramatic maneuvers immediately afterwards. Exacerbating the situation, when the camera-controlled traffic changes very quickly; overtaking motorists do not have a lot of time to consider any cyclist ahead that now suddenly occupies “their” road. This differs from the typical overtaking situation where a motorist may have a minute or two to consider how to pass me before actually having to do it. I LIKE my motorists to have a while to consider things before they have to DO something.

Fortunately, such situations are rare. My 20-mile commute route contains only one such, and even that only applies occasionally, and only in the morning. It is the intersection of Anita and FM1709, where I turn left onto westbound FM1709 (Keller Parkway). I wrote about it in my post “Don’t Look Back.” It also happens to be the location where I fell into the trench they dug for a new median and wound up in the hospital.

Well, as it turns out, there is an extremely simple solution I adopted yeseterday for the first time. Depending on one’s viewpoint, it is either a vehicular, or a non-vehicular cycling solution. Simply put, when I see a pack of cars on westbound FM1709 (the FM 1709 GP Starting Grid) waiting at Anita at the time I get my green light, I make my left turn, ride a few buildings down and signal a right turn into a conveniently located (and empty) driveway loop. The wave of motorists sweep by moments later, allowing me to return to the main arterial and proceed apace without any accompanying traffic at all. In truth, in exchange for not worrying about some motorist doing something stupid and dangerous, I experience about a 1 second delay, and retain control of the traffic situation. This morning, my light actually turned yellow before I cleared the intersection and there were a lot of motorists sitting there and revving their engines (well, at least in my active imagination – in reality, most of them were probably only half awake).

It is an extremely vehicular approach in that it is exactly what I might do if I were acceleration and speed limited in a motor vehicle, such as if towing another vehicle. It is also consistent with the spirit of pulling over in a motor home when in a situation in which a large crowd of following vehicles has been encountered. It accomplishes exactly what proceeding straight through the intersection and then making a U turn and a right would accomplish. This is not a practical maneuver at this intersection because Anita becomes a median divided road north of the intersection.

It is unvehicular in that I am, to put it bluntly, pulling off a road on which I have the right of way, simply because it reduces traffic conflict.

As in many other cases, I fall back on the realization that many of the overtaking motorists have never before seen a cyclist controlling a lane on that road, they may not realize it is perfectly legal, and they’re distracted by the “must go” feeling when their light turns green.

Am I wrong to perform a maneuver that suggests that I don’t have confidence in my motorists to be able to consistently and safely pass me when they’re in a pack and have their pedals to the metal? I don’t know. Maybe so. Still, commuting isn’t a civil rights activity, and defensive driving sometimes involves backing off on strict rules of the road to account for stupid actions the other guy might be making. It is the flip side of the driver that doesn’t stop at a stop sign because he/she KNOWS there won’t be anyone coming. In this case, I take an action that avoids a conflict I KNOW exists because of poor intersection and signal light timing. If I err, I err on the side of caution.
Bailout Driveway Loop on FM 1709


Khal said...

Seems like a reasonable, common sense thing to do. When a slow moving vehicle can pull over to let a platoon of other traffic by (on a mountain road, etc.) it is considerate. Saves a lot of people time and gasoline.

The only reason you are being so defensive in explaining this, I assume, is due to the religious rather than rational nature of the "vehicular cycling" argument. Good God, we need to get past this Bhull Sheet.

Ed W said...

The first rule of commuting is to arrive at your destination on time and in one piece. Like Khal, I don't see this in terms of vehicular vs non-vehicular cycling. Instead, it's a practical solution to a problem, and rather than ride on a 'safe' sidewalk or finding an alternate route, you've hit on one that allows you to take your desired route.

Steve A said...

"Considerate" is not applicable in this case. The road has three lanes in each direction so passing delay is minimal even for those motorists that aren't paying attention. "Reasonable" may be applicable, given that the traffic engineers did not do a very good job of designing that particular intersection.

Hmm, what WOULD Judas do?

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