Saturday, October 1

Second Left Turn Serenade

Thomas Might be Right
Perhaps Thomas is right and my cycling has somehow gone horribly wrong. You see, my v3 commute has become routine enough that even my motoring coworkers only comment about it on particularly hot, cold, or pleasant days. After a couple hundred days in a row, the novelty wears off even for them. Other than the rare SCUM that arouses the red rage, the traffic seems pretty darn congenial. It is actually, at the risk of eliciting negative comments - BORING. In truth, motoring to work is more exciting. Motorists, for whatever reason, seem to treat each other far worse than they treat a cyclist they see and are able to quickly figure out how not to "squish into a flattened pancake that resembles a giant squirrel roadkill, with blood oozing into the storm drain." Anyway, enough of the lurid scare imagery. If you want to go somewhere the blogger uses fear as a way to sell cycling, you'd have to go somewhere like here or here. I'm sure you can think of too many others to count. In reality, cycling is fun and safe, though the commute probably simply gives me too much time to ponder the finer points of the fun part.

Looking Towards the Second Left on Cheek Sparger Road
The Left Turn at the Second Choice
Lately, I have become fascinated with taking the second opportunity to make a left turn; particularly on my morning commute. It has become almost a romance. The sweet lure of the second left turn. I'm sure this fascination is associated with a lack of motorists having OU stickers in the back of their pickups, or of Fort Worth or Colleyville Police seeing danger in responsible, if unusual, cyclist behavior. I only recall getting honked at twice so far in almost a year of my v3 commute and one of those was especially cryptic, coming from a motorist going in the other direction.

First Chance for a Left off of Westbound Harwood Road, in Bedford, Texas. Nope, Not Today!
Connection Advantages
Except in a few places; mostly associated with the Trinity River or major freeways, the flat terrain of North Texas gives urban and even suburban (such as myself) cyclists a plethora of pretty direct routes if the cyclist is going more than a couple of miles. My morning commute seems to offer a lot of left turn choices. The first left gets taken when it looks like traffic conflicts are avoided by doing so, or if the situation is clouded. The second left gets take if I've gotten bored with taking the first left. On my commute, most of these options really don't make a lot of difference. However, in the last several weeks, I've been seduced by the romance of taking the last left. Most places, that is the second of two fine choice choices.

Second Chance at the Left Turn off of Harwood Road. Sweet Morning!
Second Lefts on My Commute
The Flamethrower!
The first of these second lefts is when I roll west along Cheek Sparger road. This two-lane road with double yellow lines is about two blocks from my home. In Texas, it is illegal to pass a cyclist if your left wheels cross those lines, at least unless that cyclist is lying prostrate in the road. Luckily, nobody follows that law, and I've never had a conflict on this road, other than a coworker telling me about the cyclist that was killed on it which is why he got his job in the first place. Well, I haven't seen those teenagers myself and they'd probably do what every other motorist that has encountered me has done, which is simply to make an illegal full lane change to pass. I do the same, even when on my bike and I encounter someone walking her dog. Mostly, the advantage of the second left on Cheek Sparger is I avoid nearly ten feet of vertical climb AND a stop sign. I also get to run past a house that still waters their lawn every day. Thrills on my commute are so measured. Still, Cheek Sparger is straight and fast and my flame thrower headlight lets the oncoming traffic know something serious is coming toward them.

Cheek Sparger Road, Looking Toward Where I Turn On to the Road
The second is on westbound Harwood. Harwood is a five lane road. Well, it's actually about 4 1/2 lanes since there is a median some places. Mostly I take the second left on Harwood because I took the second left on Cheek Sparger. Doing so means I get to go uphill a little further - I think it might be as much as 20 feet of altitude gain (ironically, I gain the altitude I avoided by taking the second left on Cheek Sparger), but, being tough, I do it without supplemental oxygen. I also think it saves me about 0.1 mile.

The third is one I invariably make if I took the first two second lefts. It means I go clear to the top of the hill on Bedford Euless road and turn at the water tower. It also means a couple of dogs get no morning exercise. This second turn is a route I didn't take much last summer when our morning temperature were in the mid 80s. Especially when I was sick. I was sick long enough that the dogs now simply run along their fence without bothering to actually bark. They think this "second left" stuff is a bunch of hooey. Woof!

This Dog is Disappointed if I Take the Second Left off Bedford -Euless Road
The Second Left Off of Bedford-Euless. This is NOT Typical Road Conditions!
There are more lefts that I refer to as "the second left," though mostly they involve really taking a left only when going straight is no longer an option. On Bellaire, that is the fourth or fifth opportunity, when it dead ends at Highway 10.

Second Left is Unclear on Bellaire
Bottom Line
So, you might wonder what all these second lefts gain me? Well, if I believe my cycling computer, taking all these second lefts save me nearly 0.3 whole miles. I also avoid at least TWO stop signs. At my average speed, this suggests I save OVER A FULL MINUTE on the way to work. Of course, all this fiddling means I have to take detours on the way home to keep the two-way average unchanged. Which means an extra half hour after the coffee stop. Sigh. I guess that brings me back to the first paragraph. Maybe Thomas is right! On the OTHER hand, winter is on its way. There is NOTHING to bring a little fun back into the morning commute than fresh snow over black ice!


thomas said...

These are my thoughts on the subject:

Steve A said...

Well Thomas provides a nice reminder, and something to ponder as I sit here, in Montreal, bikeless...

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