Monday, April 22, 2013

Perils and Dilemmas

There are some very useful and useable bike paths around here. As I noted recently, the one soon to be completed from SW 91st to Archer is a great addition to the bike travel infrastructure for both recreational and commuting riders. Many of the paths within the city are transit routes are convenient ways for recreational riders using them to get to places beyond the urban area. For daily commuters and life-stylists they take on a different and much more familiar role. Where we go and how we get there can pose problems that the motoring public and recreational riders might never understand.

I use Kermit Sigmon Bike Trail and the bike path paralleling Archer Road where it ends at SW 16th Avenue to very near the intersection of SW 34th Street and Archer Road. At that major intersection I am faced with a dilemma. Should I cross to the north side of Archer Road and ride on the sidewalk with traffic or remain on the south side and ride against the flow of traffic?

The decision is actually a very easy one. I have ridden along the sidewalk fronting Butler Plaza. It is always a perilous ride and when I must ride on that side of Archer Road I try to use Windmeadows Blvd. instead. The alternative is to remain in the south side of Archer and be aware that drivers will seldom glance to the right (eastward) as they pull from parking areas onto Archer Road. One might expect that drivers making right turns into Butler Plaza would be more alert to pedestrians and bicycle riders. There seems to be a let down in attention when leaving Archer Road. Maybe drivers feel safer then. And those exiting Butler are no better at looking for pedestrians or bikes coming from the east.

For about a mile and a half I ride the sidewalk being very aware of cars leaving end entering parking for businesses along the southern side of Archer Road. Interestingly, riding along there at night seems less dangerous because of headlights. Literally, the Princeton Tec EOS mounted to my helmet often attracts the attention of drivers who otherwise might not look to their right. No false sense of security here. Caution and patience remain the primary directives. After passing under I-75 there are no more businesses with which to contend and as soon as possible I cross to the north side of Archer to ride in the bike lane.

The decisions we make as bike riders may not always (or ever) make sense to drivers and many may make no sense at all. The best decision we can make is to not challenge drivers and their vehicles because we have the right-of-way. It may infuriate me when a driver fails to look right and left or when a driver is texting or talking on the phone and doesn't yield. My frustration is brief. Injury or death is too damn permanent.


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