Today’s commute, or, Why we need bike lanes on Madison Avenue

Well, I had planned to watch a movie tonight, but unfortunately the DVD I rented was scratched to the point that my laptop couldn’t read it.  So I will blog instead.

As I’ve written before, this is the first year when I’ve attempted to be a true year-round cyclist.  Rather than punking out during the winter and summer months, I’ve soldiered on and biked around town in some rather difficult conditions.

Biking during the months of cold weather presents its own challenges, staying warm chief among them.  But biking in the summer is another matter entirely.  During winter, all one really needs to stay warm and comfortable (and protected from the elements) is to don another layer of clothing (most cotton garments don’t count here).  But during the hottest parts of the year … well … there are only so many layers of clothing one can remove while maintaining some standard of decorum.

I must confess though that biking in the summer months is not as bad as I would have thought.  Yes, it is hot as balls outside these days.  But given that I average around 12 MPH when I ride around town, I have a near constant breeze acting as a natural cooling agent.  In fact, for at least the first mile or two of my rides, the experience is really quite pleasant, even when I begin my biking day in the late hours of the morning.  Of course, late afternoon is another matter entirely.

Regardless, I’ve been keeping to my word.  Here’s a screenshot of my bike ride from earlier today.

Screen shot 2011 06 08 at 11 40 53 PM

And here’s a link to a clickable map.  Enjoy.

Basically, I biked from home to work, then on a few errands in Midtown, then back home again.  At times the heat was unpleasant, but never was it overpowering.

But what was unpleasant was my experience biking on Madison.  I’ve written about the need for bike lanes on that road more times than I care to remember, and today’s experience further solidified in my mind the need for such facilities.

I was biking east on Madison this afternoon, just where the road slopes downhill from McLean and approaches Cooper Street.  For at least some of that stretch of Madison, there is a shoulder/parking lane that is wide enough to accommodate a cyclist.  That is where I prefer to bike on that section of Madison, for obvious reasons.  But given that bikes and cars are legally obligated to share the road, I shouldn’t have felt bad about taking a lane.

But apparently the drivers on the road felt otherwise.  For at least a block I kept looking over my left shoulder for a break in traffic where I could rejoin the flow of vehicles approaching Cooper.  But no one would let me in.  At one point some jackwagon in a pickup truck gave me the evil eye for trying to enter traffic just as he was passing me, and then flipped me off as he passed.  Classy, guy … really classy.

I could just say whatever and be done with it.  I made it home safe, right?  But when an experienced commuter cyclist like me feels intimidated by the behavior of drivers, you get an idea of the barriers to entry that many marginal cyclists face.  And if we are ever going to make Memphis a better city, we have to lower those barriers and make those marginal cyclists feel comfortable.  Bike lanes are one easy way to make that happen, but are by means the only way.

 

 

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