Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Taking the Lane

These past two weeks I've had the opportunity (misfortune?) to test out People Power's call to take the full right lane when riding on Mission Street.

It's been a couple of months since the aforementioned local bicycle lobby held two separate group rides down the right lane on Mission, one, to commemorate the death of Christopher Rock and assert our legal right to take up the full lane when no bike lane is available, and another to lobby the city council to support putting up signs that read, "Bicycles May Use Full Lane."

But taking up a lane with over 100 bicyclists is one thing, doing it by yourself is another. And believe me, it really wasn't by choice - Out of the 3 or 4 times I "reclaimed the lane", it was only because I had businesses to visit that were on the street. In any other circumstances, you'd have found me on King or Delaware.

Instead, I found myself hauling ass between Almar and Union (where the shoulder starts to get real slim), trying my best to keep pace with the autos, not piss anyone off, and not get killed. Enjoyable? When the road was all mine, hells yes. When cars were present, which was most of the time, it was kind of like being chased by pit bulls, naked, across a football field...during the superbowl.

Bike lanes, bike lanes, bike lanes - why oh why aren't there any bike lanes here?!

At stop lights, in keeping with the principle of acting like and taking up as much space as an auto, I decided not to cut ahead on the right side. The idea really being more about making my intentions clear to the drivers than "playing fair." (If there was any parity in infrastructure between automobiles and everyone else, I probably wouldn't be writing this blog).

This worked and it didn't - I mean, as the light would turn green, it was pretty easy to sense how the drivers were barely tolerating me. Traffic congestion not being too bad, most drivers kept a good 10 foot distance behind, and when the opportunity presented itself, passed me on the left. It's hard to tell how different this scenario would have played out had it taken place during rush hour.

As for me, it's annoying enough to be in the bike lane and have to listen to and smell engines running, it's worse being wedged in between cars at stop lights. But feeling cozy just isn't an option when you're doing as cars do when you're clearly not a car. Riding in the middle of the right lane is really just a last resort, it takes much of the joy out of riding. Maybe it'll get better with practice...I dunno.

That being said, so far, I've only gotten honked at twice.

1 comment:

Yokota Fritz said...

Well, since Rock's death I've noticed that the gravel trucks actually move over to the next lane to pass, anyway.

I ride toward the right tire track on Mission, generally. There's kind of enough room for small cars to pass, but the larger, deadlier vehicles (trucks, etc) must move over.

Do you know Bill? He's the guy with about a hundred pounds of stuff on his bike, hangs out at the Bike Church. He takes the lane all the way down Mission at about 8 mph.