January 2013

What are some of the safety advantages that bicyclists have over motorists? We are slow and exposed! You may have thought those were disadvantages but they’re not. I’ll give you an example…

The other day while bicycling through Florissant I turned north from Derhake Rd. onto Lynn Meadows Lane. This is my normal route coming back to Ferguson from Florissant since it is a quieter road with less traffic than Washington.

An even quieter road is Capri Drive which parallels Lynn Meadows. So I planned to make a quick left turn onto Capri just a few hundred feet down the road. With my left arm out to indicate my planned turn I slowed as the turn approached. Two motorists were coming towards me so I knew I couldn’t make the turn right away but would have to wait until they cleared the intersection.

I was vaguely aware that a motorist I had seen further down Derhake had turned onto Lynn Meadows because I could hear vehicle noises behind me. As I approached the intersection I distinctly heard the motorist behind me pull out to pass! A quick glance over my left shoulder confirmed the fact. While this type of behavior is unexpected and violates all the rules of the road it was easy for me to abort the left turn and stop. Not so easy was the reaction of the motorists approaching the intersection from the opposite direction. They had to slow hard and swerve to avoid a head-on accident.

What safety advantages did the bicyclist (me!) have? Because I was exposed my sense of hearing easily picked up the fact that the motorist behind me had made a dangerous passing move. Because I was exposed I had a 360 degree view and could easily confirm what was going on without the obstruction of a blind spot. And because I was slow it was easy to stop. The entire situation was much more dangerous to the approaching motorists than it was to me.

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Here’s another advantage that bicyclists have…

A recent Post-Dispatch article that was headlined Cutting Car Miles to Shed Pounds stated, “Health experts agree that Americans’ reliance on cars, especially for short trips, has contributed to the obesity epidemic because driving or riding in a car expends as little energy as possible.”

One suggestion given for cutting car miles was to park as far away as possible from a destination in order to increase the distance walked. So if you were going to the mall, instead of circling around and looking for a parking space close in, you would simply choose among the many open spots that were far away.

But what do you do as a Ferguson resident when your destination is the post office? The parking lot there is so small that you can’t park more than 50 feet from the front door. Here’s my suggestion: park in your driveway or garage and ride your bike to the post office! You will be parking as far away as possible!

Many other short local trips can be treated the same way. Going to the bank? Small parking lot. Going to Walgreens? Small parking lot. Going to City Hall? Small parking lot. I think you get the drift. Virtually all local destinations have small parking lots. So park far away…in your driveway!

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You may have read in last month’s column about a recent post on the Ferguson Bicycle Shop Facebook page that surprised me. That post led to an explanation of why a bicyclist isn’t required to have a license or insurance.

The explanation made sense to the original poster but it didn’t completely satisfy his feelings on the matter. In a followup post he said, “…however, it angers me when we share the road and yet some bicyclists do not obey the rules that govern the road. I see all too often bicyclists that run red lights and stop signs.” He’s right. I see the same thing. It doesn’t anger me as much as it embarrasses me because it gives a bad name to all bicyclists.

Once I was driving with some visiting friends, showing them around the area. As we drove through Calverton Park going north on N. Florissant we passed a bicyclist riding in the slow lane. We passed him and took our place in the slow lane. I pointed out that the bicyclist was doing things correctly: riding in the road, not on the sidewalk, etc.

As we approached the underpass with I-270 traffic one of the traffic lights turned red. I could see in my rearview mirror that the bicyclist was catching up to us. Just as I was preparing my speech that the bicyclist hadn’t slowed down traffic at all, but the red light had, the bicyclist flashed past us on the right and cruised right through the red light! It embarrassed me. This bicyclist had gone from being an example of the correct way to ride to being a “poster” child for how to make motorists mad at bicyclists. 

If you are a poster to various online forums, please don’t assume that all bicyclists share the worst habits and behavior of some. And if you are a bicyclist, please don’t be a “poster” child for these bad bicycling habits and behavior.

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I hope 2013 is yet another year in which you reach all of your goals for living a healthy and active lifestyle!