On the bike: Promoting civility and good will

I last left you with a tale of a less-than-pleasant transaction on the road.  While these encounters are noteworthy, they are also rare.  On some level, I interact with every motorist with whom I share the roads on a given ride, and most times these are neutral encounters (though a neutral encounter is a good encounter in my book).

I prefer to make note of the good encounters, which seem to be on the rise of late.  Case in point, several blocks after the aforementioned negative encounter, I noticed a motorist behind me as I approached a red light.  I was to be the first person in the queue (going straight), and I noticed that the motorist had on a right turn signal.

Given the limited space on the street we were on, I knew that she would be less than a foot from my body when she made her turn.  I was perfectly happy to move left to let her pass, but I wanted both of use to come to a stop first, to facilitate a slow, safe pass.

I signaled my intention to stop (something I’m doing a lot more of these days) as I looked back and made eye contact with the driver.  Once I was stopped, I intentionally shifted a bit farther left and motioned for her to proceed with her turn.  She made her right turn on red, and after a couple of minutes, the light changed and I headed on my way.

A few blocks later, I approached a stop sign (again signaling my intention to stop), and noticed a vehicle coming up beside me.  I was bewildered and, at first, a bit annoyed that the driver couldn’t stay behind me and take her turn, until I recognized the woman from the stop light.

She rolled down her window and proceeded to praise my biking, noting the good communication (through the use of hand signals) and thanked me for embodying the idea of “sharing the road” (unlike many other cyclists she’d encountered.  Talk about affirmation — she took the time to backtrack and find me just to thank me for following basic rules of the road and observing basic courtesies!

I thanked her in turn for her courteous driving and handed her a CyclingSavvy card, explaining that I ride what I teach.

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This post seems like a good note on which to end Bike Month.  It also marks the seventh day in a row that I have posted, something that certainly has not happened since Gabriel was born!  So on that note, I’ll take a little break.

Weekend by bike

I spent Friday night and Saturday co-teaching CyclingSavvy.  Given the wet forecast, Saturday’s on-bike sessions seemed touch-and-go for awhile, but in the end we had a [mostly] dry, if chilly, day.

By chilly, I mean I was wearing three layers on bottom and four on top and fighting not to shiver constantly (in retrospect, they were rather light layers).

Having learned from our test ride how exhausting biking to the class location, riding the route, and then biking home could be, I planned a multimodal trip, hopping on Metro (with my bike on the bus’s rack) to start the day, shaving three miles off my total.

Despite a bit of ambivalence about heading out on a chilly damp Saturday (I was already planning a day of hibernating and baking if we canceled class), once we got going, I couldn’t have been happier.  We had a great class, and both the parking lot session and the road tour went very well.

Demonstrating the danger of a door zone bike lane
Demonstrating the danger of a door zone bike lane

I planned to use the same bike-bus strategy on my way home, and I arrived at the bus stop, at what I thought was almost exactly the time the bus would arrive, so looking forward to loading my bike on the bus and sitting down for ten minutes.

As I biked the last couple of blocks to the bus stop, I realized I was warm for the first time all day.  As in, too warm.  After I arrived at the bus stop and ascertained that the bus’s arrival was not imminent, I set out to remove some layers.

Unfortunately, my sexy striptease as I removed my rain pants to reveal my cycling tights was hampered by the fact that I had not first removed my ankle bands.  Striptease fail.

For better or worse, I soon realized that I’d looked at the time incorrectly, and I’d be waiting awhile for that comfy bus seat.  As much as I was ready to collapse, the idea of actually being underway and [maybe] getting home sooner than I would if I waited for the bus won.

I hopped back on the bike for the final three miles.  I arrived feeling mentally invigorated, but physically exhausted, like my [then] upcoming birthday that ends in a zero was 9-0 or perhaps even 1-0-0.

My do-nothing plans for Sunday were somewhat foiled due to a lack of milk and sugar.  After hearing Matthew debate making the less-than-a-mile-away grocery run by car, I sucked it up, put on my rain gear, and biked to the store.

Fortunately, the rest of the day was lower key, and did, indeed, involve baking, and eating the delicious results — zucchini bread and chocolate heaven cake with dreamsicle butter cream frosting.

Savvy [Tri]cyclist

I spent most of Saturday afternoon on my bike with a fellow CyclingSavvy instructor, ground-truthing the route for the Tour of St. Louis that I will be co-leading as part of our May workshop (details and registration here — please join us for a course that will change the way you think about riding on the roads!).*

Given the gorgeous weather, and the fact that I had the entire day to myself since Gabriel was at the garden, I thought nothing of biking to and from our meeting place (Kaldi’s Coffee on DeMun).  Well, I thought nothing of it until after we rode the route for the road tour of mid-county, by which point I had covered the six miles to our meeting point and the ten miles of the tour.

My body said, “We’re finished now, right?”

Um, not so much, given that I was six miles from home.  I went into autopilot at that point, choosing the most straightforward route and slowly pounding it out, bit by bit.

Unfortunately, I was too tired and zoned to stop and chat with the couple heading the other direction on their bikes, riding on the sidewalk and looking thoroughly distressed about the fact that the sidewalk was ending and they were about to have to ride on the road (the very low traffic four-lane road where they could operate their bicycles peacefully and happily in a lane all their own, in reality much safer than their previous location).

Apparently, my regular weight lifting, intermittent mile or two treadmill runs, and casual bike jaunts with Sir did not prepare me for a 22-miler.  I arrived home a thoroughly pooped pup.

No rest for the wicked, though, as I immediately jumped into dinner preparations (stewed tomatoes), knowing that a [garden-tired] Matthew and Sir would be arriving soon.

Turns out I was not the only one who spent a large portion of the day spinning my wheels . . . .IMG_1716

When I wrote last, I’d completely forgotten that my MIL found a tricycle at a thrift shop when she was in Florida in December.  Talk about a pimped ride: metallic pink with chrome fenders and black streamers, plus not one, but TWO bells.  Someone’s riding in style!  (Someone also received his birthday present several months early.)

*Whatever your cycling experience, this course has something for you, as summed up so well in the course announcement email:

Beginner cyclists will learn why sidewalk cycling increases risk, what Missouri & Illinois laws say about bicycles and cyclists, how to signal and communicate with motorists, practice critical bike handling skills, and proven techniques valuable for a lifetime of cycling.

Intermediate cyclists will discover the importance of intersection integration, how to best handle multi- and single-lane roads, strategies for inclement weather, taking advantage of traffic flow, emergency maneuvers, and much more.

Advanced cyclists will fill the gaps in their own understanding of how traffic works, learn how to better manage traffic on single-lane roads, discover how lane positioning actually helps motorists, and many concepts that are difficult to master through self-learning. “I wish I had taken it sooner,” say many of our advanced participants.

Truth and Techniques of Traffic Cycling

In the “better late than never” category, just a quick note for all St. Louis readers that I am co-leading Truth and Techniques of Traffic Cycling, the classroom portion of the CyclingSavvy class series, this Saturday, February 16th.

The course (a $30 value) is FREE thanks to a grant from Great Rivers Greenway, and we have a few more seats to fill.  Registration is required; click here to register now.

If you can’t make it this Saturday, mark you calendar now for the class on Saturday, March 9th.

Whether you’re an expert cyclist who would like to feel a bit more confidant riding in traffic or a newbie just testing out your wheels, CyclingSavvy has something for you.  Don’t miss these great opportunities to expand your bicycling horizons!