20 January 2008

Narrowly averting death

Earlier I mentioned that riding in a bike lane always makes me feel, well, less like I'm about to die. And then I read this and wonder how it is that I'm still alive.
Copenhagen Cycling: Not what it seems...

I won't paste a quote; just go read the whole thing yourself. And then decide for yourself whether I've been wrong this whole time. I really can't say; my greatest risk seems to be "heckling," which isn't any more or less of a problem if I happen to be in a bike lane. (In fact, the worst scare of my life occurred when I was doing a good 22 or so mph in the right lane of an uncrowded street with few to no parked cars at the time and no bike markings whatsoever, but that's another story.)

Speaking of bike markings, I'm not convinced (as some people are) that so-called shared lane markings are the best way to go. I've heard of bike-car collisions on streets with those markings where the officers did not ticket the motorist for failing to yield the right of way to the cyclist, on the grounds that the signs and lane markings did not spell out actual laws but were really only "recommendations" or something.

And if he who does not bike is to be believed, most drivers have no clue whatsoever what those weird stripes, diamonds, and/or arrows in the right lane mean anyway. He confessed to me on our "second" "date" that he never knew, cared, bothered to find out, or even gave much thought until I came along. I was livid: "There are signs right there that say "BIKES ONLY" and even outlines of bikes painted right on the street, and you're telling me you never once noticed them?"

"No," he replied innocently, "why would I?"

I think someday he or someone like him will literally be the death of me. So much for borrowed confidence.

This is why I think everyone needs to learn how to ride a bike safely in urban conditions. If you decide that you hate it and never again do it in your life, fine, but then at least you'll know what to expect from the cyclists you encounter. And you'll know what a damn bike lane looks like. Sheesh.
Oh, for the love of... Lame. Just lame.
Sorry for the pessimism lately, folks, but that's life it's ass-cold and I have electric heat and leaky windows. And my neighborhood supermarket has closed. And my local small-box retailer has begun to stock lots and lots of red and pink Singularity* [Painful] Awareness Day stuff. And I recently canceled a job interview because I realized how uncomfortable I am with the idea of getting paid to ask people for money. Which reminds me of the other job I applied for, which did not call me for an interview. (And guess who they ended up hiring?)

But... at least I have new fenders?

*Old IMSA joke. A clever one, if you think about it.


At 20 January, 2008 18:15, Blogger Ed W said...

I don't understand, Jennifer. Did you find the Copenhagen piece depressing or pessimistic? It certainly wasn't intended that way. My point was that while cyclists clearly believed cycle tracks made them safer, the opposite was true.

At 21 January, 2008 06:53, Blogger Georg said...

Bonjour Jennifer,

The last part of your post is a bit cryptic. Maybe I am a bit dump but I don't guess whom they were hiring and for doing what?

The Imsa joke does not materialize. Something wrong with the URL.

The black hole drawing is splendid. Though I imagined till now those B.H. to be tiny, big as a pea or a tennis ball, a football at best.

Don't understand your remark about "heckling". Do you mean people are yelling at you when seeing you cycling on the streets in Chicago city?

Cycling or driving will always be dangerous, everywhere, at any time.
This Kopenhagen article is "second hand", without details and absolutely no comments from the Danes. What did the Romans say about this: "audiatur et altera pars" (let us hear the opposite side!).


At 22 January, 2008 12:25, Blogger Jennifer said...

Whoops, sorry about that. I found the Copenhagen piece neither depressing nor pessimistic, but I did find it rather startling. This whole time I've been telling people that bike lanes are great, and then it turns out that maybe they aren't so great after all. I thought about how I'd hate to be indirectly responsible for someone being killed in a bike lane because it was poorly designed or they used it as a substitute for paying attention. I'd assumed that bikeways designed to make you feel safer have at worst no impact on your actual safety, but it turns out they actually have a negative impact.

I know Copenhagen has those separated cycle tracks, which create visibility problems at intersections, as that study found. Chicago's aren't like those, of course, but I did some surfing around LAB Reform one night and learned that some people aren't fans. And then I wondered if there was something someone wasn't telling us about car-bike collisions in bike lanes in this city. Or if it's true that a good many drivers really have no idea what those markings mean, or if it's just that I happen to know one or two clueless people. And then I got pessimistic and depressed. (But then as I tried to clarify below, I sort of already was. Eh, it's winter.)

As for "heckling," it varies. That's the word I hear used most often to describe any kind of harassment a cyclist gets while riding around the city. Sometimes I'm yelled at for riding my bike in the middle of the street, sometimes I'm made fun of for riding a bike at all, sometimes rude remarks are made regarding my race and gender, sometimes panhandlers step out in front of my path to ask me for money, and every once in a while (like this morning) someone goes out of their way to call me some variation of "ugly whore." (Not quite sure what the bike has to do with that last one; it's never happened while I'm walking.)

At 23 January, 2008 05:12, Blogger Georg said...

Hallo Jennifer,

You are writing so much so fast I am wondering how you manage.

Thanks for explaining "heckling". You are really living on another planet!

Out of pure curiosity, could you, would you be so kind and repeat some of those rude remarks about race and gender. I'd love it.

Cheers, Jennifer


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