Busy Morning on Fremont

Rode my bicycle to the Springfield Farmer’s Market this morning. My route takes me about two miles south on Fremont to Sunset where I turn left to get to the Battlefield Mall. The market is in the southeast corner of the parking lot — roughly the intersection of Glenstone and Battlefield.

There was a lot of traffic on Fremont this morning — both directions — a real steady stream of cars. Fremont between Sunshine and Sunset is a 35-mph, 3-lane street (that includes a center turn lane). The driving lanes are narrow, i.e. not sharable. So I ride where the right tire track is — roughly the right third of the lane well away from the gutter.

Sunset is a 4-lane, 35-mph street with very narrow lanes. Those lanes look less than 10 feet wide to me. So I take the middle of the right lane.

Busy traffic this morning and:

  • Not a single honk
  • No close passes
  • No shouts or complaints or thrown objects
  • No dangerous maneuvers
  • Nobody ran me down
  • And, thankfully, no overly polite drivers

In other words — a typical day riding in Springfield for me.

I know some bicyclists regularly  have different experiences in Springfield (different in fact or different in perception?). I’m really interested in understanding what’s going on out there. I certainly have worse days. I certainly suffer some abuse sometimes. But abuse is rare for me.

Why?

I don’t know. I have a few of guesses. Here they are:

  1. I ride in a properly commanding position in the road so I am easy to see and, therefore, easy to pass safely (re: this video).
  2. I follow the traffic laws, so I am predictable.
  3. I do most of my riding in the urban core.
  4. I am male.
  5. I’m just used to traffic after 6+ years of utility bicycling.

I’d really like to begin collecting some anecdotes and other evidence about riding in Springfield. I’d like to know why there are bicyclists in our town who seem to have a much worse experience riding on the streets than I do. To that end, I’m going to create a survey. Watch for it next week.

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Comments 11

  1. Keri wrote:

    I will be very interested to see your findings!

    I took one of our city transportation planners for a ride last week. Before we started I said “we’re going to start with the assumption that Orlando is a friendly, easy place to ride a bike. Because it is.” She was surprised. They never hear that in the planning office. Everyone who contacts them complains that our roads are dangerous and motorists are mean, reckless, etc.

    People like us are not driving policy decisions because we’re not screaming and complaining to the city to fix what we know ain’t broke. The folks in the city government don’t know know enough about safe cycling practices to weigh the validity of various points of view, even when they do get ours. So stuff is being designed to coddle the screamers that only reinforces the conflict-ridden style of riding that makes them think the roads are dangerous.

    Posted 17 Jun 2010 at 12:17 pm
  2. Keith R. wrote:

    Do you wear Spandex? Maybe they are jealous of the way I look in my Spandex and that is why they yell!

    Posted 17 Jun 2010 at 12:48 pm
  3. Eric Bunch wrote:

    Andy,

    Although I do not live in Springfield I thought I’d share my own experience.

    I noticed a significant reduction in harassment after I took a Traffic Skills class in Columbia a few years ago. I started riding smarter and thus more predictably. I would suspect that your typical day in Springfield being sans harassment stems from that as well.

    My life isn’t totally without honks, close passes, smart remarks etc., but I will say that I am confident that my riding behavior plays a huge role in reducing those incidents. This seems to be true anywhere I live: Columbia, Denver, Kansas City (current), etc.

    Anecdotal evidence from friends in Columbia points to a significant reduction in harassment following the cyclist harassment ordinance they passed last year.

    Keri, I recently happened upon some photos of some pretty dangerous looking biking infrastructure in Orlando. Lots of straight through bike lanes to the right of multiple right turn lanes and stuff. Does this affect the way you ride there?

    Posted 17 Jun 2010 at 1:19 pm
  4. Keri wrote:

    Eric,

    Some of the worst suicide slot bike lanes I’ve seen are in Tallahassee. Fortunately, we don’t have too many of those. We have a few bike lanes striped to the right of right turn lanes. They were screwed up by the paint crews, but of course there is no political will to fix them (it’s only bicycles, you know). There are lots of bike lanes to the right of dual-destination lanes.

    We also have a number of door zone bike lanes. Not too many yet, we are hoping to prevent more and get rid of the existing ones next time the roads are resurfaced. But push for “complete streets” makes the fight against door zone bike lanes a tireless struggle.

    I avoid roads with bike lanes whenever possible. In that respect it does affect where I ride. For example, I use a 2-mile route to get to the grocery store because the one-mile route entails a 4ft door zone bike lane next to an 11ft median-separated travel lane used by landscape trailers and box trucks.

    I make lane position decisions based on the traffic environment, so an improper bike lane doesn’t affect my safety, but does increase the likelihood of harassment.

    Where a bike lane most affects my riding is on the arterial roads where traffic speeds are high. The lanes collect debris and allow the passing traffic to disregard me. The passing is way too close and fast for my comfort. Unfortunately, the bike lane takes away my legal right to ride in a lane control position in the adjacent traffic lane. So where I could be very comfortable getting 8ft of passing clearance, I end up getting 3 or 4 (And even less from large vehicles like buses and tractor trailers). It very much makes me feel like a second class citizen to have my right to ride in the safest and most comfortable manner possible taken away.

    BTW, my riding experience changed when I learned effective cycling too. Being predictable and looking confident definitely affects the way people treat us.

    Posted 17 Jun 2010 at 1:47 pm
  5. Keith R. wrote:

    I choose to not use bike lanes. It is not because they are easy. It is because they are hard. The city does not clear them of debris and I am not interested in changing flats all night on my road bike. A majority of the harassment I face is on roads with bike lanes (most likely because I am not using them). As you said, when I follow the rules and laws (stopping at stop signs and lights), I rarely have any trouble. I had a carload of guys call me the F-word. No reason. Just at a red light; waiting to turn. I had someone chuck a water balloon at me (nice) while I was waiting to cross Sunshine. I have been told numerous times to “get off the road”. And have also been told that I am #1 (usually the passenger of the vehicle, sometimes not). I had one little girl talking on her cell phone (on Bennett between Fremont and Deleware) who passed me and ran the oncoming truck off the road and almost ran me over!!! I also had someone pass me when I was doing 25 MPH and turned into a road in front of me before I even knew they were there (they slammed on their brakes right in front of me). A few well-placed PSA’s would go a long way to get the word out that we do not deserve this and have the same rights to be on the road as everyone else!!! Too bad we don’t have any groups in Springfield that might be able to lobby our local media for such things!! [That was sarcasm, in case it wasn’t clear!]

    Posted 17 Jun 2010 at 2:15 pm
  6. Andy Cline wrote:

    Thanks for the interesting discussion so far everyone!

    I’m working on the survey now. Will administer it through google docs. I hope to have it ready by Monday morning. I’m going to open it to all readers no matter where they live. But my goal is to collect most of my data from Springfield.

    Posted 17 Jun 2010 at 4:06 pm
  7. Steve A wrote:

    Andy, while I don’t live near Springfield, I think you are reaching after reason #2. I get honked at less than you despite higher mileage and I do little urban mileage. A male cyclist is also perceived as a defenseless target even by teenaged girls in their car (except in open carry states), and experience doesn’t help until that experience reinforces 1 and 2. It took me 20 minutes to decide to take the plunge and that was after 40 years of riding.

    I WILL suggest a reason that you missed. You do not ride much on roads that have an improved shoulder, or sidepaths that look more bike friendly than typical urban sidewalks.

    Posted 17 Jun 2010 at 5:25 pm
  8. Andy Cline wrote:

    Steve… Yes, I suspect 1 and 2. But it will be interesting to see what kind of results I get. And, yes, I think the missed reason you site may play a role, at least for me. Thanks for that input; it will help me craft the survey.

    Posted 17 Jun 2010 at 5:42 pm
  9. Michael wrote:

    I’m in Gig Harbor Washington.

    Generally, the places where I tend to run into trouble with cars when riding are places where it’s a pain in the butt drive and there are conflicts between drivers or places like round-abouts where divers aren’t sure what to do about the cyclists they are sharing the road with.

    Posted 17 Jun 2010 at 6:04 pm
  10. Hella Hitzgerald wrote:

    I’m ready to see the survey – thanks for all of your great work and insight.

    Posted 19 Jun 2010 at 10:42 pm
  11. Anthony wrote:

    Maybe people are starting to wish THEY were on bikes. I think wearing a helmet helps, though; sort of gives an image of a competent biker, rather than just some hooligan.
    As for me, I really only ride on residential streets or streets with wide lanes/bike lanes, so I couldn’t tell your for sure.

    Posted 23 Jun 2010 at 4:14 pm