I used to tell people that I couldn’t ride a bike to work because the route wasn’t safe. The streets I drive on have a long, blind, fast curving stretch that would be fatal for a slow bicycle. But as I thought about it, I figured out that I could find a safe route – especially after the Glenville Trail that runs behind my house opened up. I thought about it for a year, then finally started to ride. It seemed like a big deal for me when I was thinking about it and when I rode the first time, but now it’s routine.
I don’t ride to work… there is no way for me to take a shower and I sweat like a stuck pig in this summer Texas heat – so I get someone to drive me in to work in the morning and I ride home. This has another advantage of taking away any time constraints so I can ride as slowly as I want. Friday I loaded a point and shoot into my handlebar bag and took some shots along the way.
Near my work I have a couple routes through the parking lots of an extensive area of small business parks. Looking at these businesses – of a tremendous variety – is always interesting to me. I admire and am fascinated by entrepreneurship and these strips of cheap space are the heart and birthplace of new industry.
Magrathea Incorporated? What a cool name. I looked them up – they are on facebook – they’re in the business of restoring classic old cars. A bit of a fall from making entire custom ordered planets – but still pretty interesting.
Wood World – a neat store with all sorts of rare and useful wood raw materials, tools, and pen kits.
I emerge from the industrial parks and cross Spring Valley at a busy intersection next to the DART station. It’s a long, long light – then I play chicken with the transit busses turning left in front of me.
Here’s the hardest and most fun part of the ride. When you drive around Dallas, you think it is as flat as a pancake. But there are hills that you can notice on a bicycle – when you have to expend the energy to get up them. There’s this alley that I found – almost a mile long, and a slow steady uphill the whole way. When I first rode, it was a struggle riding that stretch. Now I barely even have to downshift. It’s a shock how quickly that changed.
The City of Richardson has started designating the right hand lanes on many of their neighborhood thoroughfares as bike lanes. It’s working out well – the bikes like it and it helps control the traffic. The only problem is making left turns out of the right-hand bike lanes – there is no way to do that safely.
One surprising barrier to bicycle transport are the rail lines. This one cuts right through the city and there are few routes across it – and they are narrow, busy roads.
The last mile and a half of my commute home is on the Glenbrook Trail – which starts out running under a power line right of way. It was supposed to go farther, but they could not get permission to cross the railroad right-of-way (see above).
The trail crosses the very busy Beltline Road (everything in the suburbs of Dallas is on Beltline Road) a block west of Plano Road. It’s a nasty intersection – when I went to meetings on the planning of the Glenville Trail they said they were really struggling with this section – there is simply not enough room.
The other day, while I was waiting for the light to turn, a woman in a VW made a left and a huge SUV was coming way, way too fast and she turned in front of him. There was a screech of brakes, horns, and skidding tires – the SUV went up on two wheels and swerved right past me – in the end nobody hit anything, though it was close. I stood there watching it thinking that if the truck hits the VW it will bounce off and crush me standing right there, four feet away, on the sidewalk with my bike.
The whole thing was over in three seconds.
The intersection is lousy with surveillance cameras and I wondered if I had died a sudden spectacular death would it be captured on one of the traffic cams. Would my demise make it onto Youtube? Texas bicyclist crushed by careening Tahoe. Would I go viral?
Where the trails cross busy roads without lights (this one is on Plano Road) they have these S-Shaped islands. At the planning meetings it was explained that this design forces bicycles and pedestrians to stop in the middle of the crossing and then turn and face oncoming traffic to see and wait for a gap to continue across. It actually works really well – I feel safer at these crossings than I do at the lights (see above).
The last part of my commute is the easiest part – the trail goes through the ponds in the park at the end of my block. This is on the bridge over the ponds next to the new Huffhines Recreation Center.
I bought these panniers on clearance from Wal-Mart, believe it or not. They are not the best quality in the world – I wouldn’t go on a cross-country cycle journey with them, but they are handy and work great for clothes and whatever work I have to take home.
In Denmark bicycles aren’t allowed to make left turns at intersections. Instead we have to stop at the corner just like pedestrians, and this really seems like the safest way. (Also, in the major cities the bicycle lanes are marked out in blue in every crossing so the cars are more aware of us.)
In fact, commuting to and from work by bike in Copenhagen, the biggest problem is the traffic jams you can get into in the bike lanes; during rush hour you can sometimes have hundreds of bikes queueing up to cross an intersection.
That’s interesting. That is what I end up doing – riding up on the sidewalk and then turning and crossing like a pedestrian. It seems safe – though the bicycle is invisible to too many drivers.
I doubt we will have bike lane traffic jams here. The city is simply too spread out for that. I do see more and more people commuting to work and to the grocery on their bikes. The only thing holding everyone back is the distances and the heat.
Thanks for the comment.
I loved the words, the story, your wit, and your perseverance. Way to go. 🙂
Kudos for making some of your commute bike-bound! The simple impact that choice can have on personal health and happiness alone is significant- and that isn’t even addressing the fact that each gallon of gas burned produces more than 18 pounds of carbon dioxide.
Ride on! Good work!
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