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New commute

The new commute is almost night-and-day different from the Lincoln commute, except with respect to the fact that both routes are technically primarily on bike paths. I say "technically" because the bike path here has a million stop signs along it, whereas the path in Lincoln had exactly none. So while it makes for a reasonably nice commute, it doesn't promote quite the same Zen-like state that facilitates writing bike commute haikus.

This morning, riding along, I noticed that there was a woman up ahead of me who seemed to be going at a fairly similar pace. Eventually, I realized that it was sytharin, so I caught up and we rode along together for a stretch. So that was fun.

I need to make some modifications to the Berkeley end of the route still. As a whole, the route goes: down a hill, along a bike path, then up a hill, with a couple of turns and traffic lights towards the Berkeley end of the route. As RAC has observed, while there's a lot of bike infrastructure here, most of what counts as infrastructure is stuff that has simply been slapped on top of the existing infrastructure, because there isn't a whole lot of space to put in things that are specifically for bikes without engaging in some extensive, expensive overhauls. Such overhauls tend to turn into politically intractable turf wars. I suspect that the bike path exists because it runs under the BART on land the government already owns. One of the roads that heads up the hill towards campus, Virginia Street, is labeled as a Bike Boulevard, which means there are giant bike symbols painted on the road, and purple signs that inform you that you are on a bike boulevard. There are also a handful of wayfinding signs, which are good to see, and strategic permeable membrane barricades to discourage motorists but allow cyclists to use the low-traffic road.

On the other hand, Virginia Street crosses two busy streets that lack any sort of signal control, which can lead to the stressful situation of being stopped at the intersection with cars piling up behind me while I wait for four lanes of traffic to clear. Californians aren't especially patient with other drivers, but in many cases they have learned to be patient with cyclists because there are just so.damn.many of us. However, the problem is that many people start riding bicycles here without ever learning traffic skills, so the bicycle-motorist relationship gets to be ambiguous. Some riders just willfully blow through intersections, which makes me anxious, and I presume makes motorists anxious as well. On the third hand, there are a ton of stop signs up everywhere, and if I were to stop at each and every one of the stop signs along my commute, it would probably double the amount of time the commute takes. Stopping and starting is also energetically expensive. To handle that, I am just going to make an effort to be as courteous as possible, stopping when appropriate and thanking people who stop and wait for me.

But back to the subject of crossing the busy roads. On Monday, on the ride home, I watched a cyclist approach one of these crossings, hop off her bicycle, walk it across in the crosswalk, and then hop back on. Whereas the bicycle-motorist relationship is a tad awkward and ambiguous, the motorist-pedestrian relationship seems to be much more clear: motorists MUST stop for pedestrians in crosswalks. I absolutely agree with this aspect of the hierarchy: pedestrians should universally have the right-of-way.

I tried this cyclist's strategy on my way home from work yesterday, and it worked magically well. I am still uncertain about how I feel about using it, though. It sounds like I may be able to avoid using it by fine-tuning my route further. But boy is there a lot to figure out with riding my bike here.

Here's one last major thing I'm puzzling over. In congested areas where the cars pile up at traffic lights, cyclists appear to nonchalantly forge ahead and jump the car line by passing on the right. This often occurs in between a row of parked cars and a row of stopped, waiting cars. In Arizona, I made the tactical decision to not engage in this style of passing-on-the-right because it can easily lead to a "right hook" accident (driver turning right cuts off the cyclist, who smashes into the side of the car). However, in Boston way back in the college days, I used to routinely do this along Mass Ave while biking to and from the boathouse, without major incident. I suspect drivers here are accustomed to paranoid checking for sneaker bicycles, but I don't see it as especially fair to jump the queue. Despite my reservations, I suspect I will start right-side queue-jumping anyway just because if I don't I will probably just piss off other cyclists who don't want to wait in the back of the car line. The main reason this could turn into a problem is that I need to continue NOT doing this when I go and ride my bike elsewhere.


( 7 remarks — Remark )
Dec. 2nd, 2015 07:51 pm (UTC)
Re: queue jumping. There are a lot of AGGRESSIVE and IMPATIENT cyclists in the East Bay, and I've had the experience of being cut off from the right as a driver by cyclists, as well as watching them ride blithely through red lights, turning yellow lights, and arrowed lights. It's maddening and scary as a driver, and intimidating as a slow cyclist. I once had a guy punch my car because he was mad that I was taking my right of way, despite the fact I'd given him a wide berth and signaled well ahead of time. SIGH.

Dec. 2nd, 2015 08:03 pm (UTC)
My general plan is to be a practicing member of the League of Courteous Cyclists, and try to not take things too personally. It seems to me that in general the anti-anxiety drugs in the water here are doing a good job of ensuring that most people are even-tempered. ;-)
Dec. 3rd, 2015 01:26 am (UTC)
I am generally a hyper courteous cyclist, but I do queue jump in the circumstance you're describing, especially on well-established bike routes. (Like downhill on Pine before the bike lane starts.) I dunno whether it's slowing down, inspecting turn signals, and/or timing the approach to the intersection so you are between a definitely not turning vehicle and a potentially turning vehicle, but I do not feel particularly unsafe doing it.

But from what I saw of biking in Bay Area generally--it's almost shocking to me that biking is so popular there, since the infrastructure seems fairly hostile.
Dec. 3rd, 2015 11:30 pm (UTC)
I'm sort of glad to hear that you have the same reaction as I do to the melee in this town. The one thing that seems to make a huge difference is the absolute priority given to pedestrians. Drivers seem to just SLAM on the brakes at the merest hint that someone wishes to cross the street!

I think it's probably easier and safer to queue-jump here and in Seattle as compared to Arizona, just based on the general traffic dynamics of the cities, and general driver awareness of cyclists. There are so few cyclists in various parts of Arizona that drivers just don't look for them or see them at all. In Arizona, whenever someone on a bicycle attempts to ride on one of the high-speed town roads (45 mph speed limit), the instinctual driver reaction is OMG BICYCLE AAAAUGHHHH! just because of how the infrastructure is laid out.
Dec. 4th, 2015 07:34 am (UTC)
Yeah, I was going to say, I think of myself as pretty courteous, and I nearly always queue jump if there's room/a bike lane. I don't think I've ever seen a cyclist in Seattle not do it; I hadn't even considered not doing it.
Dec. 3rd, 2015 03:02 am (UTC)
I think I know the path you're talking about, and liked it save for all the stops. So envious.
I wish cyclelicious still logged into LJ. He's lost his password. He's an avid cyclist, used to live here and work with me, now living in Stevens Valley and working in Santa Clara, and just a storehouse of information about bicycle infrastructure and local bike culture.
Dec. 3rd, 2015 11:23 pm (UTC)
Yeah, overall the path is nice. I'm curious to figure out whether it's possible to mountain bike through the hills to get over towards campus, but I'm going to have to wait until things settle down enough that I can take the time to look at the map and think about it some more.

The local randonneuring gang is one of the largest rando clubs in the country, and I'm going to volunteer for one of their events this Saturday, so I'm figuring I'll have a chance to talk shop with them soon. Still, getting to know more bike people is always fun, eh? :^)
( 7 remarks — Remark )

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