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Bicycle-friendly streets? For the most part

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A couple of months ago, I was visiting with a friend who said the tone of many of my blogs portrayed the streets of Lawrence as unfriendly to cyclists.I told him I didn’t have much to which to compare, but I felt pretty safe on two wheels. Of course I’ve had conflicts. I’ve had things thrown at me, been cursed at, had cars swerve at me and try to force me into the curb. I’ve been bullied, badgered and harangued.And that was before I got hit.But as I told my friend, such incidents are rare. I estimated that less than 1 percent of my interactions had any sort of intentional hostility aimed in my direction. It was a number I pulled completely out of my, um, saddle bag.So, for a couple of weeks, I decided to put a number on it.For almost a month I kept track of events I simplified simply to “Nice” and “Mean.”Intent was a big — and subjective — part of it, obviously.For instance, the day I started keeping track, I just about got plowed by a woman who tried to piggyback on the car ahead of her at a four-way stop sign. Though it was my turn and she was entirely in the wrong, she didn’t make the Mean list because she didn’t intend to almost clobber me. She was just a bad driver.And the guy who angrily waved me through a four-way stop out of turn? He didn’t make my Nice list because, well, I never could figure out why somebody would try to allow me to go out of turn, repeatedly, and be so angry about it. At the end of close to a month, I had eight Nice entries and one Mean one. Seven of the eight on the Nice side of the ledger were drivers letting me go out of turn at an intersection. The eighth was a man letting me turn in front of him out of a private drive.The Mean entry? The idiot who approached me from behind as I neared a left turn. I signaled well in advance. He continued to approach. I moved to the center of the lane to make it plain I was turning left (that and the outstretched left hand). He moved over and continued to close the gap. I moved into the left tire track. He moved over past the center lane and accelerated. Had I tried to turn, legally, I have no doubt I would have been creamed. I’m convinced it wasn’t bad driving but just meanness.Now, there’s no way of knowing how many interactions with cars I had over that span, but surely it numbers in the thousands. If I meet 15 cars each leg of my commute and commute two legs twice a day, five days a week, that’s 300 a week. I figure each of those numbers is way low, but let’s say there were 1,000 encounters with autos.One meanie in 1,000 interactions works out not to 1 percent, as I’d guessed, but one-tenth of a percent — and a whole bunch of neutral encounters that were neither mean nor nice but simply operators of two vehicles coexisting peacefully.And in the interest of fairness, I also tallied my own Mean-Nice stats. I actually came out worse than the drivers I encountered, with only a half-dozen on the Nice side but no Mean moves. I let five drivers go out of turn at intersections and let another turn out of a private drive in front of me.Of course, I knew I was counting, too, so maybe I was on my best behavior.

Comments

mom_of_three 6 years, 1 month ago

I find your blog humorous and full of information, and i do find myself watching cyclists closer.The ones which ride to KU or ride around the University, from my observation, tend to be the most careless. Yesterday, I stopped at a stop sign at 18th & Illinois (around LHS), and a cyclist coming the opposite direction blew through the stop sign and turned. I think if one rides in the streets that they should obey traffic signals. And what would have happened if I had gotten to the sign sooner than him, and would have been proceeding forward? What would he have done then?

Jackson 6 years, 1 month ago

Lawrence streets safe for bikes? What a joke! Most Lawrence streets were designed for horse & buggy traffic in the 1850's.A "safe" bike street would have a 6' wide lane on each side, eg., most California cities.Most Lawrence streets are long "parking lots" for KU students who are not provided on site parking by slumlords. NO PARKING SHOULD BE ALLOWED ON TENNESSEE, ALA., MASS., MISS., 19TH, 0r 21ST. WISE-UP , LAWRENCE TAXPAYERS - STOP PROVIDING FREE PARKING FOR SLUMLORD TENANTS!!!Personally, I only feel safe riding my bike on a dead-end cul de sak.

Evan Ridenour 6 years, 1 month ago

Being a runner I would also say something similar statistics wise about "nice" and "mean" drivers. The difference I view the situation though is that the problem isn't so much "mean" drivers as it is horrible drivers.On every run I have cars run through stop signs or red lights, sometimes without even slowing down, while I am in the crosswalk. At least once a week... sometimes a lot more then that, I would of been hit, and probably severely injured or killed if I had not been looking out and actively avoiding being hit by these drivers. You can actually see that the drivers aren't even looking for pedestrians when they do this which is even more scary. I don't understand why some drivers think its acceptable to put other peoples lives at risk to shave off a few seconds of their commute...

Jackson 6 years, 1 month ago

YOU CAN ONLY SURVIVE WHEN WALKING, DRIVING, OR BIKING IN THIS TOWN BY DOING SO DEFENSIVELY, ESPECIALLY ON TENN., KY., AND AT MOST CROSS WALKS AND STOP LIGHTS.UNFORTUNATELY FOR LAWRENCE, A HIGH PERCENTAGE OF DRIVERS ARE UNDER 22. NUFF SAID.

clarkcoan 6 years, 1 month ago

Too many cyclists try to ride on busy streets such as Mass., 23rd, Iowa, 6th, Tenn. and Kent. All it takes is one inattentive driver talking on a cell phone to squish them. There are safer, official bicycle routes such as Vermont St. and 21st Street.

laika 6 years, 1 month ago

While it might not always be the best scenario, bikers have the right to ride anywhere there is a street that is not specifically off limits to them. In other words, it´s the drivers that need to be more attentive, not bikers who should have to detour around them. Also, what good does it for me to go down Vermont if I need to go to a house on Tennessee or Kentucky, especially if it does not have alley access.

TheStig 6 years, 1 month ago

Car vs. Bicycle and car wins everytime. Considering the carnage of broken and dead bodies from drunk drivers this year alone, it is not a risk I would take lightly. If Team Spandex wishes to legally ride the streets then they need to understand the risk that they could be completely in the right and dead all the same. Best of luck to them but I'd stay on the sidewalks and bike paths whenever and whereever possible.

coolmarv 6 years, 1 month ago

I don't ride a bike. I drive a car. I find that at least 10% of the auto drivers should be off the road. I must not be as nice a Andrew. I'll have three bad encounters on my way home I'm sure. I can only imagine what it is like for a cyclist. What gets me the most is the people who don't go, a minimum of, the speed limit. If the speed limit is 40mph and I am behind you, you had better be going 40 mph. Perhaps my speedometer is off, but I don't think so. I followed a car for a way last night in a 40 and they were doing about 34 (according to my speedometer). I decided to pass them, legally, and they thought they would be cute and speed up as I passed. My van has plenty of power (mild humor) so it was no problem overtaking them before I encountered oncoming traffic. I am getting ready to leave so drivers beware. I may be behind you. Get out of my way.

beawolf 6 years, 1 month ago

Since a few very close calls when I first moved to Lawrence, I now stay on the sidewalk when possible. I approach runners and walkers very slowly and call out "on your left" before passing. These are mostly 2 mile trips back and forth from work. When I want to "let it out", I usually go out to Clinton Lake or another remote location.

bolshavik_vw 6 years, 1 month ago

yeah maybe for being on a bike although try to cross in a crosswalk. Its a coin toss to whether or not your going to make it with out becoming road pizza. Or points for a psychotic driver.

ChipSeal 6 years, 1 month ago

Mom_of_Three asks:"Yesterday, I stopped at a stop sign at 18th & Illinois (around LHS), and a cyclist coming the opposite direction blew through the stop sign and turned. I think if one rides in the streets that they should obey traffic signals. And what would have happened if I had gotten to the sign sooner than him, and would have been proceeding forward? What would he have done then?"Did the cyclist cause anyone to brake or swerve to avoid him? If you had arrived before him he would have most likely slowed and yielded to you. What makes you think he wouldn't?

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