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Beware of the fog blog


Occasionally, I’ll wimp out on a ride because of bad weather.

Quite often, as I’m driving to work or driving back home, I’ll see somebody bundled up against the squall, or see a wet tire track across an otherwise dry bit of sidewalk, or spy the unmistakable sight of knobby-tire treads in the snow and mentally flog myself.

“If that guy’s tough enough to ride in this,” I’ll think, “why am I driving?”

Friday night was a different story.

Checking my beloved weather.com, I saw Lawrence was under a dense fog warning. I’ve ridden in all sort of weather watches and alerts and warnings, but I really don’t like riding in fog.

Some weather really is just a matter of toughness. Whether to weather the weather is a conscious decision of how much discomfort you’re willing to endure.

And some conditions — like ice, lighting and, yes, fog — have less to do with discomfort and more to do with actual danger.

While the dangers of ice or lightning are obvious, I’m not sure they’re any more potentially debilitating than fog.

One of a cyclist’s biggest challenges is visibility, and the thought of pedaling through pea soup in the middle of the night isn’t brave. It’s foolhardy.

As if to buttress my point, I encountered a foolhardy soul on my way home Friday night.

Approaching the intersection of Sixth and Iowa, I caught sight of a figure in the road ahead in the far incoming lane. At first, I thought it was a pedestrian, but as I neared the red light, I saw it was in fact a man on a bike.

I could barely make him out from less than a half-block away. He wore dark clothes, had no headlight I could see and no reflectors. And to my surprise, I think I even spied cords from earbuds sticking out of his hat. He wore no helmet.

To recap: The dude was riding on one of the city’s worst roads for bicycle traffic (Sixth or Iowa; flip a coin), without a helmet, listening to earbuds, at night, with no lights, no reflectors, in dark clothes, on melt-and-refreeze-slick asphalt, in the fog.

At least he stopped at the red light.

I will defend with my last breath his legal right to be there, but I won’t waste my first one defending his logical right to it.

I make quite a few concessions when I ride.

I used to like to ride up the Ninth Street hill to Iowa on my night ride home. Then one day I drove up that hill in the early morning and saw just how narrow it is with such limited sight lines and decided it wasn’t safe, for me or anybody in front or behind me. I don’t ride up Ninth anymore.

I could shave several minutes a leg off my daily commute to work if I hopped on Sixth and took the direct route to work. But Sixth is awful for bike traffic, so I meander around the slower, longer back way. It’s safer for me and less inconvenient for others.

I don’t deserve a medal, and I don’t want a cookie. I do it because I live to ride, but I don’t want to die doing it.

So when Lawrence resembles San Francisco, as has the past few days, the bike stays in the garage.

If that makes me a wimp, so be it.


Leslie Swearingen 8 years, 2 months ago

No, Andrew you are not a wimp. You are an intelligent, sensible person. Who writes really good blogs. I would like to say though that some don't own a car and their only means of transportation is the bike. Also some just don't have the kind of mind set where they think about things like wearing dark clothes on a bike at night. They never learned about such things. They never had anyone to teach them.

webmocker 8 years, 2 months ago

"To recap: The dude was riding on one of the city’s worst roads for bicycle traffic (Sixth or Iowa; flip a coin), without a helmet, listening to earbuds, at night, with no lights, no reflectors, ..."

"I will defend with my last breath his legal right to be there, ..."

I tend to agree with you, but in this case I doubt you would defend his legal right to be riding at night without a light or reflectors. I'm not sure about the legality of riding with earbuds, though I rate them in the same category of stupidity and danger to others as a driver on a cellphone (or bicyclist on a cellphone, for that matter, which I've sadly seen.)

LadyJ 8 years, 2 months ago

I have encountered many bicyclists at 6:30 in the morning with no lights and dark clothing. Have had a couple of scary encounters, and I'm a person that gives them a wide berth. What I would like to know is whether it is a law to have a light, if so are they being ticketed. In light of the recent death of a young woman, they should ticket them if it is a law. The last thing I want on my conscience is hurting or killing someone whether it was my fault or not.

Leslie Swearingen 8 years, 2 months ago

The problem is how do you get this information to people. There are always going to be some who just don't care.
Common sense? No such thing, we are all products of our upbringing and our specific brain chemistry.

AnonymousBosch 8 years, 2 months ago

You're smart for protecting yourself in the nasty weather we've had the past few days! In addition to the cyclist you mention, have you seen how many people are driving around without their headlights on? How are people so unconcerned with their safety and the safety of other drivers - or bike riders? Humanity depresses me in its consistent failure to use common sense.

Evan Ridenour 8 years, 2 months ago

They can start ticketing people for not having a light on their bike after they bother to start ticketing people for running red lights.

Am I the only one who has stopped finding it funny that Lawrence drivers commonly will run a left turn single after it has turned red several seconds late. Sometimes I see several cars do it after it has turned red.

Basically, don't go near a road.

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