LJWorld.com weblogs Rolling along
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.