Friday, September 17, 2010

Nobody knows how to ride a bike

My partner has had an especially discouraging bike week. Two cars honked at her, apparently protesting her mere presence on the road. One guy standing outside a bar heckled her with a patronizing "You need to get out of the road, sweetie." And this is all following the enormously frustrating debacle that was the Denver Diamond Dash.

At the end of the week, it seems as though neither motorists nor cyclists know what it means to bike safely and legally in this city.

Which is why it felt nice to see a little love and recognition from the Denver Police Department via twitter today.

Every person riding a bicycle upon a roadway shall be--

  1. Granted all the rights of a vehicle.

    Including the right to be on the road, to take the lane when sharing the lane will be unsafe.

  2. Subjected to all the duties of a vehicle

    Including the duty of not driving on the sidewalk, of observing stop signs and other traffic signals, of signaling turns.

As I commute, shop, and otherwise live my life, I carefully assert all the rights of a vehicle every day. But I do not always hold myself to all the duties of a vehicle. For example, I never come to a full stop at a stop sign unless I need to in order to avoid colliding with something. If traffic is clear, I might run a stop light.

It's inconsistent. And I should try to correct this. I know.

But it's hard. Because, for example, coming to a full, foot-on-the-ground stop at a stop sign is stupid when it is possible to proceed safely. This fact is recognized by the good state of Idaho. (Yes, what you commonly refer to as a "California Stop" is in reality an "Idaho Stop!")

Plus, there's the example set by our role models, betters, and superiors. This week, on my way to a meeting downtown, I was stopped at a red light at Sherman and Colfax.

While I was wondering how much debt the state might recover if we melted down and sold off that giant golden dome, I noticed a bike cop biking east on Colfax, up the hill, on the sidewalk.

I thought to myself, Huh. Bike cop on the sidewalk. Okay.

And then that bike cop scanned the cross-traffic on Colfax, deemed it sufficiently light, and then ran the red light and crossed the road.

I thought to myself, Huh. Bike cop just ran the red light. Okay.

I remained right where I was and continued to wait for the traffic signal to change before proceeding through the intersection.

Unlike some people.

I judged the officer in question. Hard. And I felt smug for a while about being more lawful than the law. But then I saw this little gem from Denver Cruisers.

[Citation Needed]

I don't know what this claim is based on, or what it is in reference to, but now according to some guy on the internet, Mister Bike Cop was okay to ride on the sidewalk. But not necessarily to run the red light? I'm not sure.

What's a fella to do?

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Denver Diamond Dash

So I had just arrived downtown to meet up with my partner for lunch on the 16th Street Mall. Right away I began noticing people scurrying about in matching green t-shirts that identified them as participants in the Denver Diamond Dash, which I assumed to be yet another urban race/scavenger hunt of some sort. Denver's had a ton of them this summer for some reason and they're usually super good fun.

This one was different though because the participants were on wheels. A few were on rollerblades but the vast majority were on bicycles.

And they were driving like idiots. All of them. Like idiots.

During the lunch I enjoyed outside on the patio of Noodles & Co, and during my rides to and from downtown, I saw probably fifty couples. Here are some of the behaviors they displayed!

  1. Riding on the sidewalk. And not just toodling along like you see some people doing. This event is a race, and they were riding like it, whizzing and careening through the mobs of pedestrians that teem through the mall on a Sunday afternoon.

    Please note that riding on the sidewalk is illegal. In fact, it is printed in big letters on the very B-Cycles that were flying down the sidewalk. Do not ride on the sidewalk.

  2. Uber-salmoning. Riding in the street (yay) but against traffic on a one-way street (boo!).

  3. Texting. I passed a girl who was texting on her blackberry while precariously wobbling her bike down the sidewalk. I was able to see her for 5 - 8 seconds and she didn't once lift her eyes away from her device.

  4. Riding on the 16th Street Mall. Granted, it is Sunday, which is arbitrarily the day that one is permitted to ride on the mall. But many of the participants are likely not aware of the distinction or of the rule in the first place.

  5. No helmets. Not one helmet. Not a single helmet. You don't have to wear a helmet, I know, and sometimes I don't. But I'm an educated, confident cyclist. These bozos were begging for a crash, and not one of them was wearing a helmet.

In the interest of total honesty, I did see two people who were following all of the rules of the road. Thank you, those two people.

Now, as we all know, this summer has been widely reported to be the Summer Of Crack Down, during which the police will be ticketing and citing cyclists for all manner of infractions. So I decided to call DPD to see if they had yet handed out any tickets. (Actually, I called DPD because I wanted to complain about the recklessness to somebody and I didn't see a phone number on the Diamond Dash website.)

I called the non-emergency number because, as far as I knew, none of the mad dashers had yet caused any traffic incidents.

The dispatcher didn't really understand what my complaint was, but transferred me to an officer anyway. The officer told me that riding on the sidewalk is allowed during an event.

This left me flabbergasted.

If the event were one during which the sidewalks are closed to pedestrian traffic, then that would reasonable. But that was not the case today. This is a law that exists for obvious safety reasons, and in breaking it the participants of this event were creating obvious safety hazards.

On my way home, I saw two pedestrians tapping along with white safety canes, and I hoped fervently that they make it safely to where ever they were going. Because they certainly aren't going to get any assistance or support from the police department. Not even during the Summer Of Crack Down.

Because there's an event.

Safety issues aside, they were all just so damn visible. There were so many of them, and they were driving so badly, providing so much support for the notion that cyclists are at best inconsiderate goofballs and are at worst reckless scofflaws. Anybody looking for confirmation of that belief had all the support in the world downtown today.

And that's not fair. I'm a careful, considerate, conscientious cyclist. But anybody who encounters me on the road today after driving through downtown this afternoon is likely to identify me as a dangerous idiot.