10 November 2011

Short days, warm rides

The days are getting colder here in Columbia, Missouri. The many, many bicyclists seen on the summer and fall streets are largely gone now. (Did they start driving to work and school? Do they just stay home now in a state of suspended animation waiting for spring and Cardinals season to start again? I remain in the streets on my bicycle. I am not going to wax on here about about overcoming the cool-weather challenges of riding in all weather. Riders more hip and organized than I have well-articulated a strategy based on preparedness and camraderie. Besides I am still smarting from the comment posted here about 3 years ago from a testy bicyclist in Alaska who noted I have no idea what cold-weather riding is, blah-blah-blah. A sensitive and delicate flower, I am.)

My biggest challenge to all-season riding is absolutely how to deal with My Fellow Americans who daily make the polluting choice.

They. Drive. Everywhere.

In summer distracted drivers are no more or less talking or texting on their geegaws while navigating our roadways creating a hazard for humans on bike and smaller mammals in search of soul food and a place to sleep. What makes cool weather more dangerous is that the polluters are now totally sealed up in their boxes-on-wheels. There is nearly zero capacity for human-to-human interaction when a driver are sealed up in his warm ride with all the distractions of the universe at his manicured fingertips. ("Coffee! iPhone! Satellite radio! What to fuck with next? Ooops. I just killed a bicyclist... Bummer, now I'll be late for my sales meeting with the boss.")

With an awareness of this increased potential danger for getting smashed by some suburbanite in her Cadilac Escalade I alter my bike commuting strategy slightly in these darker months. Of course I bundle up (but not like they do in our 49th State!) and I also wear a bright yellow jacket to increase visibility. I use my lights - especially my red, under the seat, blinking jobby - during cloudy days as well as at night. I also take the lane more at approaches to and through intersections. This requires some preview in anticipation of what is going to happen. I glance in my handlebar-mounted mirror to see who is coming. If there is a polluting commuter (read: driver) there, I signal in advance then move out with a hand signal into the center of the lane that will take us through the intersection. After navigating to the other side of the intersection I return to the safe space of the bike lane or just nearer the curb if no lane exists. This limits the potential for a distracted driver making a right turn to ignore and clip me. (Sheesh! I ain't got insurance for a few more weeks. I hafta be safe and strategic on my commute around Columbia.)

That all said, there is something special to witnessing the sky through barren trees. I love the rush of getting on bike on a cold or wet day thinking I'll get soaked or frozen and end up staying nice and toasty warm and dry thanks to some advance planning.
Over-the-road trucker gloves re-purposed as weatherproof bike gloves.

Besides someone has to show the driving masses that 365 day/year riding can be done and can be fun.

See you in the Streets,

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