28 Mile Ride & a Faceplant

As some of you know, I’m currently job hunting, and recently applied to a position with a company located on the western side of Plymouth, out past I-494. Due to their location, working for this company would almost certainly demand purchasing an automobile (cue thunder, lightning, storms, scary music, wilting flowers, and shattering mirrors to symbolize the death of my soul). But still, I’d like to be able to ride a bicycle to work sometimes. So I did a test ride.
I was eager to do a test ride because quite a lot of the route utilizes off-street bike trails. In fact, I’ve mapped it from Mel’s house, and turns out, I could complete all but a few blocks at either end of the route without ever leaving trails…. or so I thought. It turns out there is a significant obstacle along the Luce Line Trail – Golden Valley. All of the trails in Plymouth, Medicine Lake, and Minneapolis had all been plowed and were an easy ride. The trails in Golden Valley, however, were not. I found this very strange since Golden Valley seems to have a particular zeal for plowing sidwalks. Residents of Golden Valley are not even expected to shovel their own sidewalks – the city does it. It’s odd that they are willing to take on the burden of shoveling sidewalks in front of people’s houses, but not public trails. I’m sure it’s one of those “The park district built it, they should maintain it” sort of deals. There’s some logic to that, but how come Plymouth, Medicine Lake and Minneapolis have it figured out and GV doesn’t?
Riding a bicycle through the snow is pretty fun. Your rear tire constantly spins out and slides sideways – you’re hardly ever fully balanced. Back when I was into football, I read an interview with Detroit running back Barry Sanders. He said his secret to gaining yards was to always keep his feet moving. No matter what happens – or what position you’re in or how much progress you’re making – you always keep your feet moving. I always think of that when I’m riding through snow. Sometimes my wheels start spinning and I’m awkwardly fishtailing down a snowy street, and all I can think of is keeping my feet spinning – like Barry Sanders. When I’m slipping through snow, I always feel like I’m about 2 seconds from falling over. But I keep my feet moving, and somehow, the bike keeps moving.
And sometimes I fall over. Large piles of snow are particularly troublesome. Your best bet is usually to increase speed and hope you plow right through it. Sometimes, like today, your front tire just stops right in the middle of the pile of snow, and you fall forwards over the handlebars. I did a total faceplant today. I wish someone had videotaped it. I’d put it on YouTube and get a million hits. It was a classic faceplant. I fell one other time as well, on a wooden bridge that had not been plowed as well.
All in all, it was a great ride. It would take me over an hour to get to and from work. That’s a long time, but if the freeways are congested, I’ll bet it would take me 40 minutes to drive it. Hmmm…. maybe I’m getting ahead of myself. I haven’t even been called for an interview, yet.

Midtown Greenway Bridge

This evening, on my way home from Cub Foods (where I bought all the ingredients for CHEX MIX, yum), I was riding my bike west on the Midtown Greenway with a backpack full of chex mix ingredients, trail mix, 30 capri suns, and other goodies when I encountered the new bicycle bridge over Hiawatha Avenue. The bridge officially opened this afternoon.

Today was the official opening of the bridge, but I rode across it once several weeks ago (bridge closed signs weren’t very effective). It is a very nice bridge, to be certain. Tonight, when I saw it in it’s full glory with the blue lights on, it was indeed a very attractive structure. But I didn’t use it.

As I approached the fork in the trail where riders must decide to make the at-grade crossing or cycle several hundred feet north to access the bridge, it didn’t even seem like a reasonable option to add the extra distance to my route – I chose the at-grade crossing. In addition to not wanting to cycle the extra distance, there is just something unappealing about this bridge. I didn’t want it in the first place, so now that it’s open, I’m not that excited to use it.

…And it’s not just about distance. On days when I don’t have 30lbs of groceries on my back, it will probably be faster to bike the extra distance to use the bridge than to wait for the pedestrian signal to cross at-grade. But if travel time is my biggest priority, I probably wouldn’t be riding a bicycle in the first place.

There are a lot of reasons to not like the bridge (it consumes a lot of land that could have been developed, it doesn’t eliminate at-grade crossings (it just moved the crossing), it creates awkward parcels west of Hiawatha that will be strange to redevelop, it won’t eliminate at-grade crossing at Hiawatha, etc.). But the truth is that I just see it as a step in the wrong direction for creating livable cities. I don’t want bridges over things that shouldn’t need to be bridged. If crossing Hiawatha Avenue is a problem (which it is), why not consider a re-design of Hiawatha Avenue rather than displacing cyclists. (Answer: because $5.1 million for a bridge is much less than a re-designed, or better yet, removed Hiawatha Avenue).

I don’t want MORE infrastructure – we can’t maintain what we’ve already got. I want infrastructure that makes sense – and to me, this bridge just doesn’t make sense.

Bike v. Bike – – Bike Wins! – – (I lose)

I was riding my bike today and I ran into another bike. It was 100% my fault. We both fell down….or… she sort of stumbled a little bit… I totally bit the dust in the middle of the street. I hit my right shoulder very hard against the ground. It didn’t really hurt at the time, but now it’s killing me. I can barely move my arm. I hope it’s just really bruised up and not broken. I don’t have any health insurance…. so it would really set me back if I had to go to a hospital. I’ll see how far I can get using lots of aspirin and hope for the best.

Anyone know how to tell if it’s broken or just bruised up? There’s nothing out of the ordinary on the surface. It’s a little sensitive to the touch, but mostly it just hurts when I have to flex my muscles for something. For example, if I completely relax my right arm, and use my left arm to pick up my right arm and move it around, it doesn’t really hurt. But If I try to just move my right arm around, the pain is very bad. Hmmm… I’m hoping it’s just bruised. One thing is for sure: I’m going to have to go to Target and get more aspirin. SOON.

Bike v. Car – Round II

I was biking along with a bag of groceries hanging off my handle bars, and some dude in a parked car opened his door right in front of me. I hit it. Or my bag of groceries did, anyway. Sodas and pineapple everywhere. Luckily, most of the food was salvageable, but my bag was destroyed. Some girl across the street at Pizza Luce saw it happen and got me a new bag to carry the rest of my groceries in. It was nice of her.

I need to watch out for car doors opening a little more. And that dude needs to watch out for bikes a little more. It could have been a lot worse.Also, when I say “groceries,” I really mean a bag full of stuff I swiped from my girlfriends fridge.

Also, while I’m typing this, there’s a banner that says, “Win a Night Out with VANILLA ICE.” And at first I thought, “who the hell would want to hang out with vanilla ice?” …but now i’m thinking, “hell yea… I’d hang out with vanilla ice for an evening.”

Bike v. Car: Round I

I got hit by a car this morning. Actually a very large truck. F-250 I believe. But it was big…and tan. You’d think I’d be able to tell you more about the truck, since I got a pretty close look at it…. but I can’t. It’s pretty embarrassing how it happened, actually. I made a rookie mistake: I assumed a motorist had seen me without making eye contact with them. We both came to a complete stop at a 4 way intersection perpendicular to each other. We had arrived at pretty much the same time. Maybe I got there a little before he did, but pretty much the same time. According to traffic rules, he was on my right, so he had the right-of-way. We were both stopped at the intersection for several seconds, and I was waiting for him to pass through the intersection. But many drivers don’t follow the same rules when bikes are involved, and often give the bicyclist the right-of-way, even if legally, the car should have it. After the truck was stopped at the intersection significantly longer than what I thought was normal for a vehicle to wait at a stop sign, I assumed he had seen me and was waiting for me.

This proved to be an incorrect assumption. As soon as I was half way across the intersection, he accelerated and hit me. I can’t remember exactly what happened. I don’t remember exactly how I fell, except to note that after I hit the ground I was pointed in the wrong direction. But I do remember laying on the ground thinking, “please don’t run over my legs… PLEASE don’t run over my legs.” I knew the rest of me was ok, but I also knew part of my bike was underneath his wheels, and I wasn’t exactly sure where my feet were. Since I am one of the 46.6 million Americans without any health insurance, the last thing I needed was a trip to the emergency room.

Luckily, i was not seriously injured, suffering only minor scratches and bruises, and the only serious damage to my bicycle is a bent wheel.

I’m frustrated about this incident for several reasons, and the original intent of this blog was not to describe the incident, but rather to discuss bicycle policy issues, but I guess I don’t feel like discussing it anymore, and this is already getting pretty long. I’ll have to save it for another day.