Thursday, August 02, 2007

Bike Commuting Trail Note: There are Climbs and There are Descents

With a new job downtown, I've been getting used to the new commute. The distance isn't that much farther than my commute to the university and the hill coming home is much easier (a longer, gradual climb). There are more nuances to the ride, however, figuring out how to navigate downtown traffic which includes other cyclists and busses. 3rd Ave downtown is now a bus and bike only street during commuting hours, which I've really been enjoying. I get on at the north end of town and ride more than a mile south to where my office is located, and with no one on the road but busses and bikes, can make really fast progress. The busses pull in and out of the right lane with their stops, and I've gotten in the habit of spending most of my time in the left lane where I can be seen by the bus drivers, remain out of their way, and avoid darting in and out of the right lane every time a bus pulls over at a bus stop.

Tuesday morning I was riding in earlier than usual for an 8 am meeting and was about 5 blocks from work when I heard a blip of a siren. A motorcycle cop (who I thought was there to ticket the cars on the bus/bike road) was pulling me over. "The left lane is transit-only," he barked without any other introduction, "the next time I catch you in the left lane, I'm going to give you a ticket for blocking traffic." I just gulped and nodded, more shocked and embarrassed than anything else. But, was I really wrong? I genuinely thought I wasn't doing anything wrong. I had been actively checking behind me to make sure there weren't any busses right behind me, so I didn't think I was blocking any traffic. There weren't any signs saying that the center lane was transit only; was this a real rule?

I haven't found out the answers to these questions. I'm trying to ride as conservatively as possible this week and figure out what works best. I warned a couple other bike commuters who I know also take 3rd (both responded by telling that they'd stayed in 3rd their entire way south). The next day, one of them told me that he say another cyclist getting pulled over. Bitter cop or new crack down on bike infractions?k

Anyway, for those fellow bike commuters out there, ride safe AND ride smart. And watch the motorcycle cops on 3rd.


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