Friday, August 15, 2008

School zones; miscellaneous observations

Yesterday I rode my usual route to McConnell and back, but the afternoon trip was different for me in that yesterday was the first day of school. So, on my return I experienced the school-zone traffic around the two elementary schools on Mt. Vernon that I ride by.

What I encountered yesterday was by far the heaviest car traffic on that street I had yet encountered. Mt. Vernon is only one lane wide at both schools, and the street doubles as a pick-up/drop-off zone for parents and kids; add to all that the reduced speed for the school zones, and it should be pretty clear that no one will be zooming through there in the early mornings or mid-afternoons. But while encountering such congestion might have been frustrating for motorists who just want to pass through, for me it was actually calming. The traffic is stop-and-go, and motorists are looking out for kids anyway, so that helped my visibility for them as well. Of course, I had to look out for kids, too. So, even with the heavy, stop-and-go traffic, my ride home just took 50 minutes (usually, it's 45).

The one downside: yesterday afternoon was a bit humid, so the exhaust fumes from cars and buses just sort of sat there while I just sort of sat there, too.

Yesterday's oddity: a very large turtle that had been run over, at the midpoint of the Harry Street bridge where it crosses the river--the oddity, of course, being how it had gotten there.

I saw a fair number of cyclists out yesterday compared even to when I started riding a little over a month ago, folks who either had panniers on their bikes or were wearing packs (or, in the case of one fellow, a medium-sized duffle bag). And this is in south-central Wichita: a part of town, keep in mind, that's far from affluent. Judging from comments folks leave here and e-mails I have received, in other parts of town there's proportionately more interest in cycling-as-transportation, if not an actual increase in numbers. Though gas prices have dropped to around $3.56/gallon here (earlier this summer, they were over $4.00), I suspect people have figured that it's inevitable that gas will be going back up again before it comes back down, and they have some choices to make. In a growing number of cases, they seem already to have chosen bikes.


coppercorn said...

My strictly anecdotal comment: up until this summer, in the five years I've lived here I think I've seen three wrong-way cyclists. (My pet peeve. Cycling's not dangerous unless you do it wrong!)

Just this summer, I've seen at lesat three more. IMO, there are a lot of new cyclists out there.

John B. said...

I agree with you that being out on the street and obeying traffic laws is not only safer, it's actually a little faster than riding on the sidewalk. And it's certainly safer than riding against traffic or weaving in and out of parked cars or any of those myriad other bone-headed things we've all seen bike-riders do. The other bike-blogs I read confirm what you and I have seen: more riders--and more inexperienced riders--are out there. I hope they'll visit some places or talk to some people who will give them some instruction on how to be safe.

I have said it before on this blog, but it bears repeating: Cyclists will have to do their part to gain the respect they want and need from motorists. As a concept, "sharing the road" is indeed a two-way street.