Saturday, November 26, 2011

When All Roads Lead To Nowhere

Tree being felled in Marion, blocking my way. Had to ride on a narrow two-lane street where the speed limit was 35 mph. Sorry, drivers, was not my first choice. Second image is my bike on a weedy railroad right of way. You might have trouble spotting it, but beyond the back wheel is a narrow trail through a small stand of trees, which I traversed on foot to get to the right of way.

OK, a slightly whiney post. After giving thanks, maybe I feel a little entitled.

There are bikers who insist they have the same “rights” as cars, and who bike mostly or totally in the street. I see Rockwell-Collins employees, highly educated engineers probably, who bike along C Avenue, a busy four-lane road where the speed limit is 40 mph.

Not me. Those bikers may be de jure correct, but the several ton difference in mass between a biker and the smallest car makes that de facto beside the point.

When I’m along C Avenue, I’m on a sidewalk. Maybe being a scofflaw, but I think the laws of physics beat such traffic regulations, at least when my butt is on the line. As a biker on the sidewalk, I think it’s my obligation to always yield to and be wary of pedestrians—I create a hazard for them more than they create risk for me. It’s the same relationship I hope I have with most rational drivers—recognizing that the minor dent and blood stains on their fenders won’t be as much of an inconvenience for them as my mangled corpse intertwined with bent spokes would be for me, I hope that they (the car drivers) attempt to be wary of me. And I try to bike in a way that nothing I do will put me in their path—such as avoiding the street completely on C Avenue and riding as far right as I can on the quiet residential streets where I am in the street.

Anyway, the day after Thanksgiving, Theresa, her son, Ben and I went over to Katy’s where we were to meet Theresa’s husband and enjoy a traditional turkey day feast with Katy’s family.

I left first, and on my bike. I thought of going to the trail on Boyson Road, but they’ve been doing a “project” to put in a sidewalk at the north end of the trail, and as far as I knew, it was still blocked. So instead, I went up to Blair’s Ferry, intending to ride along it (on a sidewalk) to Lindale, where I would turn left and enter Marion via a fairly busy, but sidewalk-passable, street.

Except there was a sidewalk project going on that blocked me heading east on Blair’s Ferry.

There really is only one other way to get where I was going—to go down an overgrown old railroad right of way until it becomes, in Marion, a limestone trail. To get there, I walked my bike through some woods behind Northland Gym.

And when I got to my usual street route in Marion, well, Houston, we had a familiar problem. They, whoever they are, were cutting down a tree. And they had blocked the sidewalk. Of course.

So, of three possible routes to go east from my house to my daughter’s house just a few miles away, three were blocked by closed sidewalks. I rode, against my will, on the busy Marion street, feeling the ire of passing motorist slowed by that #%@!# biker—but really, I had no choice.

Here is the rant part. If the city does a street project, it always does it in a way that, if possible, there is still passage for cars. Lanes are repainted, traffic redirected—maybe it takes longer, but your SUV can still get to Wal-Mart somehow. However, sidewalks apparently are “extra” optional things, to be blocked at whim, unannounced, for however long it takes to do whatever is going on. No need for any walkway or bikeway alternative.

On the way home, I used the Boyson trail. It was indeed closed at the north end, but I just hopped off and walked around the barrier. What else could I do?

Well, bah, humbug. Yeah, in a practical sense, I can concede that car traffic is far more important to commerce and life as we know it. But life as we know it is spewing greenhouse gasses into the air, making us obese and divorcing us from the rhythms of nature. Those of use on bikes are, besides creating minor traffic hazards that enrage a few ignorant SUV drivers, keeping the air clean, making healthcare more affordable by avoiding more excess weight and rewarding all those gardeners who care by admiring their work.

So please, try to keep the sidewalks open. We should maintain the important fiction, which may become reality in our lifetime, that it ought to be possible to walk or bike to get there from here.

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