Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Cycling the Neighborhood: the Gauntlet of Death

As irony would have it, yesterday I read a great article posted by Big Daddy Diesel about bike safety and needing to keep yourself safe while on the road.  I almost always follow the recommendations that they layout in the article, and add one more: choice of path.  I do not go certain ways at certain times of the day because there are way too many cars.  Yes, we need to learn to ride in traffic.  But we also need to see our children graduate from college.  So typically, I hit the closed road for any ride over 10 miles. (The loop is 9.8 miles and it's almost 2 miles to get there.)

Today, however, I decided that it was too late in the morning to get to the closed road.  Yup.  That's right.  I would: 1) have to run the gauntlet of death past the elementary school and all the roads leading to it even if I went the way around, not once but twice (and that's too many soccer moms on cellphones for my comfort); and 2) have to deal with the main artery out of the subdivision which would be clogged with cars, school buses, trying to go fast and being frustrated with the number of people leaving (you would not believe the bad driving I've seen on that two lane road).

It was 7:35, and I had 15 miles to do.  I mis-remembered my schedule and thought I was supposed to do the mileage at 16-18 mph, steady pace and staying in aero as much as possible.  (Nope.  I was supposed not go over 16 mph.)  I use the neighborhood for various and assundry runs - anywhere from 1 1/2 miles to 10 miles.  So, I knew I could find 15 miles worth of road to cover.  Plus, I wanted to bike by a house that Training Buddy and Mrs. Training Buddy are considering buying.  I knew I'd have some traffic on some of the longer roads, but I could be in aero at least 90% of the time safely.

So I set out.  I purposely avoided all major paths leading to the elementary school.  Luckily, I misremembered where the house I wanted to ride by was located and found a nice, 2 mile stretch of road that was seemingly empty although lined with cars.  I stayed in aero unless I was approaching a stop sign or saw or heard a car.  Then I popped up so people could see me better.  At one point there was a little old lady in her car trying to pull out and not great visability so I stood up on the bike (I had the right of way)... luckily she saw me. 

I wandered and meandered and even stayed in aero around some of the less sharp curves and turns.  I found the house I was looking for, tried to cross a street at one point and had to unclip and finally just pick a different direction and then loop back later because there were so many cars that it was like the video game frogger.  I remember how many poor pretend frogs I killed playing that video game and decided instead of going left, I could easily turn right add some mileage to the bike computer tally and loop around on a different street that would give me much better visability and easier right of way for the left turn.

The weather was great.  Blue skies with some puffy clouds, a bit of a wind, but not overly terrible (and nothing like last week).  I was sweating like mad, but loving every minute of it.  I was pretty much going around 17 mph the majority of the time... although I loved the one little hill that I clicked into a harder gear at the top and cranked it out to 19.7 mph toward the end of the ride and then slowed myself down for the turn.

And that's when I saw the mercedes with the driver on the cellphone driving on the wrong side of the road.  Luckily, I have a good sense of self preservation.  I popped myself out of aero faster than you can say "Holy Sh#t!" and was as far over on the side of the road ready to slam on those brakes while unclipping and leap on to the side of the road.  She saw me as I popped out of aero and threw the car on to the correct side of the road, and while I was on the brakes and had one foot unclipped already I never had to leave the bike.

But for Thursday when I do my 20 miles, I'm making sure I'm out of there earlier and I'm hitting the closed road.  No more gauntlet of death... unless its a ride shorter than 10 miles.  Period.  Even avoiding the elementary school, it's not worth it.

I signed the girls up for Voluntary Pre-Kindergarden (VPK) yesterday.  I spelled VPK out because a friend thought I was talking about Vacation Bible School (despite the abbreviations being different), and couldn't understand why I was saying "Oh my babies.  They're growing up."  We had a good laugh about it.  The thought of my Little Ladies in VPK this August and then Kindergarden next August makes me cry.  They're definitely ready for it and need it, but I feel like the next I know they'll be going to college or getting married.  Perhaps that's why I left so late for my ride today.

I told Angelfish that I would see her after school and that I was going for my bike ride.  She said "Not good."  I asked why, and she said "I want you, Mommy."  So of course, I had to sit down and have a snuggle while we put on her socks & shoes and talked about what a fun day she would have at school.  Ladybug asked me to brush her hair, so I did and then held her hand as we walked to the car.  They both told me they loved me as they put on their seat belts and waved and shouted "Bye. See you later!" through their open windows as Mr. Darcy drove off.

It was well worth the wait.... and even the Gauntlet of Death.


  1. I hate those close calls (there are way too many of them on my runs). Glad all ended well for you. Isn't it ironic that the school zones (where we expect people to pay close attention, since there are kids there and all) are some of the most dangerous to ride, run, walk, or drive near... too many "important" people rushing to do "important" things... stay safe!

  2. Glad you're okay...it pays to stay alert. Unfortunately there are a lot of dumb people out there not paying attention to the moment they are in.

    Those precious unplanned moments with the little ones are the best!

  3. It seems to be the "thing" right now, all over the blogsphere are people with close calls, I love biking but I love to stay alive. I dunno what to do.

  4. When you said popped out of your clips, I swear your were going to say - pooped yourself!