Friday, June 6, 2014

A Story of Bikes, Bike Lanes, and Stamford's High Ridge Road

I was going to end this post with that picture. Really, the most complicated things can be expressed by the use of HO scale miniatures. As a matter of fact, President Obama today placed an HO scale miniature of himself punching Vladimir Putin on Putin's knee while in France celebrating the D-Day anniversary. 

That actually didn't happen. But it would have been great if it did.

What did happen today, is I took a 13 mile bike ride: I needed to take about three gallons of old paint to Keough's to get it recycled (details on that great program can be found here), drop off a basket at the post office (here seen being used as a substitute kickstand) and stop by both Trader Joe's and Hobbytown USA's Stamford location.

All four of these places are on High Ridge Road (the same road I pedaled up with the same bike and a different trailer eighteen months ago to pay tribute to the Sandy Hook victims).

So I rode the recumbent with the trailer and made it to the post office fairly easily. For the first part of the trip, I had a shoulder.

But a couple of miles later, the traffic got heavier and the shoulder got narrower. 

I arrived at Keough's moments after that photo was taken, where I again wondered what the place would be like if it had bike parking right in front.

After I dropped off the old paint, I headed toward Hobbytown USA and was greeted to another plaza that didn't have bike parking. I hoped the tree didn't grow too fast, I thought. 

At Hobbytown, I bought exactly what you'd expect me to buy. Leaving the bike parked, I walked over to Trader Joe's and bought whatever I thought would fit in the rotisserie chicken-ready bike box. Have you ever actually grocery shopped and selected bread based on what would fit in your bike? It's a surprisingly pleasant feeling. Never mind.

Of course, walking out to the bike, I remembered I had an entire (now empty) trailer that I could have filled with bananas, canned coffee, miniature tacos, milk, eggs, animal crackers, canned coffee, instant oatmeal, lemonade, frozen orange juice, broccoli florets, goat cheese and vanilla almond crunch cereal. 

Oh well. 

I headed home and ate lunch. Later in the afternoon I returned to High Ridge Road in my car. If any militant, fixie-riding, meat-avoiding hipsters are upset about this, please understand that driving a car up High Ridge Road is what most people, including me, normally do. 

I get infuriated at people who use cell phones when they drive (and I wasn't using mine) so only once I held up the camera to take a picture without looking. When I got home and finally uploaded the photo, I saw this…and there are no filters and no special effects. 

Look at the SUV just in front of me and then at the pickup truck to its right. It's pretty striking at how much space cars have on either side. The Wayne Industries Tumbler would have room to spare on either lane of High Ridge.

Bikes? Not so much. The little narrow band in front of the minivan is all any cyclist has, and it's a big reason why so many people don't ride bikes on a lot of roads. 

When you're in the same room with a car they're big, but when you're with them on the road, it's a different story. Cars and trucks not only don't need that much space on either side, but motor vehicles also tend to drive faster when they have wider lanes. A major component of Complete Streets (and the plan to put bike lanes along High Ridge Road) is to make lanes 11 feet wide instead of 12 feet, which opens more space on either side for bike lanes, which will encourage more people to choose the bike and more motorists to drive a little slower. 

I'll be talking about this a lot more from tonight all the way up through June 14th. Mark your calendar for that day and spread the word. Thanks for reading and thanks for riding. 

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