Hello? Anybody out there? Fan base? You still with me?
I know, I know -- it's been too long, but it's hard to blog when you're fighting a life and death battle with malaria. Well, at least, I assume it would be hard since I've never, actually, contracted malaria. But, you did feel somewhat guilty there for a split-second didn't you loyal readers?
The truth of the matter is that my day job (keeping the free world safe for bike-loving patriots everywhere) has been more of a day, night, and weekend job for the past few weeks as we've been doing a sprawling, massive investigation that I can't talk about. So, just take my word for it: I've been really, really busy. But, I've been thinking about you guys the whole time. And, I know you've all been thinking and worrying about me and my not-malaria.
Nice thing about being a one car family is that, even when I'm super busy, I can't use that business as an excuse to not get on the bike. No choice -- bike or nothing. Of course, it's not like I wouldn't pick a bike over just about any other form of transportation anytime and anywhere. Except, of course, for trans-oceanic trips -- bike isn't too useful for those. So, it was on my bike that I experienced an incredible surge of joy as I headed out to work on Sunday morning and was greeted by this!
That's right people! My very own "sharrow" right at the foot of my driveway. The mark of the Bikeist tagged, eternally, directly in front of Bikeist World-Wide Headquarters!
Now, any of you familiar with my, now, classic, posts "Duh" and "The Single Best Thing That Has Ever Happened In The History of Humankind" have already lived through the trials and tribulations of my 1.6 mile (one way) bike commute down the very road I live on. As described in those posts, the road is way too narrow for cars and bikes to ride together in the same lane. Most drivers get that, but the occasional knucklehead gets offended by my presence on the road he'd like to have to himself and buzzes me or offers choice words about my supposed obligation to get to the curb.
Well, after one too many of these incidents, I got with the base XO and engineer and proposed that they paint sharrows on my street, to help educate knuckleheads and non-knuckleheads alike that it is ok for bikes to "take the lane" on such a narrow street. After I explained to them exactly what a sharrow was, they took to the idea instantly and now we have them along the entire course of the street that leads from my driveway to my office. Thanks, guys -- you rock!
So, do these markings possess mystical properties that will make me immune from the harm posed by multi-ton vehicles sharing the road with me. Umm . . . no. Every bikeist has to stay ever-aware that they, and they alone, are singularly responsible for their own safety. We can't rely on street markings, lanes, three-foot laws, or the good intentions of driveists (especially) to protect us. We need to keep our heads on a swivel, track what's moving around and in front of us, check our sixes, obey stop signs, use hand-signals, and do our best to move with the flow of traffic, staying out of blind spots and never overtaking a car to its right as we're approaching an intersection.
So, what good are they then? First of all, they're better than nothing. Second of all, as driveists get used to them, and heed them, they should, indeed, make the street safer for all users. But, most of all, they increase awareness that bikes are equal users of the road and just as entitled to be on it as cars. Let's face it - despite all of my close calls, I have been a skilled enough and aware enough rider to avoid ever getting hit (knock on wood). I probably don't need the sharrows to keep on avoiding getting hit. But, what the sharrows should definitely save me from is being an asshole. Without them, I have to be demonstrative about my right to take the lane and have to defend it verbally without visible proof at hand. Now, I can happily pedal down the middle of the road (at 18 - 23 mph in a 25, so I'm not holding up anybody too badly) and simply point to the lovely sharrows anytime anybody gets impatient or rude with me.
Biking, for me is about joy. I don't want every ride to have the potential for ugly confrontations. Plus, I actually, genuinely enjoy people and want to get along with them. I just don't know what primal urge exactly (especially for dudes with Georgia plates) makes certain people see red at the very sight of a bike, but I'm hopeful that my beautiful new sharrows will provide the reinforcing symbol of legal sanction that they need in order to start understanding that riders magically defying the laws of God and physics by propelling themselves forward on two wheels are not deserving of instant execution for blasphemy, or whatever. Believe it or not, I actually think the sharrows are working already. It could just be my imagination, but it seems like drivers have been calmly changing lanes to pass me, and holding off on doing so when on-coming traffic approaching. It's the shame of legal sanction! I know it! The sign of the Bikeist is a constant reminder to evil-doers everywhere that violating the three-foot-law doesn't pay!
Ride safe out there people and ride, proudly, over every sharrow you see.