Wednesday, February 16, 2011

The big gap

As I told myself I would do, I've been riding a lot more - my car hasn't started since last Friday, and if I'm not pedaling, I'm still on two wheels. After the crazy blizzard (which ruined the Super Bowl and locked up the state for a few days) we finally have that North Texas weather that we all love - it's been in the high fifties in the morning and in the seventies in the afternoon, which is perfect riding weather.

I finally got my High Sierra set up correctly to do some serious riding, and it has finally found its place in my bike rotation. I don't care to ride my regular roadie commuter this time of year because of the puddles that seem to be everywhere, and the wider tires on the High Sierra make it easier to take the occasional detour on the sidewalk or through a field to avoid traffic. As the days get lighter and I have to spend less time riding at dusk or in the dark, I will be riding the road bike more and more. Until then, when the sun goes down I like having more options available to me than my skinny tires provide. Drivers don't expect me out there as the sun is going down, so I alter my route to avoid driver interaction. It sometimes makes the ride home a little more fun too, as I end up bouncing through fields, or hopping on sidewalks to make my own shortcuts. I know I say this a lot, but it does make me feel like I'm a little kid again, getting that first taste of freedom that a bicycle brings.

Chris on his first day commuting.
My commuting buddy Chris, on the other hand, has a fancypants carbon roadbike that he commutes on, and while it's a great bike, it doesn't allow him the freedom to whip it through a field or hop on the sidewalk. He and I hooked up for the ride home on Monday evening, and at the intersection of Plano road and Renner we very nearly experienced a tragedy. That intersection is part of what we call the "big gap" - we have to get into the left turn lane on a pretty busy Renner road, and we have to make the turn onto even busier Plano parkway. As far as we can tell, there really isn't a better way to get into (or out of) downtown Plano on our route, and once we cross the gap in the morning, we are home free with most of our route on the paths or the protected lane on Waterview. Headed home on Monday night, we saw just how dangerous it is.

The turn lane has two turn lanes - we take the rightmost turn lane, so that when we turn we end up in the far right lane to finish shooting the gap and get away from traffic. As the light turned green, we made our turn and a guy driving a red truck in the other turn lane took his turn very wide and very nearly took Chris out - I heard some yelling and then the same truck passed me moving very quickly, straddling the lane and getting a little closer to me that I care for. Using the adernalin from the close call, Chris quickly caught up to me and told me how wide the guy turned, and how lucky he was - Chris shot over to the curb and was able to ride up on it enough to avoid being squashed. We both shook fists at the driver and tried to catch up, but he floored it to get away. I don't know if it was an intentional thing, but I suspect that it was dusk and the driver underestimated our speed when the light turned green. Chris was pissed, rightly so, as was I.

On our ride the next morning, we were talking about all of the trail construction going on in Richardson, and specualted that part of the construction might be the solution to our gap problem - we were hoping that someone was smart enough to see that there was no good way to get across this section of town. Chris did a little research and sent me a map.

The red line represents the new trail under construction - there will be a new protected crossover under 75, which is great, but the other part of the new trail crosses Renner road and then shoots back up to George Bush and Alma, and spits you out at another bad intersection that leads to the mall, where traffic is a nightmare. 

I don't know who planned this route, but it is a pretty useless piece of trail if you ask me. We will still have to shoot the gap every day. I will do it and do my best not to be killed, but I do wish that someone had considered having the trail head North and give a safe bicycle crossing into Plano from Richardson (or vice versa, depending on which way you are headed). I see more and more commuting riders on the trail every day, and that pleases me to no end, but I sincerely hope that somehow problems like this can be solved, so that people who are uncomfortable with being squished by an innattentive driver can ride without having to worry about it.

Even though I am not an engineer, I was able to put my mind to the problem and come up wtih an easy solution, denoted by the blue line - build a trail to the George Bush train station - from there the riding isn't too bad as there is a pretty nice crossing under the tollway there, and then into Plano.

Simple, right? Why is this not happening?


  1. I've been in a similar situation (in both a motor vehicle and on a bike) and I'm convinced that the dweeb is simply oblivious. In both cases, rather than move over, I slowed down, and yelled or honked, and the idiot's momentum removed the collision potential situation. When I was in the motor vehicle, obviously, moving over would have resulted in major suspension damage. In California, drivers quickly learn lane discipline while turning left. Here, not so much.

    As for the trails. That's the price of having people that don't transportation cycle design the stuff. YOU would have never done such a bonehead. Me neither...

  2. That map looks familiar. ;)

    Here's a link to the article with the images that correspond to the letters on the map:

    I've got a couple of things to mention:
    1) It's not a "useless piece of trail." It may not serve your purpose for shooting the gap, but it offers a much needed trail connection between east and west Richardson. Eventually, that upper red trail running along the PGB tollway will connect with more trails in the future.

    2) I like your idea (blue line) of a trail connection. This connection is actually in the current COR trail plan, as well as other multi-use trail along Renner and Plano Road. There will also be a trail from Routh Creek Road, along the DART Red Line towards the PGB station.

    Here's a link to that pdf:

  3. I guess it's not useless, in that it's more trail - but it merely duplicates the trail that runs down Renner road. Alma/GB is a strange intersection to start or end at. I think that the north-south connection is pretty important to facilitate travel in those directions. There is a ton of east-west trail around, but not enough north-south, in my opinion.

  4. So true. It is a bit redundant to have both at this stage when there are so many other useful connections to be had right now.

    It is interesting how that trail to Alma curves under the PGB tollway for a bit. (Sorry, my map isn't very accurate for that part. It actually follows the creek tighter.) I don't see why they don't just add a route that goes north, (over the train tracks) into Plano. See map:

    The PGB tollway is a big barrier for trails coming and going into Plano. An ultimate connection would be to have one along Alma that leads to the Chisholm Trail.

    Another PGB Tollway fail is the connection of the Preston Ridge Trail North and South.