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.
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?