Speed-Bump

Speed-bump

It scary how utterly helpless you can feel when something bad happens to someone you love.

This week my college age daughter (who also rides her bike to school) was hit and run over by a pick-up truck.  The maintenance truck was sitting by the side of a very wide walkway; as she passed, the truck abruptly made a left turn and knocked her from the bike.  She slid under the truck where the left rear wheel drove right across her torso.

Happily her injuries were minor.  She didn’t have any broken bones or internal bleeding or any other physical damage, just lots of road rash.  Now she can tell people that she was run over by a truck!  That’s better than all of my lame stories combined.

Her new nickname, given to her by friends at school, is now Speed-Bump.

And… Yes she was wearing a helmet!

When I got the call about my daughter I could only think about getting to her quickly.  Since I ride my bike to work I had to think of other options.  I don’t use car2go very often but I am a member so as I ran from the office I loaded the car2go app and saw that one of their cars was sitting in front of my office.  I jumped in and made it to the accident scene in just a few minutes.

Update (one week later) — Something exceptional happened!  —

My daughter is doing great and the road-rash is healing.  I was so happy about being able to get to her quickly that I sent an email to car2go to tell them what happened and how their car made a difference for me that day.  I only mentioned her as my college age daughter.  When I got home that evening there was a lovely bouquet of flowers addressed to my daughter from car2go.  It’s rare to experience a company that displays such exceptional customer service and class. They did something unexpected and totally went above and beyond. Thanks to the “Team at car2go”!

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Paris

I just spent an awesome week in Paris.  I went there for vacation and spent most of my time exploring the city and enjoying what it has to offer.

While I was there I noticed many bike riders out in the cold (and sometimes rain) of Paris in January.  There were many, many bikes; frankly I was impressed.  Many of the larger streets in Paris have dedicated lanes that are shared between bikes and busses; the lane is separated from the main part of the road by a curb.  It’s ironic that a lane to keep bikes safe is shared with the largest vehicles on the road but it seemed to work.  Parking spaces in Paris are few and far between, riding a bike may just be a way to combat that problem.

But the smaller streets looked fairly treacherous for a bike next to cars.

IMG_1436

There was hardly enough room for cars by themselves but add bikes and it was enough to make me think twice about riding there.  I’m sure you would get used to it and the cars all appeared to pay enough attention to not kill the bikes.  Heck, even some of the sidewalks were risky when cars passed.  But the bikes, motorcycles, and cars seemed to peacefully coexist on the roads of Paris.  Next time I definitely hop on a bike to explore more.

Paris has a bike sharing program similar to Denver’s very own BCycle.

Obviously Paris is a much larger city than Denver so I dug up some number for comparison:

Paris Denver
Bike Name Velib BCycle
Started 2007 2010
Bikes 20,000 700
Stations 1,800 84
Available all year all year
City Population 2,273,000 649,000
Website http://en.velib.paris.fr/ https://denver.bcycle.com/

In Paris you are never more than 300 meters from a bike station. Look at the maps of cycle stations:

Paris:                                      Denver:

Bike stations

A Little Chilly

This morning’s ride was a challenge! There was plenty of snow and ice leftover from yesterday, followed by more snow last night. The air was super cold and the roads were squirrely. I say squirrely instead of slippery because it wasn’t icy, but the packed snow on the road made it feel like I was riding on sand.

It was actually pretty fun. It felt safer than normal because when it’s this bad out, all the cars drive super slowly (and with good cause). Not one single car passed me today.

It took a while for my fingers to thaw when I got to work.

This morning's temp was pretty cold for the ride in.

This morning’s temp was pretty cold for the ride in.

My building has bike parking in the heated garage which makes it nice when I leave at night. I found a hose in the garage to spray the ice and gunk from the gears so my bike is relatively clean when I leave at the end of the day.

I saw at least 10 other bikes out this morning. Way to go Denver!

Bike Lanes

My commute is less than four miles; I live near Sloan’s Lake and work at 19th & Broadway so I cross downtown Denver twice a day. My route has bike lanes most of the way. But the bike lanes creates it’s own unique problems for bikes. Sure, the bike lane provides extra space at the side of the road for bikes, but some drivers use that space to make deliveries, check their email, check their map, or even to drop off passengers. As a cyclist I know I have to watch for parked cars opening their doors, but now I also have to watch for car doors in the traffic lane that stop to drop off a passenger into the bike lane. I guess it is part of bike commuting in a city.

But there is one location on the west side of downtown where I have had many close calls. West bound 23rd Avenue as it crosses over I-25 has one lane for cars and a bike lane (see picture). Cars turning left (for the I-25 on-ramp) have to wait before they can turn. Cars stuck behind these turning vehicles frequently pull into the bike lane so they don’t have to wait. But that means I’m now sharing the bike lane with those cars. The most dangerous part is that they may have sat there for a few moments and don’t realize that a bike is approaching in the lane next to them. I see it almost every day, I’ve even had cars pull into the bike lane and follow me through the intersection. I once saw a Denver cop do it!

bike lane

Dangerous spot for a bike.

The red star in this picture is where I was actually hit last week; it is by far the most dangerous part of my bike commute. The collision was minimal at worst: as the car pulled into the bike lane I yelled, hit the brakes, and swerved. Only my left hand made contact with the car. But when the car realized that we made contact, they took off like a bat out of hell.

Winter biking in Denver

This is my third winter of commuting by bike.  There are certainly fewer people riding during this time of year, but I continue to be amazed how many other bikes I see every day, even in the worst conditions.  Way to Go Denver!

Tracks in the snow on the Cherry Creek Bike Path; February 16, 2015

Tracks in the snow on the Cherry Creek Bike Path; February 16, 2015

Tip for icy days:  Keep your speed down… Duh!  I’ve never had studded tires on my bike but would imagine that they work really well.  When it’s icy out, I reduce the air pressure in my tires to about 35-40 psi.  The reduced air pressure helps the tires spread out over the surface of the ice and snow and makes it a little less slippy.  Think about the wheels of a dune buggy, if the tires were fully inflated they would sink instead of spreading out on top of the sand.  Be aware, if you ride on really icy days you will likely fall eventually.  Denver keeps the bike trails plowed and free of snow! But the bike lanes around town end up totally covered so you will end up riding in the lane with cars.

Clothes:  The right number of layers makes it bearable, too many layers or too thick of a jacket will make you sweat.

Torso: I don’t have special riding gear; I just add extra layers when it gets cold.

Legs: I try to always wear shorts, but when it’s really cold I add a pair of tights.

Head: I have a balaklava; it keeps my head, ears, and face warm but also tends to fog up your glasses when you stop at lights… keep moving and you’ll be fine.

Eyes: Speaking of glasses, I found a pair of safety glasses for $15 that are perfect for riding when it’s dark.

Hands: I use a pair of winter biking gloves that were about $45.  They do well down to about 25 degrees (f).  On colder days I use snowboard gloves which are harder to ride with but keep my fingers from going numb.

It’s an indication that more  people are riding during the winter: BCycle (bike sharing system with 84 stations/700 bikes around Denver) announced their bikes will remain available all winter!

If you want to ride during the winter, I’d suggest that you ease your way into it be starting during the summer.  It will be obvious when you need to add layers.

My first bike commute accident, with a 150 member church youth choir.

Way back in July 2013 I was involved in a minor bike accident…
I ran into a 150 member high school church choir from Georgia. No, I’m not kidding.

I was heading south on Larimer St. After crossing 17th street I saw my light turn green at 16th; I knew I had enough time to make it but there was a sea of blue t-shirts crossing the road.  I had the green light, they had a Won’t Walk signal!

I rang my bell and started shouting “lookout”, “I have the green light”, “get out of my way”, and “coming through”.  I slowed a little but was still trying to make the green light. They finally looked at me and stopped enough to give me room to pass; or so I thought. Two blue shirts on the back side of the group stepped directly into my path. I clipped the guy with my shoulder and knocked him into the girl. The girl went down and I went down and slid the rest of the way across the intersection (with minor road rash and a broken helmet). DAMN, I almost made the light.

I collected my bike and started moving to the sidewalk. One of the youth pastors got in my face and started yelling at me, blaming me. Soon there were about 10 blue shirts surrounding me making sure I didn’t leave. The youth pastor yelled at me that I wasn’t going anywhere! I wasn’t planning on leaving anyway. All the blue shirts continued to blame me. The youth pastor looked like he wanted to punch me.

A few minutes later two fire trucks, paramedics, ambulance, and 5 motorcycle cops all arrived. After taking statements from several witnesses, a cop returned to let me know that everyone’s story matched mine and asked if I wanted to press charges. I said no.

A homeless man had witnessed everything.  As things were calming down the homeless man walked over to where I was standing with two cops and one of the blue shirt adults; he asked me if I was okay.  I was fine and thanked him for asking. I then mentioned that he was the very first person to ask me if I was okay.  The blue shirt leader lowered his head and walked away.

Getting Started

I’ve been riding my bike to work everyday in Denver since July 2012.  Compared to driving, it’s faster, cheaper, and healthier.  I don’t have to pay for gas or parking and I can fly past all the cars stuck in the gridlock of downtown.  Like some cyclists I’ve had close calls and I’ve have been hit a few times too.