17 January 2010

The Down Side of Cycling

It has been over 3 weeks since I last went jogging. The right foot still hurts even though I have been doing bicycling only. No impact there but then again it does not hurt as much as before. I probably have to go see a podiatrist.

Substituting jogging with bicycling allows me to go farther from the house and explore the destination's neighboring areas. On foot, I would never visit the Fuhgeddaboutit sign on the border of Brooklyn and Queens on the Belt Parkway. Sure I could drive there but then I would have to find some place to park and walk some distance to the site to take a picture of it. A waste of gasoline, fuhgeddaboutit!

The down side of cycling is that to get to the bike trail I have to go on the road, along side with motorists. In my mind, most motorists are jerks, to put it lightly. A perfectly nice person outside the car can easily turn into a monster behind the steering wheel. Motorists' general attitude is "get out of my way or I'll ram you." I drive a minivan mostly on weekends and the experience usually leaves me exhausted. Being on a bike only makes it worse. I have to be extra alerted about cars traveling parallel to me that are about to turn right into my path. Assuming people use turn signals, that is.

When I drive, I have the radio on or listen to podcasts on the iPod, but not loud enough to drown out the sounds from outside. I need to focus on the road and be aware of the surrounding. When cycling, I don't listen to anything at all while sharing the road with motorists. I cannot afford to. Even with the helmet mirror and the mirror in the handlebar, I still need to turn around when shifting lane or going through intersection. Cars mirrors have blind spots and those on the bike cannot be any better. Once I get to the bike trail, where there are only pedestrians and cyclists, then I can relax with the iPod, but before that, 100% alert!

I used to hate the "new" bike lanes in Manhattan, such as those along Grand Street in Chinatown. The older lanes run along the left side of the parking lane. The newer ones take place of the parking lane and usually reduce the street to just one lane as the parking lane is pushed further into the street. Tough luck for the motorists with the narrower streets but it is great for cyclists. With the old bike lanes, there is a good chance some careless driver, after parking, opening the driver-side door straight into the path of a cyclist. There is also the not-too-unfounded fear of being fatally squeezed between a car on the road and a parked car. Lastly, with the new lane it is impossible to double-park so cyclists do not have to put up with double-parkers. One moment a cyclist can be happily moving along an old bike lane, the next moment he would have to shift into traffic to go around a double-parking car. I love the new bike lanes and hope to someday make use of them if they come to my area.

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