Another Typical Seattle Commute

I ride 2 commute routes during a week, pretty much the same roads and the same times every day. I’m amazed at the daily differences. Take today for example: 1st real ride on the new gear ratio, nearly crushed by a bus, got smoked by a single-speeder on the Burke, witnessed seattle’s finest patrolling the path down near the U, and got to talk to a Paris-Brest-Paris veteran on the Bus on the way home. This list doesn’t include the amazing, fantastic sunset this evening. Ho-hum, just another wildly varied daily ride.

I finally got my big black and yellow rain bike back on the road after replacing most of the drive train last week. Unfortunately I neglected to get a new rear cog to match the larger front chain ring I put on, so I went from 60 some gear inches to 70 in one go, which may not be a lot for some but it’s a bit much for me. Rolling out of the house this morning I felt like I was standing on each pedal for much, much longer getting started up. Undoubtedly this is what distracted me until the Bus got too close.

Buses have a tough lot in life, they really do. Imagine your car was articulated, 60 feet long, and needed parking for 1 minute every 2 blocks. Now imagine some pip-squeak on a bike is pulling up along side you at an intersection with a stop on the next block. As you pull to the right to make the stop, the space for the rider gets smaller smaller… Fortunately the rider isn’t so distracted that he doesn’t just come to a complete stop to keep from being made into jam. Regardless of how tough life is for buses, this still pisses the rider (me) off. Bah to you, #5 bus!

Having survived the traffic, I made it down to Freemont and hit the Burke-Gilman trail. I figured I’d be going pretty fast on my new 70 gear inches of steel, but even this small hubris was paid off in spades as some guy on a single speed blew past me on the way to the same destination as me, clearly pushing a much smaller gear. Maybe it’s time to consider a different rear-cog.

Even if speed wasn’t on my side, luck was. As I huffed and puffed along the Burke I noticed a new addition to the stop signs at the first major intersection. “Stop. Police ahead”, hand written and taped to the stop sign. This got my attention much more quickly than the blinking red LEDs on the sign. Sure enough, Seattle’s finest bike police were just past the bushes on the other side, presumably warning forgetful cyclists about the dangers of running stop signs. Is Seattle finally stepping up enforcement of cycling laws? I chatted with the officer a bit, but he wouldn’t let on what was up.

So much for the morning commute, the evening commute was just about as good. After 2 buses passed me by with full racks and a minor hail storm, I was a bit surprised to see another rider pull up to my stop on 520. We got to talking and it turns out he’s ridden hundreds of miles in all kinds of conditions, say during the PBP. Turns out Albert’s a veteran member of SIR, the Seattle International Randonneurs and not only rode PBP last year but finished (remarkable because the dropout rate was about twice normal). Anybody who even shows up for the PBP has my complete respect, and it wasn’t wasted on Albert. He commutes up from Federal Way, sometimes as much as 34 miles 1-way on bike. We had a lovely chat about lights, commuting, and some of our local cycling celebrities.

The rest of the ride home was pretty much uneventful, including the part where I made it up the almost 400 feet to my house on the new tall gears. I fully expected to be walking my bike up the last few hills but low and behold I made it just fine. The weather cooperated very nicely, including a great sunset. So nice to have the sun still up when I’m headed home!

My carpool mate was asking me a few days ago if I’d take a bus instead of riding if it showed up directly in front of my house and honked every day. I don’t think I would. My daily commute’s a fantastic antidote to the daily grind, and even though it’s the same route there’s always something new around the next corner.



8 Comments

Its the time of year for the [commuter challenges](http://bikehugger.com/2006/07/the_commuter_challenge_1.htm); especially, when I start seeing Cascade Tyvek Jackets. Time Trail records for 08 are just now being set down Alaskan Way. The natural competitive spirit doesn’t care if you’re in commuter gear or kitted up in lycra euro style.

My deal is that if you’re going to throw down a challenge, at least take a good pull, and not fade before your turn off—there is a special pleasure riding [Bettie](/tag/bettie), when you crank the StokeMonkey to full on and blow by commuters.

Passing a bus on the right seems like a really bad idea, for the exact reason that you mentioned.  I saw a cyclist killed doing this manuver when I was in high school.

Pass on the left, it’s safer (and people expect passers to be on the left).

I love the variations in my commute to.  And I did buy my house so that I can nearly fall out of bed into a direct bus to work.

My own personal commuter challenge is going well - every day on a bike since 1/1 baby!  80+hrs ytd.

Buses are nice because they are slow and predictable.  What they are REALLY bad at is signalling.  They put their hazards on when they are stopped, but unlike school buses who signal that they are leaving the curb before starting up, Seattle Metro buses just start rolling and asserting their size on the road.  I’ve not had many close calls because I usually expect that, but it can be annoying.

I find that bus drivers tend to be the most courteous of any drivers on the road (when they see me). I hate biking up behind a bus at a bustop and doing the mental math. Do I:

a) Slow down and hope that it is about to pull away from the curb, but risk coming to a complete stop and losing all of that precious, precious momentum (especially if going up hill)

b) Speed up and hope that I can sneak by on the left before the bus pulls out in a “thou-shall-yield” maneuver without seeing me on my little bike

I personally worry more about taxis than buses.  In any case, I understand the real rule of the road as - might makes right of way.  (read, if you’re on a bike the laws of physics are not on you side)  It’s also handy to believe that you’re invisible.

Understanding that, I love my commute here in Denver.  I get to ride several miles along the river (you all in the NW would laugh at calling it a river) out of traffic and three days a week I get to do it with my daughter in the Burley - except when the roads are bad because the laws of physics are way not on her side.

Re: the Bus (only a minor incident in an otherwise flawless day, really)—I was approaching an intersection in the bike lane (on the right), and the bus was in the single S. bound lane. Normally I would have proceeded to the head of the column of traffic in the bike lane and waited at the (red) light, but just after I pulled up to the rear of the bus the light turned green. Excuses, excuses, I know. I’m an experience bus-passer, but I’ll note this for the future—If you can’t reasonably pass the whole bus at the intersection, best to wait at the tail end.

Buses? Taxis? It’s crack/meth/pot/heads I worry about.  My 2nd-worst over-the-handlebars commuter accident was when an altered gent wheeled to his left and stepped off the sidewalk into my front wheel in SFO.  On my new “stretch of sketch” here in PHL, same risk with various *heads along 8 blocks of West Philly. 

I still haven’t lived down the time I “attacked a bus.”  I was riding with Pam and Marcus, up Alaska towards the Junction and a bus pulled out in front of us. I was mid climb and like “game on.” I accelerated all the way past the bus, in front of it, and totally pissed them off. It was also stupid, but at the time I thought I was climbing “good” and putting a bus between myself and them I thought was a good tactical move.

To comment

Or with us.





Advertise here

About this Entry

Hotspur and Oversize Titanium Tubing was the previous entry in this blog.

Monkey See, Monkey Do is the next one.

Find more recent content on our home page and archives.

Latest Photos

About Bike Hugger