The Art of Taking the Lane on a Bicycle

“Get yo’ bitch ass offa the road!” yelled the guy in the truck at me. That’s because I was in the middle of the narrow car lane, since there was no room for cars to safely pass me a bike lane or alternative road, and the sidewalks suck. I was in Southeast Austin, Texas in a neighborhood called Govalle (a Swedish, not Spanish word). It’s a less wealthy part of town near the airport that billionaire Elon Musk is transforming with a huge Tesla manufacturing plant. (Teslas are still cars, and they still pollute, albeit less than a standard gas engine car. And those lithium batteries are hugely wasteful to make, even if recycled.) Anyway, it’s a car-centric neighborhood. Traffic wasn’t heavy, so I chose to take the lane — which is completely legal in Texas. Anyway, it was not a pleasant interaction and it got me thinking about how and when to take the lane.

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Staying Safe Cycling City Streets

A Dude hasn’t biked as far as he has, mostly here in Austin, Texas, and remained above ground without taking safe cycling seriously. Some people don’t do that, so they pay the price with injury or worse. Others do play by all the rules but drivers of cars don’t. The smart money is on doing everything you can to be “oh, oh, oh stayin’ alive” so you can “live to ride another day,” as Sam says. I know what I’m talking about because I am currently still alive after almost 30,000 verified Strava miles. I also took the League Cycling Instructors course (I’m short a few exercises of being a full-fledged LCI). Here are 10 tips off the top of my — what word for brain starts with t.

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A Fool, A Weirdo, and an Idiot on My Bike Ride: Really!?

“Keep It Weird” has been one of Austin’s slogans for a while now. I’d like to report to you that the tradition is alive and well. Except these three interactions weren’t with Leslie, the former bearded and homeless celebrity drag queen who was famous for wearing a g-string around town. Once I was behind him walking downtown on Sixth Street. Burned into my brain that I can’t ever unsee were his ass cheeks adorned with the words “APD (Austin Police Department) Kiss My Ass.” Pretty weird, but also pretty harmless.

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Austin, Texas Bike Lanes and Sidewalks: A Few Updates

This makes my 10th post with a title including the words “bike lanes.” I’m generally a fan of anything that will separate cars from bikes and pedestrians, or in other words, will save my tuchus and that of other riders from being maimed or killed by cars. As a walker (not of The Walking Dead zombie variety — so far), I often use sidewalks when there are any. I also used them instead of biking on high traffic roads, so I don’t, you know, like, die. Several emails from the City about mobility improvement projects are clogging my email inbox, and with two personal examples, I figure it’s time for an update. Here are just a few of the many projects for intersections, bike lanes and sidewalks going on in Austin, Texas.

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A Decade of Knowing My Bicycle Mechanic

Bike mechanics, like many essential workers, have long been unsung, but make no mistake, they are heroes. That’s a strong word, but to those of us too lazy to learn to fix our own bikes, or who don’t have the tools, we rely on them to keep us rolling. Tonight I was at a shop, participating in the usual back and forth. First, there is the friendly but slightly tired question, “What’s going on?” A description of the issue from me. That is followed by a brief technical educational seminar complete with repeating main points, checking for understanding, and a hand drawing. Then, investigation of the bike and either repair, ordering parts, or other appropriate result is. Some low-grade insults from both sides are scattered in, said with a laugh to soften the blow. And we realized we’d known each other 10 years. “And you still can’t get rid of me!” I lampooned myself. Of course he sees many other people, so it’s a lopsided arrangement. But for a decade this guy has been in my life and that’s a lot more than I can say for most “friends.” Excuse me while I get a little verklempt here.

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Bus in the Bike Lane: A Recipe for…

Ingredients:

  • 40,000 pound city transit bus
  • Lazy-ass or law-breaking bus driver (see if you can find one that’s both)
  • One 28-pound steel-framed sea foam green Fairdale Weekender Archer bicycle named Sophie (substitutions allowed)
  • Experienced person on said bicycle, vulnerable to said buses
  • Narrow traffic and bike lanes on most dangerous section of road in Austin for bikes
  • Friday evening rush hour
  • Big pot of history of near misses with city buses for the bicyclist
  • Memory of John Anthony Diaz, a cyclist killed by same bus company (separate into two portions)
  • Kettle full of road rage for the bus driver
  • Add a pinch, a soupçon, or a schosche of irritating, smelly bus riders into the mix
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Austin Bike News Roundup for October 29, 2020

The shortage of bicycles has been a sign of increased numbers of people riding during the pandemic. But it’s made it hard to find a new bike if you are in the market. Today though I noticed that Sun and Ski Sports has a bunch of Cannondale bikes for sale. The men’s is black, sleek and yet heavier than expected. (I didn’t see any women’s but they’re yellow.) With a 2 x 5 set-up, 10 gears will get you zipping around town on short jaunts at least. They’re a cool $725, but come with a service guarantee. The guys in the bike shop are great so if you’re in the market, get thee to their shop ASAP! These babies won’t last long. (I’m not paid for this mention.) Here’s a look.

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Someone Just Threw a Firecracker at Me on My Bicycle

Yes, you read that right. I was biking, and some poor, misguided soul, correction, a major assclown in a car slowed down to throw a firecracker at my head. But that wasn’t all. The firecracker throwing happened after a guy in a truck sped through the turn at a red light without yielding in front me, which could have resulted in major pain or death were I not such a defensive rider and excellent bike handler. But shortly thereafter I came upon his shop where his loose barking dogs came at me. Usually my evening bike rides aren’t as eventful. This one saved all the excitement until the last 20 minutes. Let’s go to my Strava description.

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Bike Austin Says the Healthy Streets Program Is Under Threat

An email from Bike Austin arrived in my in box recently. Forced to cancel events by the virus like many volunteer-run non-profits, they must do most of their work in cyber space. The email is about the take-over of certain streets by the Austin Transportation Department. Basically they set up plastic barrels and barriers that slow down cars and have signs instructing motor vehicles that the road is for local use only. The goal is to allow people to more easily walk, bike, skate, etc. with social distancing during pandemic times and maybe beyond. Is that such a bad thing? A Dude thinks not, I think.

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