Monday, November 21, 2005

The Zig-Zag Man...

It was a cold ride to work this morning. The temperature hovered at
freezing. I rode along spinning easily in the small ring. No hurry. No
rush. Just an easy ride to work.

Under the pecan trees along Mingo Road, I spotted a flock of turkeys! I
know they're around the area because I've seen their tracks. But it's rare
to actually see a turkey. They stay well out of the open areas. For that
matter, the deer are doing the same now that hunting season started. This
flock was probably 80 to 100 yards off the road, but all 8 birds had their
heads up, watching me.

The real excitement came at the railroad crossing further south. It's
angled across the road, and it's very rough. Another cyclist fell there two
weeks ago. A witness said his front wheel simply followed the rail off to
the right. He fell heavily but didn't receive any major injuries, though
his face was cut up. I've slid on those rails twice, both times in the
rain, so I tend to be very careful when crossing.

The safest way to cross rails is perpendicular to them. Cross at a right
angle to the rails in order to give the tires less opportunity to slip.
Railroad tracks are bad enough, but some places still have streetcars or
trolleys. Their rails run parallel to a cyclist's direction of travel, and
often have a groove down the center that can trap a tire easily. I learned
to be extremely wary of streetcar tracks when I lived in Pittsburgh. They
can make intersections far more complicated.

The safest way I've found to cross this particular railroad track is by
zig-zagging across them. I move to the right-hand tire track, turn left to
straighten up across the tracks, then turn back into the left-hand tire
track. Today, I was about to do that when a pickup chose that moment to
pass. It's happened before. In Oklahoma, it's illegal to pass within 150
feet of a railroad crossing, but I've never heard of it being enforced. The
passenger side mirror narrowly missed my shoulder. The driver waved.

Whenever I approach tracks with a motor vehicle behind me, I signal that I'm
slowing. I did that this morning, or course. What do motorists think we're
doing? Why do they insist on passing even though we're obviously
maneuvering within the lane? It doesn't happen very often, but due to the
layout of that particular crossing, if I'm to cross safely it means I'll be
turning into the cars that are trying to overtake. It's unnerving to have a
mirror or a fender go blitzing by only inches away.

I can't think of a way to let motorists know I'll be maneuvering laterally.
Merely signaling that I'm slowing should be enough, but some of them just
don't get it. I've even tried zig-zagging twice, once by moving to the left
tire track, then the right tire track, crossing over the rails, then into
the left tire track again. I think that first movement - into the left tire
track - causes motorists to stay further left and allow me a bit more space,
but I'm actually thinking about zig-zagging a couple of times (almost Paul
Tay's infamous 'power weave') well before reaching the tracks. Motorists
may think it's a crazy-man-on-a-bike and give me even more room or stay back


Blogger mags said...

Ahhh, the joy of dealing with crazy drivers... Old, rusty trucks flying past me - horn honking, head out the window screaming obceneties at me that drown in the wind. Some act as though they've just seen an alien, a little white skinny guy on a bike. Not sure why some people find it neccessary to scream and try to run us cyclists over...


9:25 PM  
Blogger Fritz said...

Bah, perpendicular to the tracks is how the sissies and old men do it. Here's how Real Cyclists[tm] cross the tracks!

10:55 PM  
Blogger Ed W said...

(I posted this over on Cycle-licious too!)

I tried bunny-hopping over the numerous speed bumps in the parking lot at work back when my Bianchi was new. But Ed's Vertical Crush Test led to far too many broken spokes. I weighed about 225 back then, and the bike tipped the scales at about 40 pounds when lights and baggage were installed. The 'pow!' of a spoke snapping was a weekly occurrence.

So I don't bunny-hop anymore. Besides, it looks odd when a decidedly middle-aged man starts jumping up and down, can't get his feet out of the pedals, and topples over, then flails around on the ground still firmly attached to his bike! I have an image to maintain, you know.

5:44 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home