Thursday, August 20, 2009
Putting the lights to work
Here is my commute today: 23 miles round trip. After work I went to a meeting at the Habitat for Humanity office on Jones Street and Berwick. I did my little jaunt after work that's becoming my custom- north on Bryant Irvin Road, then Overton Ridge, onto Hulen, all busy streets with lots of retail. I cut across from Hulen to South Drive along Barwick, trying to remember in my head the best route to the Habitat office. I knew that Granbury was the shortest route, but it tends to be a fairly high speed route and not too bike friendly in my estimation. I decided to go for it anyway, and rode along Granbury for about two miles, then turned onto Berry just east of TCU and followed that another mile and a half. Berry through that stretch is not what most would consider bike friendly either, and includes several steep hills to climb for the bridges over the train tracks.
But I did it. I took the lane like I was meant to be there and the motor traffic got over itself. It slowed behind me and eventually went around me. The worst thing that happened was a carful of joyful teens yelled at me, but it was a good-natured kind of a yell- kind of "Way to go, dude!" I stopped at a McDonald's for some dinner, then followed the I-35 access road to within a couple blocks of my destination. No biggie, and so far all in bright daylight.
The Habitat office is squarely in what one would call a low-rent district: well-worn industrial buildings interspersed with older, smaller homes inhabited by recent immigrants from the Spanish-speaking world. Fort Worth has some great residential neighborhoods; this is not one of them. The area is called Worth Heights.
The meeting went well, but by the time it ended it was past dusk, almost entirely dark. I put my headlight on steady, my rear SX-6000 on steady, and my Superflash on blink mode; I think that provides maximum visibility from the rear. I also wore my high-visibility vest.
I didn't want to go back to the freeway access road, so I cut through the hood, which after a few blocks became entirely residential- very modest immigrant housing- until I came out by La Gran Plaza, which used to be a vanilla suburban shopping mall, but now is an urban outlet mall that services the local population. I used to go in there occasionally until I realized no one in there was speaking English. Since "no hablo Español", I just don't feel comfy in there anymore. This whole neighborhood had that feel. Because I don't speak the language I feel a little intimidated. My biggest fear actually was loose dogs in that area though.
I followed the north edge of La Gran Plaza along a secondary through street. I didn't want to get lost though, so I cut over to Seminary, a pretty heavily traveled thoroughfare. I was pleased to see that the right lane was very wide- bike boulevard wide- and the shoulder was largely clear of debris (mostly, I suppose, because it wasn't a bike lane). After a few minutes of riding, I was out of Worth Heights and approaching the Seminary area (Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary). Still not the best of neighborhoods, but there is a bit of a "university bubble" around the campus.
I planned to ride Seminary nearly to its end which puts me into a familiar neighborhood, but at this point I just wanted to get home. So I turned left on James, another main thoroughfare, which turns into Crowley Road at I-20. Crowley Road is an urban-sprawl enabler- 40 to 45 mph limits (with 50-55 being common), three lanes in each direction, with a left turn lane (no median). I bought my commuter bike from someone who lives in this area, and was terrified to ride it home down Crowley Road back then (a year ago).
It really wasn't bad at all, even though there was still a decent volume of traffic. Having a bright blinky light along with a steady-on light on the rear seems to do the trick. The vast majority of people gave me more than enough room, and no one really got close to me. Overall, I think the lighting was a success.
Oh... and if you want to see Tuesday's ride home, click here.