Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Biking Tacoma: Take One

There's been much talk of biking over on jcbetty's blog, and I've start to get back into it myself, so I figure I can use it as one more excuse to write. So I shall attempt to cover my expanding bike horizons through the summer, and my attempts to actually get in shape a little (I'm in good walking shape, but walking shape and actual fitness can be pretty drastically different things)

So Sunday I rode from my apartment to my dad's house (about 2 miles) for band practice, then rode a few extra blocks around his neighborhood (including a hill adventure between Proctor and Union on N 35th), and Monday night I rode to the Red Hot and back. The point being that I had already ridden more than I have in most recent weeks, before I got to today's ride:

Google Map
Distance: 9.1 miles
Time: 1 hour, 8 minutes

So, a few observations...

A) Started at the southeast corner of Wright Park. and headed up S 9th. It's not the best street, but it's got on street parking so it's not too hard to stay out of the way of cars when you need to. My general philsophy of riding is to be aware of the laws that support me, but not to rely upon them unnecessarily. I know that I can be in the traffic lane, and am not afraid to annoy cars by doing so, but I prefer a peaceful coexistence, and stay out of it when I can.

B) I cut over to 11th on Grant. I prefer to turn left when I can, rather than waiting until the major intersection (Sprague) and then struggling to get to the left turn lane.

C) This was a happy moment... finally getting the hell off 12th. Unlike 9th, 12th is not designed for on-street parking at all, and so I was basically making people go around me the whole way. Most did this without a fuss, though I got a couple honks. Didn't help that it was mostly uphill... the other way I would at least have been closer to keeping up with traffic. I don't think I could have quite managed it without this fancy gizmo:

Ever since a muscle spasm back in high school, my head's never quite turned far enough for me to comfortably ride in anything more than very light traffic. Being able to see cars coming up from behind with minimal effort is a convenience I'd rather not do without. Even if people do accuse me of being a robot when I wear it.

D) After crossing 6th Ave, Stevens finally gains a painted bike lane and parking lane. The first chunk (12th to 6th) has the room for it, but since Tacoma is clearly experiencing a white paint shortage (unless you can think of some other reason for the lack of consistent street lines and faded crosswalks downtown), I was happy to just have the room.

E) I contemplated heading home once I hit 21st. But since I'm a glutton for punishment, apparently, I decided to head out to Pearl first. Mostly uneventful, except for one ornery storm drain, wide enough to grab a bike wheel and unfortunately oriented to do just that.

F) After cutting off Pearl onto 26th, I came across a rather unpleasantly constructed street. If I'd thought of it I would've grabbed a picture, but instead I remained in motion. Anyway... the street is fundamentally wide enough to support an out of the way biker. But right of the edge is a sudden steep slope to the sidewalk (or where a sidewalk would be). Combined with the sand and gravel in the pit, there's really nothing to do but stay in traffic until it lets up.

G) Crossed 21st and turned left onto 19th, for the reasons mentioned earlier... too many cars coming to get over to the left turn lane at 21st.

H) Coming down toward where 21st shifts over to being I St., I was reminded of something Dan Burden said. He's a big proponent of lanes not being wider than they need to be, as well as back-in angle parking (saves room over parallel parking, is easier, and is safer than back-out). You can see a perfect example of this coming down 21st: parallel parking the whole way, but the two lane road has nearly another lane's worth of space if you count the additional space on either side. angle parking would fit quite well. The weakness? Wouldn't be able to use that existing extra space to ride comfortably.

I) So near the end of the ride, the Parkway at N 4th and I would be a great spot to stop and enjoy a chilled beverage. Alas, I am on a temporary beer hiatus, so it was not to be. Instead I head back to...

J) ...home.

A fun ride, on the whole. In the future I think I'll avoid 12th unless absolutely necessary. Next I think I might try something a little more southerly, and possibly venturing into east Tacoma and McKinley. If I can start riding out to the comic shop (72nd and Portland) on Saturdays, that would be fairly awesome.


jamie said...

If you rode yesterday evening you must have experienced The Wind. Much worse than The Rain, in my opinion. Feels like you have to work 3 times harder just to keep going forwards and/or falling over. I would imagine this made the trip down S 12th even worse, as going west on my ride home yesterday the headwind on Sixth Ave was awful.

As far as your comments about 9th, I'm actually always really wary about jumping in and out of the parking area and prefer to hold the lane. Sure, maybe I'm more likely to be in a car's way, but I'm going in a very-predictable straight line forwards and don't have to worry about whether there's a car in my way when I need to dodge a parked car. Just my philosophy. (Plus there's always lots of garbage in the parking area.)

izenmania said...

Yeah, the wind was blowing straight East while I was going West (uphill) on 12th. Was a grand old time. Then I hit a couple gusts on my last stretch of I that tried to knock me over entirely.

As far as jumping in and out of the parking zone... I'm pretty flexible. I base a lot of it on how much traffic there is (on that stretch of 9th I can rely on traffic being light enough that I'll always have more than enough openings to shift into the lane as I approach a parked car), the quality of the area (broken glass and other obstacles), etc.

That's also why I like having a mirror... I'm never caught of guard by an incoming car. If I see a car in the distance on both sides, I know to hold the lane since the two might converge at the same point.

Like I said... it varies. I like having that space available when I need it.

Dmitri said...

Even if your neck works perfectly, a mirror like that is much safer ... turning one's head often leads to turning one's bike.

I also like to stay out of cars' way, but am also big on being consistent and predictable, rather than moving in and out too much.

But, the bigger, more important issue is this ... what could possible warrant a beer hiatus?

Heather said...

I can't believe you rode that far on S 12th. I rode two blocks of it once, in the area of the Mandolin Cafe' and it was hell.

That stretch of Pearl is also not my favorite. I've even riden on the sidewalk between 21st and 30th on the west side of the street to avoid it. This is not safe either. Vassault is an alternative, but it gets tricky and I've lost my way before.

I'm looking forward to riding on Sunday. See you then.

izenmania said...

It was an adventure, certainly. Not something I'll do again unless I have a clear need to... I think for the stretch from Sprague to Cedar I'd go with 15th in future, with much less traffic and a bike lane some of the way.

But I don't know until I try, eh?

Next solo adventure: 72nd and Portland. Probably via Yakima most of the way over. We'll see how that goes, I haven't really scouted the hill situation.