Sunday, January 21, 2007

the path less traveled: cycling

Continuing his exploration of carfree options (previous pedestrian post) in the real world, Homeless Dave reports on his cycling adventure. His route includes the Y where Huron splits to Jackson and Dexter-Ann-Arbor roads.

Installment Two: Cycling

Because of the time of year and the time of day for this trip, I first had to plan far enough ahead to make sure my headlamp was charged. I was thinking ahead mainly to my visibility to motorists from the front when I made my first major cycling maneuver on this trip.

The left turn from 7th onto Huron is one I'm very familiar with for daytime cycling. Even in broad daylight, it requires extra vigilance to stay safe. You have to claim your space in the left-turn lane, and as the attached image shows, 7th St. jogs a full street width west. What the attached image does not show is that the approach from the north for cars is up a hill, which partially obscures visibility in both directions. Not to mention,
going 'straight' feels like a left-hand turn to a motorist approaching from the north. In general, motorists tend to be a little discombobulated by this intersection if they're not completely familiar with it. If they're familiar with it, they tend to just assume everyone else is, too. That accounts for the guy in the 'straight' lane honking his horn impatiently behind a driver who
didn't want to 'turn left' and was stuck in the middle of the intersection.

In any case, I negotiated the intersection without incident. It occurred to me that I should consult the owner's manual for my headlamp to learn how to make it strobe. I'm pretty sure I remember that it has that functionality. I wonder what motorists think of that sort of flashing. I wonder if the Bike Light Building 101 on 14
January or the Light Building Workshop on 28 January (details here) teaches you how to built a light with a strobing function.

On the return trip, making the left from Maple onto Dexter-Ann-Arbor Rd. I couldn't get the traffic signal to give me a turn arrow. Having read about sensors on cfa2.blogspot.com, I looked for pavement cuts and whatnot, but didn't see any. I messed about in the road a bit, before giving up. I missed one cycle of light changes before a car came up behind me and that triggered the sensor for the next cycle.

Not long after making that left turn, the sound of jingling keys hitting the asphalt alerted me that I had not adequately zipped the pocket of my jacket. I wasn't too worried about finding a set of keys in the middle of the road, even in the dark. I had 15W of power to bring to bear on the situation. Even when a vehicle approached before I could retrieve my keys, I wasn't worried. What's the chance the
tires will actually roll over the keys? The photo shows that my optimism was not well-placed. I figure I should just embrace the irony that it was the key to my bicycle lock that was damaged. Anybody have a suggestion
for a DYI to fix the housing? [The spare is long since lost, so it's not as easy as swapping it out for the one in the kitchen drawer.] I'm thinking of some sort of big wad of marine epoxy.

4 comments:

Bruce Fields said...

"It occurred to me that I should consult the owner's manual for my headlamp to learn how to make it strobe. I'm pretty sure I remember that it has that functionality. I wonder what motorists think of that sort of flashing."

Sounds kinda distracting to me.

I'd expect a 15W bike light to be plenty visible. But it might be fun some time to have a group of people take turns riding up and down a busy street at night with different lighting and see what they look like.

HomelessDave said...

"Sounds kinda distracting to me."

Yeah, I'm thinking that the reaction it might provoke would be WTF??!! Damn cyclists!! Which is not usually what I'm shooting for.

I've since learned how to do it, by the way. You have to depress the button for a LONNG time, like about four seconds, and then you can alternate with a single brief press between all kinds of various functions: strobe, SOS distress, a very faint lamp for walking. So on top of the fact that it's maybe not the very best idea anyway, the idea of switching into strobe mode at an intersection is undermined with this system by the need to hold the button down. That attention would easily be better invested in monitoring what traffic is doing.

"people take turns riding up and down a busy street at night with different lighting and see what they look like."

I like this as a possibility for a Curb your Car Month activity. Somebody could film it, edit it down to just the contrasting lighting systems, get some local indie musicians types to write some cool Bike Light song as the sound track, YouTube it, ... fame and glory follow for getDowntown.

Scott said...

I ride with a rear blinker and a steady beam headlight.

I go with the strobe in the back because I think it is most visible, especially from a distance. I'm hoping it will alert cars that something unexpected is coming up ahead.

My headlight doesn't blink because
a) I can see that one and the flashing bugs me.
b) The headlight is brighter and more focused, so it is likely more annoying and distracting to the car in front of me. In contrast, the rear blinker is not very bright, especially with headlights shining on it.

I'm prepping a list of ideas for Curb your Car month events. I'll add the film & soundtrack to it. Do you have suggestions for musicians to approach?

Joel said...

In regards to "fixing" the key:
First off, get a copy made. When I lived in Berkley, I'd have recommended Big D Lock and Key, at Coolidge and Sunnyknoll, but this ain't Berkley. Perhaps Vogel's Locks and Safes, at 113 W. Washington.
would be useful.

As far as DIY solutions, I'd recommend burning away all the plastic housing, just hold it over a candle - IN A WELL VENTILATED ROOM OR OUTDOORS. Then you'll just have the shank of the key, and probably some indentations that you can wrap wire around.