Bike lane salmon

2012-03-23

Earlier today my coworker Bill and I were riding back to our office from a lunch outing in Harvard Square. At one point he bumped into me in a manner recently joked about by local area artist-blogger @bikeyface in a post about being surprise-bumped from behind by another cyclist. Bill made contact with me because I slowed suddenly and with a slight panic when I realized I might get crashed into by a bike salmon in the lane we were in.

Nothing too terrible happened this time, and I managed to keep my curses contained to my inside-voice. This little stretch on Eliot St in Cambridge has two vehicular lanes and a bike line in one direction (the one we were going in) and one lane in the other direction (which she wasn't using). It's often quite packed with traffic, and I was happily surprised there wasn't a car right next to us adding complication to the situation - I can only imagine whoever was driving near us was sharp and saw what was coming their way, and did the right thing by slowing down. The wrong-way rider did not do the right thing, which would have been to stop and get out of the way as soon as the error was realized.

So, what happened here? Why did I find myself nearly running head-first into someone doing a fantastically ridiculous thing?

The weather this past week has been extraordinary, and the seasoned cyclists out there know that with the onset of spring comes a surge in the number of riders on the road as bikes are dusted off and folks set out to enjoy the newly favorable riding conditions.

This uptick in the number of riders includes with it some of the less experienced, and somewhat less law-abiding, riders. It's generally much safer for cyclists when there are more of us on the road (increased visibility and awareness), but sometimes this carries with it increased risk on a more localized level. As an analogy, when there's more bees trying to get into and out of the hive, chaos reigns and focus shifts from one maintaining one movement style to adopting a sketchier, less predictable form. Harvard Square is the hive, in this case.

One should not have to worry about someone on a bike going the wrong way in a bike lane. A bike lane with multiple, easily visible markers pointing in one, and only one, direction.

Yet, here she was. Quite nonchalant about the danger she was putting other people into.

Good luck to you all out there, and be aware of everything around you. And please, don't ride the wrong way in a bike lane.

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