Variety Bad

Rule 5 of my annoying-but-satisfying rules for urban commuting is to pick a route and stick to it. Why? Because habits keep things sane and safe. And by not needing to satisfy your variety/curiosity bug on something as mundane as the route you ride home, you can let your freak flag in some other area of your life.

Just don’t get facial tattoos. Unless you’re Maori, it’s not a good look.

Anyway, the safety of a predictable route to and from work. When you know your route, you know the dynamics of every intersection, where the buses like to cut you off, where the drunks are likeliest to stumble off the curb, where you need to give the door zone a wide berth.

And, most importantly, where the potholes lurk.

(this is one of the ones I know about)

I failed to observe Rule 5 last night. And it’s dark dark dark these days in Seattle. After taking a one block deviation from my normal path due to some backed-up traffic, I rode right into a tire-swallowing pothole. It could have been ugly, in a tumble-over-the-handlebars kind of way, but somehow I managed to stay upright. Must remember to mind my own rules.

Pine & Bellevue Green Bike Lane

Seattle Bike Blog points out the intersection of Pine and Bellevue – through which I cross twice daily on my commute – was ranked one of the top 5 crossings in Seattle for bike-car collisions. I can’t say I’m surprised; there’s lots of cars, buses, bikes and pedestrians in that area. The saving grace is that the cars aren’t usually moving very fast.

In response, the City of Seattle has painted a green bike lane through the intersection.

While well-intentioned, it’s not likely to make much of a difference. The problem with this intersection – and indeed, this entire stretch of westbound Pine – is the bike lane itself. It shouldn’t be there. There’s too much double-parking, too close of a door zone, too many pedestrians darting out, too many buses diving across the bike lane (and blocking it) to make stops and too many cars making right turns. It’s far safer for cyclists to simply take the lane, or use the bike lane only – and cautiously – to pass backed-up traffic.

Not to beat a dead horse, but I would have rather seen the City do to this intersection what they did to westbound Pine between 14th and 15th: bike lane uphill; sharrows downhill. People on bikes instinctively want to take bike lanes, and drivers expect them to. The city shouldn’t exacerbate this problem by painting lanes in places they don’t belong.

The good news is that we can take matters in our own hands. We’re not required to ride in bike lanes, and shouldn’t ever do so if it compromises safety.

Just ignore this bike “facility” and take the lane.