Most of my trips occur within a six-mile radius of home, and it’s usually easiest to go by bike. Years ago another St. Louisan promoted bicycling by saying: “Less than five, why drive?” This is true for six-mile trips, too :-)
Last month, though, I had to conduct business that was not only outside of my radius but accessible “only” via an interstate.
Figuring out how to get there by any means other than my car was so complicated that I almost threw in the towel during the route planning process.
But Monday morning dawned beautiful and beckoning. With school out for the summer, I had time and was up for the challenge. I settled on a route that took me through a cemetery and relied on either A) a gate between the cemetery and my destination being unlocked; or B) me locking up my bike on the cemetery side and scaling a fence to the medical center on the other side that was my destination.
My adventure included using a greenway paralleling a busy St. Louis arterial road. This road has four lanes with a speed limit of 40 MPH. This means that many if not most are driving 45 MPH, and some upwards of that. A number of small streets intersect the stretch of greenway I used.
Road users on the small intersecting streets have stop signs, as do greenway users…
. . . but motorists on the arterial road do not.
As a savvy cyclist I know that greenway stop signs are NOT to be ignored. For my safety I scanned ahead, behind, and to my right before proceeding into the intersection. Given the speed of other traffic and sight lines, I felt like I could never look enough to be completely satisfied.
I might as well have been a Bobblehead! By the time I confirmed that there were no oncoming motorists who might suddenly decide to turn left, I had to look behind me again to assure there were no overtaking motorists who might suddenly decide to turn right, and vice versa. Traffic was fairly light. The workload of doing this with rush hour traffic would be much greater! The greenway between intersections was perfectly pleasant, but the work required at intersections was exhausting.
I had to reroute my trip due to a section of road being underwater. Thank goodness for smart phones!
After consulting my phone and getting my bearings, the rest of the trip was straightforward. I arrived at the cemetery and made my way slowly and respectfully to the gate for the moment of truth:
Hallelujah! The gate was open. No need to scale fences! It was nice to have my bike with me, as the building I was headed to was on the opposite side of a very large medical compound.
It occurred to me that riding my bike through the gate was a bit of a gamble. What if I returned to a locked gate? I’d be SOL, or at least stuck planning a long and complicated reroute.
Mission complete, I retraced my route through the large medical campus. Fortunately, the gate was still open, making a smooth start for my return voyage. If I were to make the trip by bicycle regularly, I would ask about the gate — i.e., are there set times when it’s open? If not, could there be?
My trip home was uneventful. After my discomfort on the outgoing leg of the trip, I chose to forego the greenway on my return. Being part of traffic and following the rules of movement is just so easy and straightforward! The trickiest bit was after the four-lane road became only two lanes. I was on the two-lane section for just under a mile.
I prefer not to have motorists stacked up behind me, so I pulled onto the shoulder twice and stopped to let groups of overtaking vehicles (AKA platoons) pass. It only took a few seconds, and then I had this road–with its 40 MPH posted speed limit–all to myself between platoons.
I arrived home tired but happy to have made the 20-mile trip by bicycle, rather than resorting to the car.
It took me a bit over an hour each way. Realistically, that is time that I can’t afford every day, though recent timely discussions on e-bikes make me wonder how having a little boost would change the equation.