Tag Archive for: karen karabell

CyclingSavvy group at Woodford Corner, Portland, ME

Springing Forward with Spring Courses

As the weather warms, thoughts turn to bicycling. CyclingSavvy spring courses are happening. Classroom sessions are being held online — which has proved to be, all in all, an advantage: people don’t have to travel, and can join from anywhere. Instructors and students can hang around longer at the end of a session.

On-bike sessions with Covid precautions are ramping up too. Here’s what we have as of now.

Savvy Cycling Now April Series

Instructors John Allen and Pamela Murray are hosting a Savvy Cycling Now online series on two Wednesday evenings, April 21 and 28. This will cover the same material as the “Truth & Techniques of Traffic Cycling” classroom session of our regular 3-part course, and qualifies students to proceed to the Train Your Bike in-person session anywhere, anytime and with any instructor. Students in this round will qualify for the Boston course described below, if space is available; we’ll arrange more sessions as needed. On-bike sessions will be discounted if you take Savvy Cycling Now to qualify for them.

Here’s a video clip from an August 11 2020 session of Savvy Cycling Now:

“Truth & Techniques of Traffic Cycling” contains a lot of information and ideas. They are easy to digest in a series of one-hour sessions, spread over four weeks. This format has proven itself.

St. Louis, April 21-25

Instructors Karen Karabell and Matthew Brown are running a full three-part course April 21-25. The classroom session is online and the on-bike sessions will be adapted with Covid precautions.

Boston area, May 14-15

Instructors John Allen, Bruce Lierman and John Brooking are running a full three-part course May 14-15. As with the St. Louis course, the classroom session will be online. The in-person sessions will be in Waltham, 10 miles west of the Boston downtown area. Both on-bike sessions will be on the same day, May 15.

Check Out Ride Awesome!

Ride Awesome!CyclingSavvy’s premium online course — is … awesome. There’s truly nothing like it. During the pandemic, lifetime access to Ride Awesome! is half price. This is the best fifty bucks you’ll ever spend.

This too qualifies students to proceed to discounted on-bike sessions anywhere, anytime and with any instructor. With enough requests, we should be able to have on-bike sessions within driving distance for most U.S. participants. Let us know if you want to complete the course. Contact us

CyclingSavvy Zooms

Adapting to the Pandemic

Instructors are testing how best to Zoom CyclingSavvy sessions and observe social distancing requirements for outdoor sessions.

CyclingSavvy instructor Pam Murray

CyclingSavvy Instructor Pam Murray. Photo credit: Kellar Shearon

Getting Rubber on the Road in Charlotte

During COVID, I’ve already taught a couple of full courses in Charlotte, North Carolina. There’s a resurgence of interest in biking and there are new riders every day.

I taught my first course since COVID on July 10-12, with precautions to reduce exposure as much as possible.

Truth & Techniques of Traffic Cycling is delivered online. Participants have told me they like this better. They report it’s much easier to enjoy this material from the comfort of their own homes.

I limit outdoor sessions to 10 students. Masks are required, with social distancing when possible. In North Carolina, as of this writing, group sizes are currently limited to 25 people outside and 10 people inside. While we are outside, I limit the group to the smaller size to be on the safe side. The only other change is to ride single-file vs. riding double-file, to socially distance as much as possible.

We find that classroom sessions work best with two instructors: one to give the presentation, and the other to monitor the chat window and manage discussion.

Due to the small class size in my courses, everyone chimed in with questions and everyone was engaged. “Truth & Techniques of Traffic Cycling” as I taught it lasted three full hours, in one session.

Live From St. Louis: Savvy Cycling Now

Instructor Karen Karabell is teaching online from St. Louis, Missouri. As an experiment last June, she asked friends to attend four one-hour sessions over the course of the month.

“Truth & Techniques of Traffic Cycling” contains a lot of information and ideas. Karen thought these would be easier for people to digest in a series of one-hour sessions, spread over four weeks.

CyclingSavvy zoom poll

July 28, 2020: Anonymous poll of Savvy Cycling Now participants.

Feedback from her friends was so gratifying that Karen asked our friend Serge Issakov to advertise a July series on two Facebook pages: Supporters of Full Lane Rights for Bicyclists and Bicyclists Belong in the Traffic Lane. Seventy-four people signed up! Fewer than half attended the sessions, though. (Research is clear that most people don’t value what they don’t pay for.)

At the end of the July series, Karen surveyed participants (see poll results). She asked the American Bicycling Education Association to consider making Savvy Cycling Now an official program.

ABEA Beta Testing

This August ABEA has been beta testing Savvy Cycling Now. One hundred and forty-five people signed up for this month’s free series. However, between 50 and 75 have shown up to the three sessions held so far this month.

This class size definitely requires two instructors  which makes the sessions better. Successful traffic cycling is as much an art as a science. Discussions are robust. The varying perspectives make for a gripping session.

Here’s a video clip from the August 11 session of Savvy Cycling Now:

In-Person vs. Virtual Instruction

With online instruction, interaction among students and instructors is less fluid, but there are also advantages. Nobody has to travel. Students participate from the comfort of their own homes, with easy access to a restroom and snacks.

People can sign up from anywhere. The three-hour session can be split up into shorter parts. Both Karen and I keep hearing from participants how valuable this information has been for them. We’re grateful to share it!

My Bike is a Lifeline

Bicycling is essential for my health and well-being, even more so now.  Bicycling has been my solace during this socially distanced and stressful time. It’s the one thing that is mostly the same. When people started asking when they could take the in-person course again, that’s why I started scheduling more of them.

Stay Tuned — and Check Out Ride Awesome!

Expect ABEA to roll out a Covid-adapted program soon. Students will be able to take the classroom session online, and socially-distanced outdoor sessions with any instructor.

Ride Awesome! —  CyclingSavvy’s premium online course — is … awesome. There’s truly nothing like it. During the pandemic, lifetime access to Ride Awesome! is half price. This is the best fifty bucks you’ll ever spend.

With enough requests, we should be able to offer on-bike sessions within driving distance for most U.S. participants (currently, only the United States has CyclingSavvy Instructors). Let us know if you want to complete the course. Contact us!

savvy cyclist

Learning A New Street Dance

I am a proud savvy cyclist…and I have a confession.

I took CyclingSavvy twice, first in Philadelphia and then Charlotte.

You might ask: Didn’t I learn anything the first time?

bike skills drills

Using the top floor of a downtown Philly parking garage for Train Your Bike, the parking lot skills session. Even experienced cyclists – like Marc – learn new things. From left: instructor Karen Karabell, Marc Caruso, Camille Gervasio, Shannon Walsh and John A Petty II

Yes.

I learned an incredible amount about training my bike and how to ride comfortably and confidently with traffic. But some things don’t sink in until later or, in my case, the second time around.

In Philly, I learned from Karen Karabell that there’s nothing scary about empty pavement behind you. How do you get “scary” roads to yourself? You make the lights and the law work for you.

A great example is choosing where you enter a road from. Use traffic lights to your advantage by turning right on green. You have no obligation to turn right on red.

By turning right on green, motorists on the road you’re turning onto are stopped at a red light. When they finally get a green, they’ll be far enough back to use one of the adjacent travel lanes to pass you, in whichever lane you’re not in.

Strategy, Courtesy and Mindfulness

We practiced the right-on-green technique in Charlotte, too. Before I tell you what happened, you need to know that the on-road Tour is like nothing you’ve ever done before.

You’ll be riding on roads you can’t believe you’re using — and you’ll be doing it by yourself, unless you don’t want to. Then an instructor will ride with you. But by the time you get to that point in the workshop, almost everyone wants to try on their own.

savvy cyclist charlotte

Marc making a left turn in Charlotte

A Savvy Cyclist Can Go Anywhere

As a savvy cyclist, I’m not a road warrior. Just the opposite!

CyclingSavvy instructors teach strategy, courtesy and mindfulness. They figure you’re probably OK riding on your neighborhood cul de sac, or on a trail. What they want is to show you how to make connections, so that you can ride out of your neighborhood, or not have to put your bike on a car to go to the trail.

When Motorists Want to Turn Right on Red

In Charlotte, we watched each student set off to practice right-on-green. It was a busy road and motorists would appear behind them. John Allen instructed the students to move to the left side of the lane and wave the motorists to pass on their right.

savvy cyclist facilitating right on red [orlando]

Staying to the left side of a lane allows motorists to turn right on red while you wait for a green light.

The motorists passed and made the right on red. When the light turned green, the student doing the feature would turn right.

The result was obvious: No cars on the big “scary” road behind the student. By turning right on green, motorists on that road were held back by a red light.

After making the turn, we were instructed to go directly into the lane we wanted. Motorists turning right on green with us could choose another lane and pass us easily.

Epiphany In Charlotte

Instructor Pamela Murray shook my thinking about shoulder checks.

savvy cyclists charlotte

Marc leads other savvy cyclists on the Tour of Charlotte

I use a helmet mirror, so some shoulder checks seemed unnecessary in my mind. Before taking CyclingSavvy in Charlotte, I only did shoulder checks when making lateral movements.

When I merged or turned, I’d do a shoulder check, signal, and shoulder check again to make sure it’s safe. Otherwise, I just used my mirror and then communicated with hand signals like “slow,” or “pass” when it was safe to pass me.

What this does, though, is make it seem like the motorist is communicating with just an inanimate piece of metal.

A Fellow Human

When you turn your head over your shoulder, you’re showing your face to the person behind you and making yourself recognized as another human being, not just a bike.

As a result of seeing your face, they’ll be more apt to take direction from you. People like to help other people out.

I’m grateful for the incredible, knowledgeable CyclingSavvy instructors who’ve helped change my street game into a savvy cyclist dance.

savvy cyclists charlotte

Celebrating last November after a great day in Charlotte. Left to right: Carl Fenske (who became a CyclingSavvy Instructor in February 2018), Marc Caruso, Doug Guerena, Pamela Murray, Charlene Poole, John Allen, John Gaul and Shannon Walsh

 

energy is real

Energy Is Real

I’m shocked when motorists are rude to me. Here in St. Louis or anywhere I ride, it just doesn’t happen.

The driver’s anger poisoned the energy of the other drivers on the road. Everyone started honking.

riding a bike on a freeway-like surface street

Google Maps view of Forest Park Parkway

OK, I’m exaggerating. Last year one driver was obnoxious.

He or she apparently could not buh-lieve I’d ride a bicycle on that road.

I was riding on Forest Park Parkway, a road similar in design to a freeway. People on this section are typically zooming through to get somewhere else.

On a fateful afternoon last fall, a driver of a black Audi either stayed or got stuck behind me — I’m not sure which — and honked for what seemed like an eternity.

Here’s What’s Fascinating

The driver’s anger poisoned the energy of the other drivers on the road. Everyone started honking. I waved to acknowledge their annoyance, and my humanity.

What could I do? I was on a section where I couldn’t escape. I simply had to endure, until I got to my destination at the other end of this canyon-like stretch of road.

forest park parkway in saint louis

Forest Park Parkway between Skinker and Big Bend boulevards in St. Louis

On the rare occasions that I have problems, I don’t blame “stupid” motorists. I analyze what happened. What could I have done differently so it wouldn’t happen again?

Energy Is Real

A big reason I have such good experiences is because I expect to.

Attitude elevates your ride. Courtesy and cooperation are the twin pillars of every great ride.

Attitude elevates your ride. It’s important to understand the dynamics of truly dangerous situations, and how to avoid them. Once you’ve got that down, courtesy and cooperation are the twin pillars of every great ride.

If you’re a mensch, you have every reason to expect other drivers to be mensches, too.

Ever since my honking takedown, I’ve wanted to revisit the scene, and see if I could control the energy around me this time. I’d be more careful to actively communicate with the motorists who would most assuredly be on the road with me.

I finally rode it again last Friday. You can see what happened below.

william phelps eno

William Phelps Eno, My Hero

On this day devoted to love, I admit to adoring a man who’s not my husband.

Yes, Harold knows. He also thinks highly of the guy, though he’d draw the line at “adore.” Not me. I love what this guy did for humanity.

thank the father of traffic safety for your safe travelsWhen you go out today — reasonably certain of being able to get where you want to go without incident — thank this man. He had something to do with your safe travels, even though you’ve probably never heard of him.

His name is William Phelps Eno. Well over 100 years ago he created pretty much everything we take for granted as we move about on our public roadways. Stop signs, crosswalks, traffic circles, one-way streets, drivers’ licenses: That’s all from Eno, and much more.

Perhaps the biggest thing he did was develop the “Rules of Movement” that we still use today. At least most of us. Yes, there are people on bicycles who don’t use them — and more terrifying, people in cars. I’ll get to that in a minute.

Eno didn’t invent the Rules of Movement. He observed the way ships operate on the high seas, and applied these ideas to our public roads.

New York City 1909 traffic code

A section of the world’s first traffic regulations, drafted by Eno and issued by New York City in 1909

Our streets and roads

are BY FAR our largest public property. We’ve used them for centuries not just for travel, but for socializing, commerce and play.

Lately we’ve been using our public property to make statements. #InsertYourCause and go march on a large arterial road.

Eno started thinking about traffic in 1867, when he was 9 years old and stuck with his mother in a buggy on a New York City street. He later wrote: “That very first traffic jam (many years before the motor car came into use) will always remain in my memory. There were only about a dozen horses and carriages involved, and all that was needed was a little order to keep the traffic moving. Yet nobody knew exactly what to do; neither the drivers nor the police knew anything about the control of traffic.”

guy riding wildly on his bicycle

The Scorcher

Things got worse before they got better, in part because of nifty new machines that everyone was riding. Hooray for bicycles!

At the turn of the 20th Century, “scorchers” were accused of scaring horses and causing crashes. Many victims were children playing in the street, which led to a public outcry. Somebody had to do something!

Eno did.

He’s described as a “public-spirited citizen” who insisted three things were needed to bring order to our streets:

  • Concise, simple and just rules, easily understood, obeyed and enforced under legal enactment
  • These rules must be so placed and circulated that there can be no excuse for not knowing them
  • Police must be empowered and ordered to enforce them, and trained for that purpose

At age 40 he left his family business to work on road safety and traffic control. His innovations led to the elegance and simplicity that define the US transportation system, and others around the world modeled upon it.

People on bicycles fit right in.

It took me awhile to truly understand and embrace this. I learned the basics when I first took CyclingSavvy.

What? The guy who created rules for safe traffic flow and designed the world’s first traffic plans and is honored as the Father of Traffic Safety never drove a car? Eno died in 1945, so he could have driven one.

He’s said to have detested cars, and predicted they’d be a passing fad.

Father of Traffic Safety never drove a car

Well! This was inspiring. I loved learning that the rules regarding traffic were developed well before the rise of the automobile. But look what’s happened since then. We’ve watched Eno’s ideas scale “up” to the point where private auto use has become ubiquitous. These days, cars are overused to the point of ridiculousness. One of every four auto trips in America is less than a mile. That’s heartbreaking.

Our challenge now is showing how Eno’s ideas scale “down.” Hell, yes, you can use your bike instead of your car!

There are certain things you need to know to keep yourself safe. Back to bicyclists and motorists who think the rules don’t apply to them:

Your safety is a product of your behavior.

When crashes happen, we can almost always identify the behavior that led to the crash. That’s a big part of what we do in CyclingSavvy: We show people what really causes crashes, and more important, how to avoid them.

I wish Eno were here. I’d take him on a bike ride.

He’d instantly understand how savvy cycling — created by two other people nobody’s ever heard of — could make the use of cars…not a thing of the past — they’re just too useful — but much less necessary.

I will be forever grateful to Eno for teaching me that the Rules of Movement — which he so brilliantly applied to our public roads — have nothing to do with size or speed. They have a whole lot to do with another “S” word, as well as a couple of “C” words. No, one of those “C” words is not cars!

Safety, courtesy and cooperation are the hallmarks of the US transportation system. While the rare bad encounter sticks in your craw, think about how good and uneventful your typical commute is, however you convey yourself.

For this you can thank Eno.

 

ebikes

Everyone’s A Racer Now

How fast is your city? You might have missed this info at the bottom of last week’s post about electric bikes. For most trips, an e-bike could get you to your destination as quickly as your car.

The trick is knowing how to keep yourself safe while you zip around.

chart of average US driving speeds

Part Two

Four days after returning to St. Louis, I walked into my local e-bike dealer with my credit card ready. My husband and I didn’t own a cargo bike. After riding my sister’s electric cargo bike in Nashville, I wanted to see for myself if an e-cargo bike could truly replace car trips.

E-cargo bike pictured from the rear

One less car.

While we looked around the store, my husband noticed a lovely commuter bike. “That one’s used,” Archie, the dealer, told us.

It looked hardly used, and was deeply discounted. Harold and I would be able to ride together!

We bought it, and that hasn’t happened. Harold prefers his 100 percent human-powered bikes. There’s certainly good reason for that. With e-bikes it’s easier to get in trouble, because of the higher speeds a person can go. Harold calls himself “Old Turtle.” He likes to go slow.

I love using both e-bikes. To my surprise, I’m on the commuter much more than the cargo e-bike. I was on the commuter e-bike when I crashed.

A previous owner named the bike “Black Beauty.” I call it the “Black Stallion,” because it zips along like the most gorgeous beast.

When I had my accident, I was riding on Kingshighway, one of our town’s major arterial roads. The Stallion and I were zipping over to The Hill, an Italian neighborhood about three miles from my home. I was in the outer of three lanes and stopped at a red light with other traffic. I planned to turn right, and had already signaled my intentions to the driver behind me.Speedy e-bikes

While waiting at the light, I glanced to my left at a woman in a white car. She thankfully saw me, too, because of what happened next.

The light turned green. A shiny red pickup truck in front of me started to go. The Stallion took off as I engaged both the throttle and pedal assist, which was in its highest speed.

Then the driver in front of me stopped.

I slammed on my brakes to avoid hitting the back of the truck. Because this e-bike’s back end is heavy — that’s where the battery is — I didn’t fly over the handlebars. But I did lose control. I fell to the left on the road, and was suddenly blocking two of the three lanes of traffic.

At the time I had a milk crate zip-tied to the rear rack. As I fell over, the crate’s contents spilled onto Kingshighway. (Yes, after this escapade I started using a bike cargo net.)

The woman in the middle lane stopped her white car and jumped out. “Are you OK?” she asked. “I’m fine,” I responded as I stood and lifted my bike back up. “I just didn’t want to hit the truck in front of me.”

I don’t know what story she told that night at her dinner table, but that’s my version. Mainly I was embarrassed, holding up TWO of the three lanes of traffic going in my direction. All I wanted was to get out of the way.

The woman found my U-lock in front of her car. She picked it up and gave it to me. I waved apologetically to all the people I was holding up and walked my bike and bruised ego onto the sidewalk.

e-bike and empty arterial road

This is typically how the Kingshighway bridge looks as I cross it. There’s nothing scary about empty pavement!

e-bike on sidewalk overlooking next traffic wave.

While the light is red, though, lots of others pull up and wait at the light with me. When I slammed on my brakes and crashed to avoid hitting a pickup truck in front of me, this bike and I blocked two of the three traffic lanes.

I’ll make a mistake once, but not twice. As soon as I got home, I described what happened to my fellow CyclingSavvy instructors. I needed to talk about this. I never dreamed I could smash a bicycle into the back of someone else’s vehicle! CSI Brian Cox, a fellow e-bike enthusiast and bike shop owner in Southern California, had excellent advice.

“Leave a car length between you and the motorist in front of you,” Brian wrote. “You now have the speed to beat motorists off the line and you are responsible to not hit the motorist in front of you.

“With a people-powered bicycle, you did not have the acceleration capability you now have with a motorized bicycle.”

CSI John Schubert offered framing that I’d never considered.

“With an eBike, we ordinary riders can now ride at racing speeds,” he observed. “We therefore need the vigilance, razor sharp attention, and caution that go with riding that fast.”

Hmm. John’s right, though when I’m practicing “driver behavior,” I’ve felt fine riding the bikes at their max speeds of 20 to 25 MPH.

E-bikes magnify the need to understand both cyclist and motorist behaviors. For example…

My e-bikes have indeed replaced my car trips. But I’m well aware that they are still bikes — and that no motorist wants to be behind me, even if I am going as fast as Lance.

This is part of being savvy, too: How to help others who want to go faster than you do so, easily and without conflict.

Then — especially on an e-bike — you invariably pull right up behind them at the next red light. Just make sure not to hit ’em.

CSI Shannon Martin had comforting words.

“As more riders adopt e-bike technology, experiences like yours will help riders understand the power of the machines they ride and the need for sound bicycle handling skills to keep themselves safe.”

Next article in this series: Ebikes, education, training and the law.

 

ebikes

Savvy Ebiking To A Car-Free Future

Part One

My sister warned me. “After you ride mine, you’ll want one.”

She was talking about her electric bicycle. Ironically, she’d never heard of e-bikes until I suggested she buy one.

Pull quote highlighting text: Nashville terrain kept her from bike commutingShannon learned to ride when she was 11, but for the next 30 years or so, showed no interest in bicycling, except to comment on observations she’d made from behind the wheel of her car.

During those years we enjoyed lively conversations about bicycling. If Shannon asked my opinion, I’d give it. Otherwise, I tried not to proselytize.

I’ve been an avid transportation cyclist for years, but I’m well aware that this is a tough sell to most Americans.

“C’mon now. Can it possibly be safe AND courteous to ride a bicycle in traffic?”

Adult bicycling education is an even tougher sell.

Savvy cycling makes transportation cycling a no-brainer. Yet you don’t learn this stuff overnight. Savvy cycling needs to be experienced. Then it takes time to process what you’ve experienced. There’s a lot to absorb, and deep cultural conditioning to overcome. So, I didn’t push my love of cycling on my sister.

But then, out of the blue in the Spring of 2016, Shannon called with shocking news.

“I bought a bicycle,” she said.

“Really?” I responded. Nothing she could tell me would have surprised me more.

Once Shannon decided to get a bike, education was an easy sell! Shannon is the kind of woman who becomes an expert at anything she sets her mind to. She read voraciously about bicycling and signed up for CyclingSavvy Online (there were no CyclingSavvy instructors in Nashville at the time). She loved the online course so much that she decided to travel to St. Louis to take an in-person workshop.

Shannon on trike in St. Louis

Shannon used her recumbent trike when she participated in a St. Louis CyclingSavvy workshop in August 2016

Pull quote highlighting text: I'm a textbook example of how an e-bike transformed me into a cyclist.

Shannon discovered for herself 1) the tremendous control she could have over her safety while riding and 2) that it was impossible for her to significantly delay motorists. Trust me, she tried. One of her vehicles is a recumbent tricycle. You have to change lanes to pass those things.

In traffic-choked Nashville, she figured that she could get to her office almost as quickly on her bike as in her car. She was ready to ride everywhere. Then Middle Tennessee’s “hills” put the kibosh on her plans to become a bicycle commuter, at least temporarily.

Nashville features gorgeous mountainous terrain, a challenge for anyone who commutes by bike. Shannon has no shower at her office. She didn’t want to carry multiple sets of clothes, and needed to look professional when she arrived. I suggested she consider an e-bike, even though I knew next to nothing about them.

She researched various brands, and rode e-bikes in New York City and Nashville. She decided to patronize a local dealer, and bought not one but two: a cargo and a commuter. I loved hearing about her adventures with each e-bike, which served very different purposes.

When I went to Nashville last April to celebrate Shannon’s birthday, we rode her e-bikes around town.

She was right.

I wasn’t “sold,” though. I was captivated.

Riding an e-bike in Nashville traffic

Shannon riding on Hillsboro Road in Nashville, Tennessee

E-bikes aren’t replacements for bikes. They replace cars. They can move you across town, and over steep hills, at higher speeds with less effort while still offering clean, low-cost transportation. What a tremendous opportunity to change the conversation about transportation, and maybe finally make bicycling normal in America.Pull quote highlighting text: With speed comes a greater need to understand the environment.

But there’s a catch many people don’t realize. With speed comes a greater need to understand the traffic environment: sight lines, door zones, blind spots, and common motorist mistakes caused by underestimating speed. Without this understanding, an e-bike may be just as likely as any other bike to gather dust in the garage after a few close calls.

This is why the engagement of CyclingSavvy and e-bike owners needs to happen, and it can’t be a moment too soon.

“I am a textbook example of how an e-bike transformed someone who doesn’t ride into a cyclist,” Shannon said.

That, and a solid knowledge of savvy cycling. Shannon went on to become a CyclingSavvy Instructor. (I wasn’t kidding when I called her an expert.)

Now that I’ve told you some of Shannon’s story, I want to tell you mine. But that’ll have to wait until next week.

Next Week: The Crash

The Reality of Speed

While pondering how to make the shidduch of e-bike owners and CyclingSavvy, I did some Googling. It hopefully won’t be news to you that personal automobiles are a major cause of global warming. But do you truly appreciate how shockingly inefficient cars are at getting us anywhere?

chart of average US driving speeds

How fast is your city? If you click through, you’ll likely be surprised at how slow motorists are in cities. Your e-bike can get there just as quickly.

biking from airports

Biking Out Of Airports

When you fly somewhere, do you ever wish you could just ride from the airport to your destination? Forget Uber (or rental car/public transit/hotel shuttle). Hop on your bike and go!

In the last year I’ve ridden in or out of Houston Hobby, LaGuardia, Washington Reagan, LAX and Boise. My colleague Gary Cziko met me last November at LAX and recorded a sweet video of our trip from there.

The Boise, Idaho, airport is near the center of the city.

Boise Airport

Oh, and last week I rode out of SeaTac. I won’t do that again. But before I tell you why, I want to tell you about the best airport ride I’ve had this year.

On the day I arrived last June in Boise, brilliant blue skies framed the mountains that cradle Idaho’s capital city, aptly named “Treasure Valley.” Big-city airports typically take “forever” to roll out of. But Boise’s airport is small enough that I was soon on “dreaded” Vista Avenue, the main drag leading into town.

My friend Lisa Brady, who runs Boise’s Safe Routes To Schools program, warned me to be careful on Vista. I’d be likely to encounter fast and uncivil drivers, she said.Google Maps recommends staying off Vista Avenue when biking from Boise Airport to Downtown Boise.

Hmm. Even Google Maps advised me to avoid Vista.

Oh boy. A challenge! While still in St. Louis I carefully studied satellite views. I was puzzled over the admonitions. Vista seemed like a fairly normal arterial road. Two travel lanes in each direction, with a two-way center-turn lane between.

I’d never been to Boise, though. Especially when bicycling in a new place, it’s always good to have a Plan B. If I felt endangered or even the slightest bit uncomfortable, I’d hop on public transit for the rest of my trip to Downtown Boise.

As I set off from the airport I constantly monitored my helmet’s rearview mirror. How were other drivers reacting to my presence on the road?

Ah-h-h! I relaxed almost immediately. Savvy cycling works here, too.

The “dance” is the same everywhere I’ve been in the United States. I’m on a bicycle. No motorist wants to be behind me. On Vista, the sight lines are good and other drivers saw me from so far back they didn’t even take their feet off the gas to change lanes to pass.

Confident that I’d merely have to be mindful and not vigilant, I started taking in the local streetscape. What a delight to discover connections to my beloved St. Louis! One major intersection was at Targee. Thomas Targee saved St. Louis from the Great Fire of 1849. (My sister and I host an airbnb apartment named after Targee, but that’s another story.)

The next major intersection was Overland. Too weird! Overland is a lovely older St. Louis suburb. Years ago my husband and I considered buying our first home in Overland. As I waited at the light and mulled the serendipity, I was yelled at.

“Girl! You need to get out of the middle of the street!”

This unsolicited advice came from a grizzled guy who appeared to be about my age. He was riding his bike on the sidewalk, and waiting at the light with a young fellow who appeared to be a college student — also riding his bike on the sidewalk, and wisely ignoring us both.

“Grizzly” startled me, but I was in a jovial mood. I smiled at him.

“Don’t you know it’s rude to yell at strangers?” I responded.

The traffic light was long so I decided to play with him.

“By the way, did you know the sidewalk is the most dangerous place to ride?”

He sneered as the light turned green. At the next signalized intersection he and I crossed paths. I rode onto the sidewalk because I saw the spire of Boise’s magnificent historic train station. I wanted to study Google Maps to figure out how to get to it.

To my astonishment — and then horror — I watched as “Grizzly” rolled onto Vista Avenue and away down the hill. I wanted to shout after him:

“Dude! Get back on the sidewalk! You’ll be safer.”

You see, he rode his bike on the right edge of the right travel lane. If you’re going to ride on a high-speed arterial road, own your space! Control your travel lane. Make it clear to other drivers that they need to change lanes to pass.

By riding on the right edge, it would take only one motorist on high-speed Vista Avenue to make a mistake and think there was room enough to “share” the lane.

I shuddered and said a prayer for his safety. I fervently hoped the dictum would hold true: Even when done poorly, bicycling is very safe.

As far as I know, he was fine —  and I sure was! Lisa met me at my hotel. She regaled me with a ride to remember. What a wonderful city she calls home! We had a splendid time.

Lisa Brady in Downtown Boise with her bike and T-shirt's excellent message

Amen, Sister.

Karen Karabell and Lisa Brady on Boise River Greenbelt

Selfie over Boise River

I found it totally easy to be car-free in Boise. I can’t wait to go back and explore some more.

And Seattle? I doubt that I’ll ride again to or from SeaTac, but not because of the airport. Like all airports, it was super easy to navigate using savvy cycling principles.

It’s just Seattle. I had to ride 18 miles that afternoon. I was hauling a bunch of stuff to teach CyclingSavvy. Our hosts warned us that Seattle was hilly, but I thought I could handle it. Wrong. The distance combined with the terrain defeated me. I grew weary of pushing my bike and loaded trailer up steep hills. I hopped on Sound Transit.

Savvy cyclists always have a “Plan B.” ;)

cycling right on green

How To Get A “Scary” Road All To Yourself

My bank is on the corner of a major St. Louis intersection. Before I started using a marvelous CyclingSavvy strategy, I dreaded going to this bank.

If I rode, I added at least half a mile to my trip to avoid biking on the major arterial road on which the bank sits. :(

If I drove, I felt guilty using my two-ton land missile to process pieces of paper. :(

Then I learned about turning right on green. Motorists, of course, turn right on red if they can.

BMO Harris Bank on the corner of Kingshighway & Southwest In St. Louis.

My bank, at the intersection of major arterial roads in St. Louis

But I learned through CyclingSavvy that if I wait for a green light to turn right onto major arterial roads, I typically get the road all to myself for the amount of time I need to be on it.

Game Changer

Why is this such a big deal?

Because the red light shuts down the pipe. The motorists on that road are waiting at a red light. While they just sit there, I can get where I need to be. On my bicycle!

You’ll see above how I use Kingshighway–a massive St. Louis stroad–for the three blocks I need to get to my bank.

Magnolia Avenue at Kingshighway in St. Louis

Wait until the light is green on the “smaller” road to turn onto the “big” road

In the video I’m turning right on yellow. I would have preferred to show you a “pure” right-on-green maneuver. But at some point I needed to quit taping and get back to my day job. This is Take #2 of 5. The other takes were also totally uneventful. Here’s the first take, if you’re a junkie for this stuff.

Right-on-green works like a charm. Over the years I’ve used this strategy hundreds of times. I can’t recall a bit of trouble anywhere I’ve used it.

If you try right-on-green, it’ll seem weird at first, being out there all by yourself on your bicycle.

Another tip: Go immediately into the lane that best serves your destination. If you’re making a left up ahead, use right-on-green to go directly into the left lane. Position yourself early, and you won’t need to negotiate with fast-moving traffic, which is hard to do.

What if the light turns green while you’re riding your bike on that big scary road? Motorists who come up behind you will see you from a long way back. They see that you’re on a bicycle. They’ll assume you’re slow, even if you’re not. They’ll either slow down, or choose whatever lane you’re not in to pass you.

Any motorist turning right on green with you at the intersection will quickly leave you in the dust. They don’t want to be behind you. On multi-lane roads they’ll choose a lane you’re not in to pass you.

Often, you’ll roll right up behind them at the next red light.

If they’re surprised to see you, just smile and wave. :)