Tag Archive for bike paths

Police target distracted drivers for a whole month, Ventura farmers fear you’ll pee on their crops

Once again, police agencies around the state and across the country are targeting distracted drivers in the month of April.

Last year’s stepped up enforcement efforts lead to over 57,000 drivers being ticketed for texting or using hand-held phones behind the wheel. Not to mention another 3,800 nabbed for other illegal and unwise behaviors, such as eating, shaving and applying makeup as they sped down the roadway.

Not that you’d do anything like that, of course.

Which is why, like me, you probably wish police would dedicated themselves to the same level of enforcement the other eleven months of the year.

Because 60,000 tickets a month, every month, might actually get California drivers to put down their phones and pay attention behind the wheel. And maybe even save a few lives in the process.

Yeah, right. I know.

Here’s the press release from the LAPD. Thanks to Paul B. for the heads-up.

Distracted-Driver-Month-New

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Ventura County farmers fear people and animals using a new rural bikeway will pee on crops and be sickened by pesticides, something that evidently never happens at farms located along rural roadways frequented by bike riders.

I grew up in farm country — no, really, my high school team was called the Lambkins for chrissake — and spent much of the first 30 years of my life riding in rural areas. And I can assure you that when the need arises, there are far better and less visible places to take a leak than the middle of some farmer’s cropland.

Even though it may not necessarily be a bad thing.

And if a farmer can’t manage to apply his pesticides in a manner that allows him to control where it ends up, he probably shouldn’t be using them in the first place.

Then again, as someone who has been crop dusted on more than one occasion, it hasn’t killed me yet.

Although, now that I think of it, it may explain a lot.

Thanks to Machiko Yasuda for the heads-up, and Bike SD’s Sam Ollinger for that number one link.

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Today’s must read — an examination of design-oriented traffic safety vs. passive safety. It may be a little dense for us non-planners, but definitely worth the read.

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I get a lot of emails from various people and companies wanting me to promote their products.

Some just don’t interest me, while others get lost in the shuffle. And many end up in the delete file for one reason or another; often because they have the audacity to offer me some small discount in a vain attempt to lower my editorial standards.

No, seriously.

If you’re going to bribe me, at least make it worth my while.

But every now and then, someone will approach me with an idea that actually makes sense. Like this one, attempting to raise funds for an ultra-reflective bike tire called LIT.

I rode something similar when I tested the Urbana Bike a couple of years ago. And never felt more visible; even without lights, the bike could be easily seen on the darkest streets.

Combine a reflective stripe like that with the durability of Gatorskins, and I’m there. Which, thanks to LIT’s puncture protection layer, it just might be.

So if, unlike me, you’ve got a few extra bucks to invest, this is one project I might just recommend.

In fact, I think I just did.

Meanwhile, this is one Kickstarter project that really should get funded, but probably won’t.

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Here’s your chance to vote for funding for CicLAvia or Bicycle-Friendly Business Districts, among other projects for My LA2050; I cast my vote for the latter, since getting businesses on our side will do more than anything else to speed acceptance of bicycling in the City of Angeles. The proposed $3 billion bond issue to repair L.A.’s streets is being revived, with hearings throughout the city this month; I still can’t support it unless it includes provisions to repair the city’s broken sidewalks and speed up implementation of the L.A. bike plan as street get repaved. The latest Unity Ride will roll Sunday, April 28th to strengthen ties between L.A. and the San Fernando Valley — much of which is L.A. Letter writers weighing in with the Eagle Rock Neighborhood Council were overwhelmingly in support of bike lanes on Colorado Blvd; I understand speakers at Tuesday’s meeting strongly backed the proposed lanes, as well. Update: In a bit of late-breaking news, the Eagle Rock NC voted to supported buffered bike lanes on Colorado Blvd. Bike lanes are proposed for Cal Poly Pomona, where cyclist Ivan Aguilar was killed a little over a month ago perhaps due to the lack of them. KCRW traffic maven Kajon Cermak wants to know if L.A.’s newly synchronized traffic lights have sped up your drives through the city; I can’t speak for driving, but I seem to get stopped at more lights when I ride these days.

Applications for Newport Beach’s new Bicycle Master Plan Oversight Committee are due Wednesday; meanwhile, donations to the city’s Bike Safety Improvement Fund totaled over $75,000, which Newport Beach will match on a three-to-one basis. A proposed bill would force drivers to acknowledge they understand the dangers of distracted driving when they get their license. Bike safety is finally coming to Bakersfield. Cyclelicious says those traffic light detectors work better if you lay your bike on its side. Specialized Creative Director Robert Eggers says the company is intoxicated by bicycles, and wants to spread the disease to everyone. Good advice on how to ride through parking lots. A cyclist is killed in Red Bluff traffic collision.

A writer for People for Bikes correctly points out that for every “FU” we cyclists utter, there’s an equal and opposite “FU” from motorists; the antidote, he says, is to say “careful” instead. This is another reason why it’s hard to get women excited about bicycling. Proper etiquette for group rides; a lot of experienced riders could stand to read this as well as beginners. No irony here, as America’s wounded warriors have until Friday to submit applications to ride with the man who sent them to war. A Minneapolis man is arrested for the apparent drunken hit-and-run death of a bicyclist. A Minnesota writer who previously opposed bike lanes commits to riding every day this month. Ohio redefines the word bicycle to include four-wheeled pedal-powered vehicles. That Philly man who rides with his cat on his shoulder is the new handlebar-mustached face of GoPro. A New York study shows most pedestrians are hit by cars while walking in the crosswalk with the light, and cabs are no friend to cyclists. The New York Post is shocked! shocked! to spot Alec Baldwin riding a bike sans helmet and talking on a cell phone; only the latter is against the law in New York. An open hate letter to Miami’s bike thieves, in which the writer wishes them a social disease.

Toronto’s notoriously anti-bike mayor is accused of public drunkenness and possible drunk driving. It ain’t easy to keep your cool when a professional cyclist grabs your ass. Oxford advocates call for more bike lanes, or not. Bucharest bike advocates fight the city’s dangerous bike lanes by adopting and eliminating them. A call for police to target New Zealand cyclists riding without lights at night. Sadly, an Aussie cop is killed while riding to celebrate his 52nd birthday.

Finally, continuing this week’s theme, a BMX-biking Colorado bank robber gets 41 months in Federal prison; probably a better getaway choice than yesterday’s beach cruiser. And a suspected drunk driver fled the scene after rear-ending a car near the Malibu Pier, then slammed into six parked cars and damaged a house; the driver turned out to be the son of Gone With the Wind star Clark Gable.

Frankly my dear, I do give a damn.

Reimagining a more livable San Gabriel Valley; dissecting national cycling death statistics

It’s a simple question, really.

Why should L.A. area cyclists give a damn about a freight transportation project — especially one that would follow the course of the San Gabriel River, the near-mythical waterway that flows well east of Downtown, where most Angelenos fear to tread?

The answer is equally simple.

Because it has the potential to dramatically transform transportation and livability of the east L.A. basin, bringing renewed life to communities currently choked by diesel fumes and roadways gridlocked with big rigs. And at the same time, restoring one of L.A.’s concrete-clad water disposal systems to the natural, free-flowing waterway it was before fears of flooding overwhelmed common sense and drove nature to its knees.

Oh, and it includes a bike path, too.

Rick Risemberg, of Bicycle Fixation fame, wrote me last week to call my attention to a proposed project I had been only vaguely aware of, and to which I hadn’t given more than a few moments thought.

GRID — the San Gabriel River Infrastructure Development project — would replace the current system of loading cargo at the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach with integrated cargo cranes that would load cargo containers directly onto electric trains, cutting offloading time from 36 hours to two. And at the same time, eliminating the need for thousands of semi-trucks that currently ply the ports and clog SoCal freeways.

The trains would then run through special bunker-strength tunnels placed under the banks of the San Gabriel River up to distribution yards in the Inland Empire, where the cargo would be transferred to trains and trucks for transport throughout the country.

The result would be a dramatic reduction in freeway traffic along the 710 and 605 freeways, virtually eliminating traffic congestion and improving air quality. In fact, traffic could be reduced to such a degree that one or both of the freeways might become obsolete and candidates for removal — greatly improving the livability of an area blighted by massive roadways.

At the same time, a second tunnel could be built for passenger rail, tying into existing Metro Rail, Metrolink and Amtrak railways. Existing high-voltage power lines would also be placed in underground tunnels, freeing thousands of acres of power-line right-of-ways for redevelopment, while pipelines could be included for fresh water and sewage.

And the massive construction project would provide an opportunity to rip out the concrete banks of the river, and return it to the natural riparian basin it was before we felt the need to “improve” it. The result would be a natural riverway lined with parks, wetlands and nature preserves, as well as what would undoubtedly be one of the area’s most beautiful and popular bikeways along the full course of the river.

Yes, it would be expensive. Costs would undoubtedly rise well into the billions, if not more.

But it would provide tens of thousands of good, high-paying jobs in the short term, just as construction of the Hoover Dame did during the last Great Depression. And in the long term, it would result in savings and tax revenues that could far exceed the cost to build it, while providing much needed wildlife habitat and improving the quality of life for every community along its banks.

And it would eliminate the need for the much-debated tunnel under South Pasadena to complete the 710 freeway — which would free up hundreds of millions of dollars to pay for construction costs, while preserving the quality of life in one of the area’s most livable communities.

Of course, getting a massive, expensive project like this approved by today’s small-thinking, auto-centric Tea Party-addled Congress would be challenging, to say the least — even though it would be build largely, if not entirely, through private funding.

Then again, a couple of years ago, I would never have imagined that a bike-friendly L.A. might happen in my lifetime, either.

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The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has released statistics for bicycling deaths in 2009; 630 cyclists were killed in the U.S. and another 51,000 injured. That works out to 2% of all traffic deaths, as well as 2% of traffic injuries, and marks a 12% reduction over 2008.

Contrary to common perception, only one-third of the deaths occurred at intersections, while 72% occurred during daylight hours — though they define daylight as anytime between 4 am and 8 pm.

The average age of cyclists killed and injured on the streets has gradually risen over the previous 10 years to 41; cyclists under the age of 16 accounted for just 13% of fatalities and 20% of injuries. Seven times more men were killed than women, and four times as many men were injured.

Forty percent of fatalities involved alcohol use; surprisingly, 28% of the cyclists who were killed had been drinking.

California had more than it’s share of fatalities, with 99 cyclists killed; 3.2% of the total 3,081 traffic fatalities. That works out to 2.68 bicycling fatalities per one million residents, which places us in the top ten most dangerous states per capita. Yet that pales compared to Delaware and Florida — which once again ranks as the nation’s deadliest state to ride, with 107 cycling fatalities — at 6.78 and 5.77 fatalities per million residents, respectively.

Main, Rhode Island, Vermont, West Virginia and the District of Columbia had no bicyclists killed in 2009.

Just in case you’re thinking about moving somewhere a little safer.

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Rick Risemberg endorses bike advocate Stephen Box for L.A.’s 4th Council District, with some reservations. LACBC calls on cyclists to bike the vote, offering survey responses from some of the city’s council candidates. Grist says the new bike plan shows the cabbie who ran Mayor Villaraigosa deserves a big, fat tip, while the National Resources Defense Council says the plan paves the way for a greener Los Angeles. The L.A. Times endorses the bike plan, though that might have carried more weight before the council vote.

Tree Hugger offers a list of bike Twitter accounts to follow; Joe Anthony’s Bike Commute News and Long Beach expats PathLessPedaled were the only Southern Californians to make the list. A bike ride a day could keep the doctor away. Utah shoots down a proposed Idaho Stop bill. While New York police continue to crack down on cyclists, they continue to ignore far more dangerous behavior by drivers; the Wall Street Journal says Gotham cyclists really aren’t that bad. Protected bike paths increase riding while easing congestion. The New York assemblyman who proposed a law requiring license plates for all cyclists has wisely withdrawn his bill. Fairfax VA’s bike coordinator position is under attack as a “political statement position.”

Finally, a ban on biking London’s South Bank is reversed, and considerate cyclists are now welcomed. And a British drivers’ organization says kids should glow in the dark; maybe we should require anyone under 16 to wear a flashing neon sign that says “Don’t Hit Me.”

After all, there’s obviously no point in asking drivers to pay attention.

This bike lane is mine, God gave this lane to me

Today’s vastly oversimplified and seemingly off-topic history lesson:

It wasn’t that long ago, a little less than a century, that there were very few Jews in Israel. In fact, there was no Israel.

At the end of the first World War, less than 90,000 Jews lived in what was then known as Palestine. Then the Zionist Movement encouraged the migration of Jews to Palestine, reclaiming the land the Romans expelled them from nearly two millennia before.

The turmoil preceding World War II led to further migration, as did the resettlement of refugees following the Holocaust — resulting in the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948.

The only problem is, there were already people living there.

Over 700,000 Arab Palestinians became refugees virtually overnight. And a conflict began that defies resolution 60 years later, as two distinct groups claim their right to the same limited space.

Remind you of anything?

There was a time — a very brief time — when the bicycle was the king of the road; the cleaner, more efficient, new-fangled contraption that was to replace the horse and buggy. At least until the car came along and claimed the roads for themselves.

Bikes were relegated to the side of the road — or banned from the roadways entirely. Some cyclists and traffic planners believed the solution was to build segregated bike lanes and off-road paths; others felt the answer lay in reclaiming our space on road, just as any other form of vehicular traffic.

The problem was, drivers felt the streets belonged to them, and would not willingly give up any part of the road, or make way for what they considered an inferior mode of transportation invading their turf.

And so began the conflict we deal with every day. A cold — or sometimes, very hot — war between cyclists and drivers, as we fight for our right to ride, and the motorized world too often refuses to give an inch.

Does it compare to the tragedy currently unfolding in Gaza?

Of course not. But the roots of the conflict are similar, and a resolution just as unlikely.

Even the cycling community is divided as to what approach to take. Some riders refuse to be confined to a separate but unequal lifestyle; others are willing to utilize bike paths and lanes, but believe the solution lies in a better educated motoring public. Some believe in sharrows, while others are willing to fight for their bike lanes; yet even those who support those painted lines on the street accept that they may not always be the best solution.

Then there are those of us who want to take their bike lanes with them, and others who are just happy to stay off the sidewalk.

As for me, I suppose I have a wheel in both camps. I agree with Will, in that I believe the ideal solution lies in educating drivers, so they’re more willing to share the road. And make room for us as equal users of the streets.

I just don’t believe that will ever happen.

So unless, and until, it does, I will take my place on the road, while staking my claim to the bike lane — even if it doesn’t go anywhere. And fight to defend it from any form of abuse, encroachment or foreign invaders. Because separate and unequal may not be ideal, or even right, but it’s ours.

And right now, it’s the best we’ve got.

Gary reports on Bike Kill, complete with killer photos. Matt fills us in on L.A.’s upcoming tour de hills (and yes, we do have a few), while Will once again demonstrates his mastery of the cyclist’s revenge — with no blood, or anything else, spilled. C.I.C.L.E. announces their new office in Northeast L.A., courtesy of the brewers of my favorite beer. Denver follows up on its bike sharing program during the Democratic Convention with an affordable city-wide rent-a-ride plan. And Lauren, AKA hardrockgirl, fills us in on her first four months of L.A. riding, part 1 (and thanks for the kind word).

Reading the signs

My grandfather was one of the last of the old time mountain men.

A former Doughboy, he fought the Kaiser in France (that was the war before the war Tom Hanks won — the one that was supposed to end all wars). And even in his 60s, he still earned his living off the land.

He’d disappear for a few days, or a few weeks, and come back home with a deer or elk to feed his family; if hunting had been good, he might have a few more to sell to the local butcher. Or maybe he’d have a truck full of logs to sell to the sawmill, or a some pelts he could trade for things he needed.

He was a gruff old man, without a lot of patience for a little kid like me; still, he taught me that the wilderness had countless stories to tell if you just knew how to read the signs.

Like how to tell if a set of cat tracks were from a harmless bobcat or a more dangerous cougar, and whether it was on the prowl or just passing through, and how to examine the tracks to see it was old news, or if they were fresh and there was a potentially dangerous animal lurking about.

Granddad taught me how to spot a tuft of fur stuck to a tree where a bear had tried to scratch his back, and tell whether it was from a black bear or a grizzly bear. And how to spot the odd semi-swirling marks, like one half of a parentheses on top of another, that indicated a snake had recently passed by, and look for the tell-tale markings that could identify it as a rattlesnake.

He wasn’t my real grandfather; not by blood, anyway. He was just the man who married a pretty widow, whose husband had drowned shortly after they’d moved to that small Colorado town, leaving her with two small children to raise — one of them my mom. But my other grandfather, my Dad’s father, had run off when he was just a boy, so he was the only one I ever had.

He died when I was just 12 years old, after a long, miserable battle with emphysema — just one of the many reasons I hate cigarettes. So I must have been very small when he taught me those things. But they stayed with me; even now, I find myself using those skills as I ride the streets and bikeways of L.A.

Like if I find myself riding through an area I’m not familiar with, I keep an eye on the local graffiti to see if it’s just the usual taggers, or possibly a sign of gang territory that warns me to be careful.

Or I read the intersections, looking for warning signs. Like remnants of wreckage in the roadway on yesterday’s ride, such as the twisted pile of rubber and glass that indicated a recent collision in Brentwood, and marked it as an intersection where I should be a little more cautious.

Then there was the set of nearly intersecting skid marks that told the story of a car entering from a side street, and slamming on the brakes to avoid another vehicle — in this case, a road bike, judging by the narrow marks it left as it skidded to a stop. But there was no broken glass, and the two sets of skid marks ended just far enough apart to suggest a happy outcome this time.

There were other signs, as well, such as the pile of broken glass next to an empty parking space, suggesting that someone lost their car stereo — or perhaps their car — the night before. And the used condom left in the gutter nearby implied that thieves weren’t the only ones active in the night.

Some signs are more obvious, though.

Like the relative emptiness on the beachfront bike path, that told me the tourists are gone for this year. Or most of them, anyway; the small group of biking Deutschlanders I gave directions to offered proof that there are still a few left exploring our fair city.

The nearly deserted plaza in Hermosa Beach, which only a few weeks earlier was jammed with young men and women in board shorts and bikinis, told me that school was back in session, and another L.A. summer is nearly over.

And the snapping of the wind-driven flags over the pier, pointing away from my destination, told me it was going to be a hard ride home.

 

VeloNews says Lance could be making a comeback. Gary reminds us that most rides are uneventful, while Bike Girl challenges her councilmember to join her for a ride over the Cahuenga Pass. Will Campbell rides with the original Midnight Ridah, and No Whip describes his recent Pennsylvania fat tire tour, complete with snakes and skinny dipping. Streetsblog announces a new Livable Streets Group to try to reclaim the Ballona Creek Bike Path. Just Williams comments on the lack of summer in the U.K. and prepares for wet rides, then is surprised with a sunny day.

Shocked — shocked! — I am to find bikes on the bike path

I never cease to be amazed at people who are shocked — shocked! — to discover bikes on the bike path.

Like the people who casually stroll along the bike lanes on Santa Monica’s Montana Avenue, the Marvin Braude (nee Santa Monica) bike path along the beach is inexplicably full of people who seem to have no clue that they might actually encounter bicycles as they blithely ignore the Bikes Only and No Pedestrian markings under their feet.

Just to be clear, I’m not talking the entire 22.3 mile length of the path. The upper portion along Will Rogers State Beach is usually okay, as is the lower portion through the South Bay, at least until you get to Hermosa Beach. No, I’m referring to the vastly over-populated portion from the Venice Pier north to the walkway under PCH at West Channel Road.

I’ve had a number of bizarre encounters there over the years, such as the time a toddler darted out from the parking lost directly in front of me. I jammed on my brakes and managed to come to a panic stop just inches from her.

So did the bystanders chastise her parents, for letting a small child run unsupervised like that? Or did they commend me for riding defensively, and putting the safety of a child ahead of my own?

Of course not.

Instead, I got to hear an old guy complaining about “all the damn bicycles on the bike path.” And I rode off, wondering just exactly what he expected to find there.

Then there was the woman so engrossed in her cell phone conversation that she stepped directly onto the bike path — and right in front of me — without ever looking up. So I yelled out a warning and learned hard to my left, then immediately back to the right, carving a perfect C shape right around her.

And then I made my big mistake. I stopped to make sure she was okay.

She started screaming at me — without ending her call, of course — for having the audacity to frighten her. Never mind that if she’d done the same thing on a city street, she’d probably be dead now. Or that a less experience cyclist probably would have crashed right into her, sending both of us to the ER.

No, as far as she was concerned, she was blameless and I was the bad guy, just because I tried to spare us both from serious injury.

In other words, blame bicyclists first.

Or take the large family of very large Texans I encountered near the volleyball courts awhile back. There were about 12 of them, all gathered in a group and completely blocking the entire bike path in both directions.

Eternal optimist that I am, I assumed that they would move aside to let me pass when I got close. But no, they just stared at me, their bovine expressions unchanging as they gazed at the approaching cyclist.

Polite requests to pass accomplished nothing. So finally I came to a full stop just feet in front of them and, exasperated, yelled at them to get out of the way.

That had the same effect as poking an enraged bull. The women started screaming at me and the men started moving angrily towards me. One woman, apparently the matriarch of the group, sputtered that they were from Texas, and had never encountered such rudeness.

So let’s recap, shall we? They were far from home, blocking a major pathway, preventing anyone else from passing in any direction, and ignoring every reasonable request for passage.

And I was the rude one?

Finally, some other riders approaching on the other side of the group called for them to move, as well, and slowly they gave way to either side, not unlike Moses parting the Red Sea.

And I rode off, wishing them a safe and speedy return to Texas.

Okay, so I may have left out the safe part.

Today’s must reads: Streetsblog reminds readers about tonight’s DWP meeting to discuss the annual Festival of Lights, giving us an opportunity to protest their absurd — and illegal — ban on bicycles (thanks to Alex Thompson for pointing us to section 21 of the state vehicle code). Speaking of Alex, he’s posted a beautiful reverie on racing a magical wave on Ballona Creek. The Time’s Bottleneck Blog provides the details of the proposed sales tax increase, which still lacks any provision for bicycles and pedestrians. And finally, sad news from my home town, where one rider was killed and another severely injured when they were stuck from behind by a drunk driver — at 5:20 in the morning.

So here’s the problem.

Here’s the problem with bicycling in L.A. (Okay, one of the problems.) Unlike other places I’ve lived, there’s really no great place to ride here.

What should be L.A.’s crown jewel – the beachfront bike path that runs from Will Rogers State Beach in Pacific Palisades down past Redondo Beach – is so clogged with pedestrians and drunken tourists (is that redundant?) that it’s almost impassible at times. The lower section, below the marina, is usually better. But the upper section, through Santa Monica and Venice, is so bad that it’s not even worth riding if you can’t get there before noon. And most riders just avoid it entirely from Memorial Day and Labor Day.

Even if you wanted to ride it, the problem is getting there.

Some people try riding the major streets like Santa Monica, Wilshire or Olympic Boulevards, which is akin to playing Russian Roulette with five live rounds.

The Ballona Creek bike trail, which runs from Culver City all the way to the coast, should be a freeway for the velo crowd. But the need to swerve around all the homeless encampments and drunks passed out in your pathway kind of limits its ride-ability. As does the fact that it runs through some of the most dangerous, crime and gang-infested neighborhoods in the city. (Evidently, I’m not the only one to notice this sort of problem.) So if a nice young man with facial tattoos stops to admire your bike, I’d suggest giving it to him. Seriously.

You can get to the beach by taking the bike lanes on Colorado, if you don’t mind stopping every few blocks and dodging buses once you get below 4th. Or you can try avoiding all the oblivious drivers with their surgically attached cell phones on Montana.

But the best, and most popular, route to the coast is the bike lanes along San Vicente Blvd. Unlike most of L.A., the drivers on San Vicente are used to seeing bicyclists, so they usually drive safely, and there are no stops signs, and only two stop lights, giving you a safe, fast ride. But even here you can have problems, like when a construction or film crew takes over the bike lane for no apparent reason, forcing you to compete with drivers for the limited space remaining in the traffic lanes.

And don’t even get me started on riding PCH through Malibu.

Sure, it’s flat and scenic, making it one of the area’s most popular rides. But with narrow – or sometimes no – shoulders on the road, high speed traffic, countless cars turning right in or out of driveways, and frequent construction sites that force riders into traffic lanes – which resulted in the death of two riders a couple years ago – it’s often more demolition derby than relaxing ride.

Sure, I used to ride it anyway, like everyone else. But these days, my wife insists that I come home in one piece.

Go figure.

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