I was slowly making my way of a hill yesterday when a gentle breeze stirred through the trees. Suddenly I was in a swirl of dancing white petals from the dogwood tree on the side of the road. For a moment I was in the clouds! Seeing all white with touches of pink. It was beautiful! It was transcendent! It was...aargh... gagg..hack, hack! It was a petal blowing in my mouth and getting caught in my throat! By the time I got that cleared away the moment was over. But, I have that moment in my memory.
Once the adventure with the yellow tape at UTC's Oak Street Walkway was over(see April 1, Yellow Tape Wars entry ), I started to really think about the issue of the blockage of pedestrian and bike traffic. Something seriously had to be done. So I decided to go straight to the top-I wrote an e-mail to Chancellor Roger Brown. Today I got a reply. Judged by the e-mail path that was shown on this e-mail, my e-mail was forwarded to the appropriate department head, a meeting was held, and a solution was decided upon. The e-mail informed me of the impending implementation of the solution and I was asked for my feed back when it was completed. WOW! I should write more often about things that bother me. No telling what problems can be solved! I am looking forward to the fixing of this problem. And I have to commend UTC for their responsiveness. Though I still have to wonder why they were not able to see the problem until it was pointed out.
This morning an incident happened that I think is an indication that motorists in Chattanooga are trying to become more considerate but sometimes just totally don't get it. I was coming down McCallie Avenue as usual, riding in the bike safe and legally allowed place of about 4 feet from the curb. As I was on a slight down hill, I was moving at a pretty good clip. But it wasn't fast enough for the driver of the white minivan behind me, who impatiently left hooked into the other lane to gun past me. Nothing unusual in that. There are always the drivers that act insulted that they have to make an adjustment for bicycles. But this driver did a sudden right hook back into the lane for a right turn. Again this happens sometimes. This maneuver is dreaded by all cyclists and is probably the number one cause of bicycle/car accidents. Its the reason the Quick Right Turn defense move is taught in cycling safety classes. And the reason for bike placement of away from the curb. But the driver suddenly turned polite and considerate to me. She slams on the brakes to stop in the middle of her right hook and then patiently waits for me to go by,blocking traffic in both lanes. Of course, by this time I was very wary of her. She had me trapped into forcing me to pass her on the right side, setting myself up to be creamed if she decided to change her mind. Not a very comforting situation! So I slowed down to allow response time to any more moves on her part as I passed her in the narrow passage she allowed me. As I passed her, I wagged my finger at her to let her know that what she did was a no-no, Noticed I said I wagged my finger at her, I didn't give her the finger. I try to always be civil in my dealings with drivers. And I have to say she was being quite civil in her rudeness to me. Which probably made my admonishment confusing. She probably thought I was telling her it was wrong to politely wait on me. I hope she was aware enough to know the left-hook, right-hook maneuver was the one I was telling her no to. What do you think?
Cake Lady of the Deliman and Cake Lady is turning 50! To celebrate a party benefiting the Chattanooga Humane Society was thrown. It wasn't a dressy affair but sometimes a girl likes to dress up and PARTY! As the ones who have seen me riding around can verify, I am not usually any kind of fashion standard bearer. When the first priority is to keep warm, I probably could get top award for shlubiness. And I go places like that! I would say its to the great embarrassment of my children, but they have long ago given up being embarrassed by me. It was turning into a full time job so they had to give it up. But when spring comes and a party event is scheduled, it makes me feel like kicking up my heels a little. I keep just a pair of shoes for such occasions, red ankle boots with pointy toes and higher heels then anybody who cares about their feet should wear!. I don't bring them out very often but when the mood strikes they are there. My kids were at the party and they didn't bat an eye at the idea of me riding in heels. Other people did wonder though. So, how does it feel to ride a bicycle in spiky high heels? A lot better then actually walking in them!
Last night I went to the Alvin Ailey Dance Performance at the Tivoli. Wow! What a show! This is a dance performance for anyone, no need to be a dance lover to appreciate the athleticism and talent. As I pulled up on my bike to the Tivoli before the show, I found the only acceptable pole to lock a bike up to already taken by two bicycles. It always gives me great cheer to see other people using their bikes even for a night out at the Tivoli. But it did present a problem about my bike. Parking meters don't count as bike lock ups and there were no other acceptable locking places in sight. So I did what seemed to be the only choice-I brought my bike in to the entrance of the Tivoli. I found if you just act as though you have every right to what you are doing nobody questions you. Recently I parked my bike at my bank inside the doorway. I do this every time I go to the bank, but this time the security guard came to tell me to take it out. I just looked at him and said "I was told I could park here." He immediately backed off. (I had actually been told I could bring my bike into the lobby during a discussion of whether I could use the drive thru, but that is a different story). If a bike rack is provided, I generally will use that. I recognize that if there comes to be the number of cyclists as I hope in the future, we all cannot park right in the doorway. So getting in the habit of bike racks seems like a reasonable thing to do. But the number of bike racks,while growing, are still few and far between. I will look for a good pole but sometimes, none are available. So my bike has been spotted inside different public buildings-like the Tivoli and the Trade and Convention Center and a nearby drug store and other places. Some businesses in town even invite me to bring my bike in. When the performance was over my bike was waiting for me right at the doorway and I was able to get far down the road long before most people could get to their cars. Ah, the convenience of riding the bike!
Oak Street through the UTC campus has been closed to cars for years and made into strictly a pedestrian and bike way. There were a set of posts on the west entrance that, while blocking cars, allowed easy access by walkers, bikers and the school's utility golf carts. Seemed to work fine. But one day as I was riding to work, workmen were busy with those posts on some project. I didn't think too much about it, so imagine my surprise on my way home, I found myself jerking to a stop to save myself from running my bike into a chain barely visible in the dark. Inspecting it, I discovered that this chain was stretched between two posts practically the whole width of the street. There was left some clearance on the sides for passage-two feet on one side and just one foot clearance on the other side. The powers-in-charge of UTC deemed that was all that was needed for all traffic on the 25 foot wide street to get through. Talk about a bottle neck. Two pedestrians cannot walk side by side. A bicycle has to carefully maneuver through that tiny opening. Sometimes the whole street width is filled with traffic which then has to be squeezed into that tiny funnel. Why would the powers-in-charge do this? Besides teaching cycling maneuver skills, there didn't seem to have any advantage over the old system. Then it dawned on me; it was for the CARS! The series of posts had no way to allow vehicles through! There was another entrance on the other side of Oak Street that allowed vehicle entry, but that must have been too inconvenient for someone. So instead, a system was devised that made it difficult for every legitimate user so a driver of a car would just have to undo a chain to get through. Don't tell me this isn't a car-centric society. It appears that I wasn't the only user of that passageway put off by the insult of this new gateway. A month or so after construction, I rode through and found the bolt that held the chain to the post had been ripped out. The wall had been torn down! (OK, it wasn't exactly a wall, but it felt like one) But the powers-in-charge of UTC weren't giving up so quickly. Riding back through, a yellow tape had been stretched out between the posts. A day later, the tape had been torn down. The tape went up, the tape went down. The tape went back up. My heart pounded with glee everythime I saw that tape go down. There were others like me! I wasn't alone in thinking that that blockage was asinine, insulting and even dangerous. So when, coming home a few days ago, I found the tape up again,this time threaded through several barricades, I knew what I had to do. I couldn't leave it to others to fight this battle. It was time for me to do my share. Without slowing down, I ran that bike though the tape. I pulled down the barricades, setting up quite a racket before the tape broke. FREE AGAIN! Boy, that was a good feeling. If those authorities read this I guess they can send their cops after me. (Hey, Greg, you going to arrest me? Being a cyclist mounted cop, surely you understand) I don't know where this is going to end. I guess there will be an attempt to fix the chain bolt. I hope if it succeeds, it will be ripped out again. It sends out the wrong message. I see groups of potential students and their parents taken on tours just at that spot. As the student leaders funnels the up to 30 people though the one foot wide passage way, are they telling them how pedestrian and bike friendly the campus is? UTC needs to get it together. Don't close down a street to make a wonderful multiuse path and make it pedestrian and biker unfriendly. What's the sense of that? Hopefully the protest of that blockage will continue. I promise to do my part!
UPDATE!!! April 5 The chain has been fixed, once again all traffic is crowded in almost impossible to sqeeze through openings. The dirt path that the utilty golf carts take around the chain looks like it is becoming a fixed feature. The landscaping has taken a last gasp and has been throughly beaten down. Rather nice for an entrance to our local university. I'm sure it makes for a nice impressions on those potential students that I see frequently being taken around. I can just hope the Chain Wars are not over.
I started riding my bike as my primary form of transportation because I love riding bikes. Add in all the wonderful benefits- you know the drill-exercise, money saving, pollution free, oil free, and all the other great things, it just seemed a reasonable choice.
But what I had not anticipated was how different life would look mounted on top of a bike verses looking out of a rolling metal box. The places I go, the people I meet, the things I see are so different. And I love it all.
This is a record of my adventures!