Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Awright, it's friggin' cold

I rode downtown from North Seattle in this morning's 25ºF, wearing sweats over my usual shorts for only the third time this year and even wearing a polypro toque under my helmet for the first time ever. I wore double socks with my usual sandals; thermal socks underneath and thick rag SmartWool socks on top. I've already been wearing fleece between my t-shirt and dayglo vest for the past several weeks. But I didn't wear anything more on my hands than my usual fingerless gel gloves. And my fingers got COLD!. They warmed up again when I could put them into my pocket for half a minute, but simple physics was going to defeat anyone's bony little fingers in this freeze, no matter how good their circulation, especially when I was riding downhill into a stiff apparent wind. I admit to riding one-handed for a minute or two on my half-hour ride, maybe not the safest thing to do, but having completely frozen fingers wasn't too happy an alternative.

I did see about a dozen other bicyclists on my way downtown; not as many as usual but still surprisingly many for such a cold day when the bike lane was icy in many places, forcing me into the regular traffic lane to mingle with cars on several occasions.

OK, I gotta say something about Seattle drivers here: no matter what you might see in the media, and no matter what horror stories you hear from pedestrians and bicyclists (including me) about the close calls they've had, if not the injuries they've sustained in collisions caused by inattentive or outright malicious drivers, Seattle drivers are still, by and large, awesome when it comes to sharing the road. Every day I'm reminded of their acceptance of bicyclists in their midst when those bicyclists aren't abusing their privilege to ride on the same roads with other traffic.

Yes, I've seen drivers abuse their own privilege to use our public roadways, including last week at a 4-way stop when one car at right angles to me skipped right through a four-way stop on the bumper of the car ahead of it rather than wait his turn behind me, to say nothing of more egregious abuses such as the driver in Renton last week, just two miles from my office, who turned left into a bicyclist who, like me, was doing everything right. If that bicyclist had been in a car instead, it would have been a fender bender, but as it was a bicyclist died because of a driver's inattention. It could've been me in his place. It could even have been me in the driver's place, though I like to think that I pay more attention to everything going on around me when I'm driving than that driver did. This is at least manslaughter in the second degree ("when, with criminal negligence, [someone] causes the death of another person"). This a class B felony, and it should be enforced in this negligent driver's case, plain and simple.

But I've seen a vastly larger number of drivers who were happy to cede the right of way to me as a bicyclist when they could see me ahead of time, when I signaled my intentions clearly, and when it was safe and reasonable for them to do so. Heck, I've experienced many cases where considerate drivers gave me the right of way through an intersection when it was clearly theirs, which can make me a bit impatient since it slows both of us down, but I appreciate the intent nonetheless. Whenever it's safe to do so I'm also careful to signal my appreciation for a driver's generosity. I do the same when I'm driving and someone allows me to merge ahead of them, which is something I and many others appreciate when others do it for us. Would that more of us did the same.

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