Posts Categorized: Fitness

St. Louis: Not Bike Friendly

Whenever I bike in St. Louis there’s always a certain amount of trepidation.  Who’s going to be a jerk this time, and what are they going to do?  Those are two questions I have in mind and I mentally prepare to deal with people yelling at me, honking, driving too close on purpose, anything to give me the message, “You’re not welcome here.”

If you disagree, I suggest spending time in Minneapolis or Toronto, two truly bike friendly cities where commuting by bicycle is a normal event.  Bike lanes are clearly marked.  Motorists respect cyclist’s rights to be on the road.  Overall, it’s a positive experience.

For St. Louis to encourage cycling, there needs to be a change in attitude.  Here and there a cyclist will find a bike lane, but often it continues for a few blocks, then disappears.  More often, a cyclist will find poorly maintained roads filled with broken glass, debris, and rude drivers.  One group that’s trying to change the culture of biking in St. Louis is the Saint Louis Regional Bike Federation.  Check them out and add your support to cycling in STL.

On the Path Again

Last year was my summer of cycling, with a ride planned each weekend as long as the weather held.  This year, between poor weather, summertime colds, moving, vacation, and bike expenditures, not much cycling has happened.  Just in time for the second or third day of fall, Ruthann and I will be taking a ride on the Riverfront Trail (http://www.trailnet.org/p_stlriverfront.php).  Weather is perfect.  Leaves are close to turning.  Bikes are ready.  See you out there!

St. Louis Bike Friendly? Don’t Bet Your Bud On It!

Recently, in the St. Louis Beacon, there was an article about St. Louis being a bike friendly city, despite the high accident rate.  No matter which way you spin it (as in STL cyclists are better educated to report accidents) there is no disputing that almost half of the reported bike accidents in Missouri last year happened in the St. Louis area.

I’ve lived here with only a bicycle for transportation, and found the environment unfriendly.  As such, I tend to avoid busy roads and overall have had a relatively good experience biking in St. Louis.  However, after visiting a city like Toronto, you begin to realize what a bike friendly city really is.

We are a country that is defined by the car.  While I don’t believe cycling to be a political statement (it’s good exercise and fun) that doesn’t mean other people won’t project that concept onto me.  If there is smugness or superiority, I believe it’s misread.  Once you step away from a certain lifestyle and realize you can succeed, it’s easy to feel proud and congratulatory.  Living without a car is hard and not for everyone, but the experience can be rewarding as you pedal into work on a breezy summer morning, or slog home in a winter sleet.  Besides the benefits of improving your health, and saving money, cycling also allows you to engage with your surroundings, and see the city from a different perspective.

Open Streets – Cycling Saint Louis

If you’re looking for something to do this weekend, take advantage of Open Streets.

“The City of St. Louis, Great Rivers Greenway-GRG, Metro East Park and Recreation District kick-off National Bicycle Month with the St. Louis Cardinals!

Enjoy 6 miles of Open Streets free of automobile traffic from 8 a.m. until 1 p.m. for cyclists, skaters, pedestrians and baseball fans! Then join GRG and Metro East Park and Recreation District at the Bike to Busch & Pre-Game TrailGate Party.

Free entertainment, bike safety checks & booths 11 a.m. until 12:00 p.m. at Clark Street and Broadway. Take advantage of special-priced tickets to the Cardinals game!

Cardinals versus Reds at 12:10 p.m. Tickets available at www.stlcardinals.com/biketobusch. Secure and free bicycle parking provided by St. Louis Regional Bicycle Federation. 11 a.m. until 1 hour after game time at Clark Street and Broadway.”

Day 2 at the gym

Steps are my new bane.  After the second day back at the boxing gym, and countless forms of lunges and squats, sometimes with weights, other times without, my legs have stiffened up into appendages that register only pain and discomfort.  Tomorrow, I’m back again, with a break over the weekend to recuperate.

Day 1 at the gym

Today was my first day back at the gym.  It’s been a while.  Four months to be exact.  There’s a new gym which I’d hoped would be open, but I couldn’t wait anymore.  So, it’s back at to the boxing gym, and while the price is definitely more, so are the results.  Woke up at 5:20, got dressed had a cup of coffee, and wrapped my hands for the heavy bag.  Seven hours later, I’m hungry, tired, and walking like I’ve been out horseback riding across the plains.  That said, it was great.

Cycling through the Bull Shit

If you’re a cyclist, chances are you’ve had someone roll their car window down and yell something insulting.  After a while, you start to lose track of how often this occurs.  Of course there are the major ones that stand out, like the time I was on the Delmar Loop and a guy in a pickup truck screamed at me non-stop through an entire light change.  Obviously, I’d ruined his day.

Last night, while walking bikes home through a residential neighborhood, someone yelled at us for not having lights.  We were walking.  We were technically pedestrians.  Are we all supposed to carry lights at night?

Later, I started thinking about accountability and anonymity.  It was dark.  The man was in an SUV.  He could simply spout his rage and drive away.  Who would know?  Would he have acted that way in front of his co-workers, his boss, or his family?  Anonymity lets people act how they normally wouldn’t.  There are positive sides to this, like an anonymous tip in solving a crime; however, there are also negative effects.  Cars especially provide a means to be anonymous.  People are encased in steel, plastic, and glass.  Hidden and out of contact.  There is no face to face context.  Through a series of turns or pressing on the gas, the driver can flee at a high speed.

What would have happened if I’d taken his anonymity away?  What if I published his identity?  How would that change things?  Cyclists aren’t dealing with rational people.  The people who become angry might already be heading toward road rage.  It can be dangerous enough on a 16 lb bike while riding along a 2,000 lb car.  Now imagine that car being driven by someone out of control.  So, what can we do?  Sure, there are the standby’s like, be vigilant, and be courteous.  Does that change anything?  Do cyclists need to work more on educating drivers, on creating bike lanes, and awareness?

Overall, the bicycle is a wonderful invention.  It provides easy, clean transportation and keeps people fit.  Instead of being at odds with those who commute on bikes, drivers should be thankful for the reduction in carbon emissions and traffic, as well as the increase in parking spaces.  Next time a driver yells or cuts you off, maybe you should take out your camera or phone, snap a picture or video, and post it online.  Anonymity can work both ways.

– Psychosocial and environmental factors associated with cycling for transport among a working population, Bas ed Geus et. al., Health Education Research, Vol. 23 No. 4, 2008.
– The Effects of Trait Driving Anger, Anonymity, and Aggressive Stimuli on Aggressive Driving Behavior, Patricial Ellison-Potter, Journal ofApplied Social Psychology, 2001. 
– Models of perceived cycling risk and route acceptability, Parkin et. al., Accident Analysis and Prevention Vol. 39, 2007.
Anger on and off the road, Brian Parkinson, British Journal of Psychology Vol. 92, 2001. 
– Cyclists and motorists vie for limited space, By Charles Lewis, National Post, September 1, 2009 http://www.canada.com/health/Cyclists+motorists+limited+space/1952495/story.html.
– Anonymous Group, accessed Nov. 5th 2009, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anonymous_(group).

Sunday Ride

Went for a lazy ride on Sunday.  First one since the MS150.  This is the map as well as I can remember.
<p><a href=”http://www.mapmyride.com/ride/united-states/mo/st-louis/654125535630690488″>2009-10-12 Route</a><br/><a href=”http://www.mapmyride.com/find-ride/united-states/mo/st-louis”>Find more Bike Rides in St Louis, Missouri</a></p>

At That Moment

It’s a Thursday morning and the sky is blotted out by layers of rain clouds.  They are dense, nebulous, consuming.  The streetlights are still on, their sensors fooled by the dark clouds and downpour.  Water pounds the roof of my apartment.  It spatters windows with a click and a tap, while I hunt through my apartment.  Gortex boots, rainpants, raincoat, waterproof cycling bag, I’m set.

It doesn’t matter the day of the week or what the weather is doing, there comes a point when I love my commute.  Almost to work, I cross a pedestrian bridge over Forest Park Parkway into campus.  Traffic spills in both directions.  Cars, people, annoyances packed together in start-stop frustration.  I may be a little damp, it could be incoveniant to dress for weather, but I feel free.  My feet move, my tires move, I propel forward two stories above the traditional commuters.  At that moment upon the bridge, I don’t care about the money I’m saving, the carbon footprint I’ve reduced, the calories I’ve burned.  At that moment, I breath deep, enjoy the pleasure of the ride, of being free from people looking caged and claustrophobic.  At that moment, I feel the rain drip through my hair and patter on my jacket, and ride the last remaining leg unimpeded.