October and November are ideal months for bicycling in Houston. Unfortunately, they are also my busiest work months, and I haven't liberated myself from the car just yet. So, I haven't ridden as much as I would have liked.
Today, I rode out to Barker Reservoir (my usual Sunday ride). Barker isn't a typical reservoir; it mainly serves as a buffer for flood protection so that Buffalo Bayou doesn't overflow its banks every time we have a heavy rain. Barker Reservoir is also known as George Bush park, and it is host to, among other things, a nice multi-use trail that is mostly populated by recreational bicyclists.
When the reservoir floods, much of the trail isn't accessible (because it's under water). This morning, much of the water had receded and I was able to take a nice 20+ mile ride.
Some rain is in today's forecast. Outside, it is cool, overcast, and humid. The cloud cover seems to be darkening as the day wears on.
On my return trip, I noticed that the cars queued up at the light on Briar Forest all had their headlights on. It occurred to me that it might be a good idea for me to light up, too. After crossing Highway 6, I pulled off the road, turned on the lights mounted on my bike and clipped a red light to my CamelBak. Then, I proceeded in the bike lane on Briar Forest.
The light on my pack is a Planet Bike Super Flash. I had it on steady mode (after reading John Forester's reasoning behind using a steady red light in Effective Cycling). The Super Flash is advertised to be visible up to a mile away, and I'm sure that staring at it for long would melt one's eyeballs easily.
So, I'm riding in the bike lane. Usually, about half of the cars approaching me from behind move to the inside lane, and the most of the other half slow as they pass me just the other side of the dividing line. Today, though, driver behavior was considerably different.
Every car that approached me from behind moved to the inside lane. And, they did so much longer in advance than is my usual experience.
When I reached the stop light at Eldridge and Briar Forest, I attempted to merge into the traffic lane for better visibility. However, I waited too long, and cars were approaching too quickly. Instead, I stopped in the bike lane behind the last car in the outside lane.
The two cars approaching from behind slowed and stopped, too. One moved to the inside lane; the other stayed about 10 feet behind.
That doesn't usually happen. Usually, cars will slow, then pull up beside me if I'm in the bike lane.
In my Traffic Skills 101 class, Peter Wang wondered if some of the hostility I (and other cyclists) encountered on Houston roadways from time-to-time was due to motorists being scared coming up on us and wondered also if standing out more would remedy some of that hostility.
Evidently, being visible . . . really visible . . . helps a lot. Even in the daylight. Maybe eyeball-melting red lights are the ticket in the same way that many cars now use full-time daylight running lights.
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