Friday, August 8, 2008

Traffic - Oh My!

Riding after work means riding in traffic. Yes, road riders are always in traffic, but I'm talking about traffic, with a capitol "T". I expect St. Louis Traffic is no different from any other city. Riding close-in with cars is always a dodgy proposition, and it requires a level of patience and discretion on everyones part. There are good drivers, bad drivers, and indifferent drivers. The trick is to avoid the most heavily congested roads and bad drivers. Sometimes that just isn't possible.

One of my favorite roads to ride is Midland Blvd. Midland Blvd. is a divided residential four-lane that runs from University City to Maryland Heights. It has a wide shoulder and new blacktop all the way. The whole of Midland is a signed bike route and attracts a lot of cyclists. As you can see, even at 5 o'clock, there is barely any traffic to speak of. Still, I've had drivers get very close to me on this road.

Contrast Midland to Ashby Rd. Ashby Rd. is one of the major north-south thoroughfares in St. Louis. It is also divided four-lane, but with narrow or no shoulder, and it hasn't been repaved in years. Folks who drive Ashby are accustomed to seeing cycles dodging potholes and broken beer bottles. We (the cyclists) usually get a certain amount of leeway from motorists through the St. Ann-Overland section because of road conditions, and for the most part, drivers are very courteous. Until, that is, the road runs through Ladue. Crossing Olive Blvd., Ashby Rd. turns into Warson Rd. and narrows to two lanes in front of the Monsanto campus (see picture). Just beyond the farthest rise of the road in the picture is MICDS, a private school. Here you will find the largest collection of foreign-made SUV's outside of Chesterfield - or even Europe. Drivers through here won't give you an inch. And its not like I'm holding up traffic, either. There must be something about not being able to be right behind the car in front of you that makes driving a Volvo or a Lexus so exciting. Or maybe its the trill of passing a bicycle that's going the speed limit and brushing the rider with the right-hand mirror. Who knows?

Of all the areas I ride in St. Louis, I am the most wary of Ladue and Town-And-Country. If it were possible to avoid them at times, I would. Sure, you can run across the average idiot at any moment; but I'm always surprised at the level of impatience in these two boroughs. In ten years of riding, these are the only parts of town where I've had heart-stopping, non-provoked confrontations. I don't know if its the culture of the area, the color of my bike, the way I handle myself or what. All I know is that I get my paranoia on when I ride through Ladue.

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