Public service announcement: Make sure your belt is fully secured before you start biking. Mine (a loop through style, worn on pants without belt loops) fell off halfway to work this morning and started clanking against the frame. Luckily it caught on the rear rack rather than in the spokes, but I had to pause and put it in my purse.
Other than that, it was a beautiful morning for a bike commute here in Nashville. About 40 degrees, with sunshine and blue skies. I took it slow and had a sip of coffee every so often, just because I could.
I can tell I’m a little out of condition after biking infrequently for the past few weeks, but in some ways it’s fun to have my commute be a little bit of a challenge for a change.
I was even happier that I had biked to work when I got to the office and found someone had brought us some Valentine’s Day treats!
I had planned to ride to the Walk/Bike Nashville social last Wednesday night after work. Though in a part of town I don’t visit often, the venue was only 4.5 miles away from my office, the night was relatively mild, and I had prepared by wearing the right clothes.
I considered taking the Bat, with its generator light in front, but it starts feeling heavy if I ride more than 10 miles or so. I decided to take Kermit Allegra, since the Mini Monkey Light is impossible to miss and I also have a great fender taillight that I installed over the summer. And I’d just replaced the batteries on my headlamp, which had been burnt out for a while.
Unfortunately, my headlamp was not up to snuff on the dark side streets I’d mapped out (to avoid busy roads at rush hour). At worst it was as above; at best it was as below, when the inadequate streetlight was broken by individual house lights.
I rode this bike most of last winter without an issue, but I think this was the first time I’ve ridden it in the dark, alone, on side streets that I was not familiar with. On my route home, and on the routes I use for most places I go regularly, there might be a few dim blocks, but I am so familiar with them that I know whether a shadow is a pothole or a branch or a crack in the concrete. In those circumstances, light that functions mostly to let me be seen is workable, if not ideal. Not so on these roads. When I realized I had passed two miles braking for obstacles (imagined or real), I decided it was time to turn around, go home and get my car.
West End traffic on the horizon
Lights that illuminate the street well have been elusive for me. I find that handlebar lights don’t have a wide enough beam, and front fork lights are often diffused by the fender, as displayed above. Again, these issues are workable if I keep to familiar and/or busier routes, but it’s frustrating to have my rides limited in this way. What front light do you use that allows you to both see and be seen? I’m thinking of trying a side wheel mount light like the one on Dottie’s Oma, which works on the dark sections of the Lakefront Path. If anyone can recommend an aftermarket front light worth considering, I’m all ears. Money is…well, it’s an object, but I’d rather spend $50 on a light that works than get five crappy ones that don’t end up helping the situation.
Two weeks ago, Kermit Allegra and I were invited to take part in a photo shoot for Metro’s latest “Share the Road” campaign — an initiative created through a collaboration between the Mayor’s Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee (BPAC) and Metro Public Health. Funding came from Communities Putting Prevention to Work, a part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (so Nashville cyclists, don’t say the stimulus package never did anything for you.).
They shot two types of cyclists: me on my bike in a dress and heels, and a sporty road bike rider. Imagine me in the place of Keith (the sporty cyclist) and Kermit Allegra in place of his bike (since I could not photograph and also be photographed). You’ll see the shots soon! The campaign is set to launch March 15, in conjunction with the official inauguration of the spanking new Music City Bikeway. It’ll be mostly MTA and (gulp) billboard ads.They are meant to educated drivers in particular on how to behave when confronted with people who make alternate transportation choices. Hence the car in the shot, happily sharing the road with the bike.
This is what the creative director saw.
Here is Kermit Allegra waiting her turn, with her Po Campo bag on the rear rack. Note the sadist with the reflector blinding our cyclist friend. He was doing the same when it was my turn (though he was quite apologetic about it). I’m pretty sure they’re going to have to Photoshop eyes onto me because it was nearly impossible to keep from squinting! But I guess that’s how photoshoots roll.
This was what I was staring at. Note the sunny glare/flare/whatever you call it. One other fact I learned: you cannot expect sweet jams during a city-funded photoshoot. So if I don’t look particularly natural when you see me on the side of the bus, please be kind. I was sun blinded and not even enjoying some Lady Gaga to compensate.
Despite these hardships, the photoshoot was a fun experience, and the campaign is going to be a great thing for Nashville. Let me know if you spot it before I do!