Posted by: twistsoffeet | June 8, 2011

Stupid Bicycle Laws


Last night sucked.

In the future I will do everything I can to avoid sleeping at truck stops. I had found a spot that was hidden by a flat bed trailer a large gravel pile near a building and some trees, hoping for safety in not being seen. One problem is that these things also blocked all traces of any breeze that may have cooled me down. That was problem Number One.

The second problem is that just as I was crawling into my tent to sleep, a trucker who had parked his rig two spaces over from the flat bed concealing me decided to return.  This would have been no big deal, but instead he crawled in, turned on his engine and air conditioning and went to sleep.  He had the loudest air conditioning system on the planet and for seven hours, it kept me awake before he finally left.

That meant one hour of sleep for me.

I hit the road shortly after 5:30 AM, after discovering that I was ten miles further south than I had thought. It got worse from there, but it does have a happy ending.

I traveled along Hwy 45 north towards Paducah, and went through a couple of interchanges, where other highways hooked up with Hwy 45.  Apparently I missed the sign that said “Hwy 45 north turn here” and ended up on a Parkway similar to an interstate highway. No big deal because I did not know about my mistake and was happy to have four lanes and wide shoulders.

After nearly 30 miles of travel, I had a flat and was repairing it when a State Patrolman pulled up.  “No big deal,” I thought he was going to offer assistance.

I was wrong.  The first words he spoke were, “Do you know I can arrest you for being here?”

Not knowing what he was talking about, I asked him why and was told I was on a Parkway and it is illegal in Kentucky to ride a bicycle on a Parkway or on interstate highways.  He told me it was clearly marked on all on ramps.  I told him it was not posted on the ramps from where I had ridden. I wanted to ask him why none of the four or five other patrolmen who drove past me had said anything to me, but instead I bit my tongue.

We finally determined that since I came off of Hwy 45 and merged onto the Parkway, there had been no sign to warn me against such a foolish and dangerous act as riding on a multi-lane highway with a 12 foot wide shoulder to avoid traffic.

In the course of our conversation, he told me no less than four more times that he could arrest me for being there, even though I was honest and respectful, and we both knew that where I had come from, there had been no sign saying it was illegal. Finally he said he wouldn’t ticket or arrest me, but I had to get off at the next exit, three miles down the road.
I repaired my flat and rode to the exit, where I discovered I was near where I had my trailer flat yesterday.

One step forward, and 20 miles backward. Nonetheless, like the trooper I am, I put on my best face and just kept pedaling.

I just checked my odometer and discovered I have actually ridden close to 58 miles today.  No wonder I am tired.

Oh but the dung just keeps piling on today!!!

In order to get where I wanted to be, which was in Illinois, I had to ride about 30 miles of two lane highway, with a non-existent to crumbling narrow shoulder… with cars and semis rushing by at 55 mph.

There were blind curves and hills and all of those things that make riding while pulling a trailer not very fun, at best, and suicidal at worst.

I reached a small town and stopped in at Cheers Food and Fuel for directions to a possibly safer route.

There was none.

I spoke to a number of individuals about my trip and while they all wished me well, all were glad they were not riding in this heat or on this road.  One man gave me some helpful info and left, but about five minutes later he returned and said that I can not get where I want to go on a bike.

He told me that I would not be allowed on the main bridge and the other bridge would just be too dangerous. He then offered to load my stuff into his truck and carry me across the Ohio river into Illinois.  Okay, so I am a cheater… call me what you want, but I jumped at the opportunity to get out of Kentucky and into Illinois and on the other side of the river.

I had met some great people in KY, but I wanted across that river onto the plains. So we loaded up my gear and headed off to Illinois. On the way he asked if I had had lunch, and I said that I was planning on having a protein shake when I got to Illinois.

He said he was hungry and offered me lunch.  I agreed and we decided on Bar-B-Q. Lunch was delicious, although it was a bit much on a hot day, when I was soon going to have to start riding again.

Upon reaching Illinois, he was unable to drop me off because everything was closed from flood damage; so he took me a few more miles down the road, out of the flood zone.  His name was Keith and he was helpful and friendly, far beyond the call of duty and I am eternally grateful to him.

I started riding and very quickly reached Vienna Welcome Center in Vienna, IL. I noticed because I saw a bicycle path leading away from it.  I stopped to ask if the path would take me towards my next river crossing at the Mississippi, and was told it would not help me.

I spoke to the people at the Welcome Center, enjoying the cool air conditioning, when I asked about camping. They told me about a very nice pay to camp spot 10 miles away then said the would see if I could camp in the park next to the Welcome Center. I spoke to Neil while Linda called the Mayor’s office, and the Mayor’s office called the chief of police to get me permission to camp there.

I was quickly given permission to camp here in this park. It is nicely maintained and clean with water and facilities. Level surfaces for my tent and a pavilion with electricity to charge my computer. What more could a guy ask for?

Well I could ask for a half gallon of tomato juice… and I may ride down to get some soon.

And now to deal with my post headline: Stupid Bicycle Laws. Whoever wrote the laws banning bicycles from interstates and Parkways, thinking it was safer on two lane highway with no shoulder… was an idiot. Those people should be subjected to riding ten hours on such a highway at the minimum.

The Deputy Sheriff had said they lose several people each year on this Parkway because motor vehicle drivers are not used to seeing bicycles on the Parkway.  My response is that if several bicyclists each year are killed on this Parkway, where they are not supposed to be, isn’t it obvious their signage has a big problem… in that it is invisible.

Then if it is because motor vehicle drivers are not used to seeing bicyclists on this highway, does it mean that it is then okay to just run down the cyclist because you are not used to seeing them there?  Should they not make more of an effort to make certain that drivers are sober and awake while driving and aware of the possibility of cyclists or flying cows or any other thing that may possibly find their way onto the Parkway?

Shouldn’t they allow bicyclists all the time so the drivers become more aware of us and begin to look out for us?  Shouldn’t the people responsible for writing traffic safety laws actually be required to understand a little about what is actually dangerous about riding a bicycle and how we can work together to keep safe ? Shouldn’t they understand where the true dangers come from when riding a bicycle on the roads?

In all fairness, bicyclists are equally at fault for the accidents they have while riding on the road.  Sometimes it is laziness.  Other times it is arrogance in thinking they do not have to follow the rules of the road.  Sometimes it is just nobody’s fault that dung happens.

I just know that while riding my bicycle, it is I, and only I, who can protect me with diligent awareness of my surroundings and caution in my actions. I use my arm signals.  I use my mirror and continuously prepare myself a way to escape if I see some vehicle barreling towards me, seemingly bent on my destruction. I take responsibility for my safety because no one else will.

I really want to thank my new friend, Keith, today because he turned my horrible day into a wonderful day by helping me in several ways, Thanks Keith!

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