There are a lot of bike lanes here in southwest Florida, and -- unlike other places that I've lived -- you can actually use them to get somewhere. While I don't always like being squeezed over on to these strips of street strewn with stuff, I appreciate the effort and try to obey the law with them.
Those laws, of course, are a little tricky. One of them in Florida states that I have to ride in the bike lane when I'm on a road that has one, unless there's debris (such as the bits of lumber and thrown retreads that seem to linger in the lane for weeks) or I'm passing a slower vehicle. Interestingly enough, this makes things really tough for a fast paceline of bicycles, since they must either all stay entirely in that bike lane as one rider rotates off the front, or most of the paceline has to ride out of the bike lane as the group "overtakes" the rider coming off the front and falling back in the bike lane.
Yeah, it's stupid. Just another example of rules being written by people who have no plan to ever have to live within them.
Anyway, I've got lots of these lanes, and I've figured out ways to make them work ... for the most part. But one thing that bugs me enough to kick off a full-blow Friday Rant is when I get things that are not bicycles in a lane that is marked "BIKES ONLY."
This happens all the time on Gulf Shore Boulevard. There's a bike lane on either side of this north/south road. Most of this road also has a sidewalk. Yet, for some perverse reason, we get people running in the bike lane instead of running on the sidewalk.
Now, I know that many of these runners think that they have a good excuse. The sidewalk is full of people walking their dogs, or pushing baby strollers, or just out meandering and enjoying the day. The runner is trying to get in a workout, and I can see where they would not want to dodge a bunch of slow-pokes. I mean, come on, how am I going to get a decent rhythm going?
Sure, I see your point. I'm empathetic to your cause. And, if you would be empathetic as well, you would see that running in the bike lane is basically submitting all of the bicycles in that lane to the same hassle that you just said you were trying to avoid. We call that "insensitive."
And it's not just that big pack of hammerhead cyclists whose workout your screwing up -- not to mention endangering their lives more than a tad. Yeah, it's hazardous when 30 bikes going 25 mph comes across somebody running in their bike lane, but I've also seen it freak out vacationers out noodling at 10 mph. That vacationer may not have been on a bicycle since he was a kid, so asking him to pull out into the traffic lane to avoid a runner is tempting sensory overload. Maybe he gets a bit of sensory overload by the pack of bikes that pass him, too, but at least we know how to go over into the traffic lane and get by, so that all he has to do is continue on his merry way in the bike lane -- where he belongs.
Now, I don't mind you running in the bike lane if you're on a road without a sidewalk. You've got no choice, so it's cool. The same thing goes if you're running on a road that doesn't have a sidewalk or a bike lane. Just as I would do if I was driving a car, I'll move over on my bicycle to accommodate you.
But, starting today, when I come across somebody out running in my bike lane when there's a perfectly good sidewalk next to it, I'm going to squirt you in the crotch with my bottle. Run another five miles with sticky Gatorade chaffing your shorts -- that ought to help make you a little more sensitive.