My Ride Home

blog_post_picture.jpgLast month I described my morning ride from my house in Winooski to Burlington. This month I will tell you about the ride home in the afternoon. My last destination in Burlington, before heading home, is usually City Market. As I am leaving City Market, when it is cold outside, I park my shopping cart in front of a heat vent in the exit alcove. I warm my hands before heading out to my bike. After putting my pannier on my bike, I turn on my lights, put on my helmet and set off.

I ride through the parking lot toward the S. Union Street exit. This part of my ride is often exciting because cars back out of or turn into parking spaces without checking carefully for bicycles or pedestrians. I keep to the middle of the parking lot as much as possible. I swing into the protected lane on S. Union Street and head north. The protected bike lane has led to many posts in Vermont Bicycle Commuters and Bikeable Burlington Now. The idea of a protected lane is great, but the actual execution has been less than perfect. The lane is not always plowed and it gets blocked with debris. After a snowstorm the protected lane was unridable so I had to use the main part of the street, slowing down a man driving a pick-up truck. As a result, he became apoplectic. He swore at me and told me to get into the bike lane. I waved and gave him a thumbs up.

When I get to Pearl Street I stop for the red light. There is a pedestrian light which sometimes comes on before the green light. If it does, I go on the pedestrian light. Car drivers have a better chance of seeing me if I pull out ahead of them. I often see a crossing guard at the corner of Pearl and S. Union. We both wear reflective gear. We exchange discrete waves. I continue on N. Union Street and then my route is based on what time it is.

If it is before 4 o'clock, and rush hour has not started, I turn right onto Loomis Street, left onto School Street and then cross North Street to Hyde Street which I take to Riverside Avenue. I ride down Riverside until just before Newton's Car Wash. I go onto the sidewalk on the right hand side of Riverside Avenue, and look behind me for traffic. When there is space I cross Riverside and get onto the bike/pedestrian path.

After 4 o'clock, when the traffic is heavy, I take N. Union Street all the way to N. Winooski Avenue, and then move into the left side of the lane so I can cross Riverside on the light and access the bike/pedestrian path. If there is a car in front of me I wait for the light, but if I am first in line I go onto the sidewalk and push the button for the pedestrian crossing signal. Cars turning onto N. Winooski Avenue from Riverside come way too close if I am first in line. It does not matter that I am highly visible. A car in front of me serves as a shield.

As I am riding the bike/pedestrian path I sometimes encounter pedestrians. My bike bell is usually enough to alert them, but if they are wearing earbuds, I also have to shout. I take the path across the bridge and cross West Canal Street. If there are no pedestrians on the restaurant row sidewalk, I ride up to the post office. If there are, I dismount and walk my bike. I stop at the post office and check my box. On cold days I grip a heating pipe in the post office lobby with my glove liners on. The pipe warms up my hands.

I cross Main Street at the crosswalk and walk my bike up the street a couple of yards before mounting. Cars usually stop at this crosswalk because they have to slow down anyway before proceeding into or out of the traffic circle. I ride up the hill on Main Street and take a right onto Lafountain. Shortly after that I turn onto my side street and ride to my house.

On Sunday morning, instead of using the bike/pedestrian lane I ride on the street all the way to the end of Riverside Avenue. I cross the bridge and then face the challenge of the roundabout. I am heading for Main Street so I have to get into the left lane. Sunday morning and weekday evenings the traffic is light enough to make this possible. I could do it when traffic is heavier, but that means riding with traffic on both sides of me, which is a bit hairy. I could also ride in the middle of the left lane, but I don't like drivers honking at me.

Every ride presents challenges, but the advantages of bike riding far outweigh the difficulties.