Changes and Thoughts Off the Bike

After several years of working in the same old basement day after day, I decided it was time to switch things up a bit. I left a very bicycle friendly office where several of us simply kept our bicycles right at our desks, and accepted a job where a bicycle policy was unclear. Although it’s a modern building, bicycle facilities weren’t incorporated into the remodel, and there are currently no bikes allowed inside the building. There are some pretty nice ashtrays on the property, but no bike racks. I wasn’t overly concerned though, because bicycling seems to flourish wherever I go. I’d simply have to win the hearts and minds.

Brewery Arts Center
Walking by the old Carson Brewing Company

While I’ve been figuring out my new bike situation, I’ve been doing a lot of walking. Spending a few days without a bike or a car can give you a new perspective on things. Walking is to biking what biking is to driving. Not in the sense of its impact on society and the environment, but your perception of the world and how you interact with it. If you want to slow down and get to know your neighborhood really well, spend a few days on foot. You’ll see and notice far more than you ever would on your bicycle.

My route to work takes me through the historical area of Carson City. I really like taking the time to enjoy the old buildings like the old Carson Brewing Company that once brewed beer with water from Kings Canyon Creek, or the Sweeney Building where Mark Twain’s brother Orion Clemens used to have an office. Some of the buildings even have plaques or signs indicating the historical significance (and insignificance in some cases…) of the site. These are some of the things you just don’t see at the pace of a bicycle commute.

Without all the preparatory tasks of bicycle commuting such as donning helmets and other gear, tire inflation, chain lubrication, packing your locks, cables, and lights, simply walking to work seems so easy in comparison. Just lace up your shoes and go. And walking is pretty relaxing. No covering the brakes. You’re not constantly scanning traffic and watching for opening car doors and other hazards.

Carson City
Sweeney Building – Mark Twain’s brother Orion Clemens used to work here

Since you have access to additional routes where bicycles are not allowed, walking can be an all new adventure as well. You can use shortcuts between buildings, one way streets, and crosswalks to your advantage when you’re on foot. I really enjoy cutting through the park like settings of the Capitol grounds with all the big trees, meandering sidewalks, and interesting statues.

There are drawbacks to walking though. Time is definitely a consideration. I found it takes about 3 times longer to reach work when walking. Errands outside a mile radius might not be possible during the work day if you’re on foot. Here in Carson City, the bicycle gives you pretty much the same range as a car.

Carson City
An old horse watering fountain – apparently the lions didn’t scare the horses

We sometimes like to complain that there aren’t enough bicycle facilities to get around town, but at least when you’re riding, you can still share the road with cars. The streets are in pretty good shape, and you can go with the flow of traffic. Our pedestrian infrastructure is much more neglected in comparison, which is kind of strange if you think about it. Most of us can walk no matter what age we are or what income bracket we’re in, yet many of our sidewalks are falling apart or simply end before you get where you’re going. School zones are more about safe parking than they are about safe walking. And since sidewalks border private property, you have to rely on the owners to trim their bushes and trees, and clear the paths of debris and snow.

But probably the worst thing about walking is trying to cross the main thoroughfares. It seems my best or more direct routes for walking take me away from the block corners where the traffic lights are, and I end up utilizing the crosswalks with no traffic controls. While I feel like I’m tolerated when riding my bike with traffic, I feel despised when having the audacity to stop traffic to cross a street on foot. Most people will stop for you, but they’re not happy about it. And they’ll remind you of this as they mash their gas pedals to the floor boards just as you complete your crossing as if to say, “You see how much time you just cost me? I’ll be lucky to make it on time now!”. Such strange behavior for someone kicked back in their heated leather chair, sipping a venti Starbucks, while listening to satellite radio in their climate controlled environment. The car companies are geniuses at getting people to commit large portions of their salaries to buy their products, but still haven’t figured out how to make people actually enjoy using them. As “luxurious” as they may be, apparently people can’t wait to get out of them.


A place of no historical significance

Luckily though, we’re starting to see more safe pedestrian crossings like the recently refurbished crosswalk on Stewart Street. Over-the-street flashing lights are immediately activated at the push of a button, and it really seems to legitimize your crossing attempt. I tried it this week, and cars began stopping far sooner than they would without the flashing lights. This new crossing on Stewart Street is obviously much safer at night as well. It’s dark when you get off work these days, so crossing the wide 35-40 mph corridor at the flashing lights may be a life saver. In addition to the new Stewart crossing, many of the walk lights at the downtown intersections have been re-timed to give pedestrians a little more time to cross safely. It pains me to see people hurrying or running across streets as if they don’t deserve to. It’s what we’ve been conditioned to do. These new signals will definitely help in this area.

New Pedestrian Crossing on Stewart Street
New Pedestrian Crossing on Stewart Street

I’ve ridden to work a couple times this week, locking my bike to a ramp railing outside the building. It also appears I may soon have even more secured bike parking inside the main gates that could even include a bike rack. This is great news and will hopefully encourage more bicycle commuters here.

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7 thoughts on “Changes and Thoughts Off the Bike

  1. Wolfy

    Your observation about how no matter the luxury or performance of a car, it still sucks to drive around in it has bothered me for years. The better things get, the more we want. Though I don’t think that cars are valued for their function or level of performance of that function, but for something else.

    I also switched from biking to walking a few years ago and observed the exact same things about infrastructure and atitudes. I even get treated poorly by cyclists when on foot as they feel that our human powered solidarity puts them outside the rules.

    I think that spending less discretionary money on cars and more on other things would be good for the economy, and our souls.

    -M

    Reply
  2. brian

    my comments parallel yours as i have become more “pedestrian”. much like the new world that opens up leaving the car for the bike, i have discovered another one leaving the bike. i walk to and from the bus each day (i live too far from work to walk and not lose my job for showing up late!) and it not only provides me time to exercise but it gives my mind a chance to prepare and relax from the work day. you can’t get that therapy behind the wheel of a car stuck in rush hour traffic.
    i walk quite often during my lunch hour now as well and it has been great getting to know the city better, to exercise (the streets are steep here!) and finding new things to photograph. i always take my camera with me just in case!
    i plan to ride to work in the summer months but for now walking is the next best option. enjoy the stroll!

    Reply
  3. J Malikowski

    I walk across Carson Street several times a day and night. With the way people tend to use it, crossing’s certainly not for the faint-of-heart. When it comes to exasperated drivers, I like to remember what David Seabury wrote: “Freedom comes only from seeing the ignorance of your critics and discovering the emptiness of their virtue.” If they don’t have flashing red and blue lights on top of their car, I see no problem with making them wait.

    Based on my experiences, a lot of drivers seem to think that there are no consequences to disparaging pedestrians. Not sure about you guys, but when I’m walking I do my best to call in offenders to “*NHP” or the Sheriff’s Dept. If someone threatens to strike you with their car, whether or not they actually hit you, it’s assault. Calling might not result in an arrest, but police involvement could help them realize that there are consequences to driving like a prick. With luck, they’ll be delinquent on their insurance or registration, and your call will help to get them off the road for good.

    Reply
  4. Juan Carpenter

    No, J Malikowski, I don’t call *NHP or the Sheriff’s Deptartment when someone drives like an idiot. Why? Because although they annoy me, they haven’t actually committed a crime. There are so many drivers who misbehave that it’s a waste of time to call in every single one. I think law enforcement has enough to worry about than following every little tip-in call about someone who upset you for driving bad. Unless they deliberately go out of their way to run you over or if they ACTUALLY assault you, why would you call the police on them? Does it make you feel empowered? I’m not being facetious, I just want to know what good will come of flooding dispatch phone lines because someone made you mad. I imagine that I’m driving near you and I happen to drop my coffee in my lap. Naturally, it’s hot, right? So I’m going to react, and probably swerve my car or cause my vehicle to swerve. So without you knowing that I just took a lap full of boiling water, your natural reaction I’m guessing would be to get on the ol’ cell phone and call my plates into *NHP. Then perhaps 10 minutes later after I’ve cleaned myself up I’m being pulled over for no reason by law enforcement. Scary, huh?

    Reply
  5. Donna inversin

    Welcome to the pedistrian way of life. I often find it’s quicker and easier to walk than get my bike out. Course I’m still anovice on the bike.

    Reply
  6. Brent

    I think we ALL need to stop hatin’. I drive, I ride, and I walk. No matter which mode of transportation I’m using, I always try to be aware and courteous because you can’t EXPECT that the other guy will be. A smile and a wave goes a long way toward creating a better image for your group… much further than taking your time getting across the street when you’re walking, or calling the police when someone upsets you, or honking and yelling. I’m not saying you should run across, but would it hurt to visibly pick up your pace, smile, and wave? It shows that you are aware of your surroundings and that you are not intentionally holding someone up. Maybe that driver will still be angry… maybe not. But who cares? You did your part to try and help move things forward. When everyone is angry, we all go backward. It goes back to that stuff we all should have learned in Kindergarten… Treat others the way you would like to be treated.

    When I’m walking, I come across cyclists as well as drivers who either don’t know the rules of the road or don’t care. When I’m on the bike, I have issues with pedestrians as well as cars and other cyclists. When I drive, pedestrians, cyclists, and (especially) other drivers. I just put myself in the other person’s shoes. How would I like to be treated in the same situation with the roles reversed? If all you do is walk, or ride, or drive, it’s easy to forget what it’s like to be on the other side of things. Some of these drivers have never been cyclists, many have forgotten what it’s like to be a pedestrian. Some of you may have forgotten what it’s like to be behind the wheel of a car and just how frustrating that can be. Not to mention there have been many changes to the laws over the years.

    I am not saying I am perfect… I get angry and frustrated all the time. However, I am trying to change the way I behave out there. Life is too short to spend so much time and energy being angry at others. I call it “giving someone free rent in your head”. It never has any effect on the other person, but it always has a negative effect on you.

    It’s pretty amazing to think how we are all here at this time, in this place. We all need to share this world with each other and we should all try to get along. You cannot control how someone else will act or react, you can only control your own actions. Remember, good will starts with you.

    Reply

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