I've started riding my bike to work again in the nice Spring weather, and have discovered several interesting little factoids that I may have known before but just repressed from last fall. I'm GREAT at repressing memories if you didn't know.
Despite many of Ann Arbor's main streets having bike lanes, I ride my bike on the sidewalk. This is mostly because people driving cars go fast and don't pay attention to the world around them, while people walking go slow and don't pay attention to the world around them. There is always a constant stream of cars flowing past while I seldom see more than one or two people on the sidewalk (and even then they're almost always undergrads, who barely count anyay.) And I've had the good luck of having this decision reiterated multiple times in the past few weeks.
First, I actually watched a biker, in the bike lane, get hit by a car right here in good ol' Ann Arbor. (The car was making a right turn, I'm guessing this is the most common way for bikers to get hit.) Bike knocked over, bloody road-burned legs, all the goods. I didn't stay around to check for broken bones, my EMT license being expired by 8 months and all...okay, maybe this makes me a terrible person, but she stood up, and there were other people with cell phones out there to help her. What was I going to do? Put her on the back of my bike and take her to the hospital? Anyway, I'd really prefer not to have this experience from her point of view.
Second, the end of my ride after work has a huge hill and the sidewalk has extra waves in the hill to accomodate the constant driveways so I decided one day to try riding on the street. I regretted my decision immensely when I was weaving from exertion at the top of the hill in the bike lane the size of my front tire when a gi-normous semi-truck flew past at 45 miles per hour, swerving with it's own exertion in the lane not originally intended for anything but horse carriages. You know when you're driving on the freeway on a really windy day and when a truck passes it blocks the wind momentarily, but then you practically lose control when the wind hits you again? Imagine your little car being a bike instead. And now imagine the next vehicle to come flying up the hill being a bus. I will stand by my decision to ride on the sidewalk, extra hills and all.
While riding on the sidewalk, I have the fabulous opportunity of interacting with many exciting individuals. Let me point out here that's it not at all unusual to see a biker on the sidewalk anywhere in Ann Arbor, and is certainly expected in the general campus area. The common courtesy phrase as a biker passes a person walking is "on your right/left."
So the other day I say my polite but loud "On your left!" as I get close to a blonde girl (most likely an undergrad unfortunate enough to be stuck taking classes over the summer, at 8 in the morning no less!) She is pleasantly to the right side of the sidewalk (an unusual occurance) so I don't slow down as I approach her. Upon hearing my declaration, she literally pivots on her left foot, turns 180 degrees to face me and stops cold. "Excuse me?" she oh so politely asks my front tire as is barrels towards her. Turning TO your left when I say ON your left is one thing. But then NOT figuring out that I'm riding into you after you're staring at the tire tracks running up your shirt? Really?