The crazy things people do, another alternative while the trail is still closed, and views from the train…

The trouble with nice weather is that it brings out the crowds, and with the crowds come the crazies. Here’s one example: On Tuesday I was biking home from work, enjoying the beautiful weather when I found myself behind two cyclists and a blind corner up ahead. I fell in slowly behind them, waiting for a safe place to pass. When we got around the corner, I saw ahead of them a small child on his bicycle, weaving back and forth haphazardly, and his mother, several steps behind…on her cell phone. On an open trail with few people around? Maybe. But this was not the place for negligent parenting (and yes,  there are good–or at least better…Ok, fine, acceptable?–places for negligent parenting). The three of us on the bikes slowed down almost to a standstill to allow the child and mother to pass. At that point, apparently, there were some words exchanged by the mother and the cyclist in front of me, and the next thing I know I see the mother, still on her cell phone, start yelling obscenities at the cyclist and sticking her foot out repeatedly at her wheel (to kick it? get run over? not sure…). Now, I’m a mother, and I would love to stick up for the mom here. I take my kids on trails a lot, and I have run across some real jerks on bicycles who seem to think that children should be locked up away from all trails. But the cyclist in front of me was certainly not one of them. I can only feel for the child..If only I could force people like that (the mother, I mean) to read my trail etiquette post!

In other exciting news, my bicycle is out of the shop and running great. Thank you so much to the guys at Wisshickon Cyclery I think the improvements have probably cut 5 minutes or so off my commute. See Jane ride. See Jane be happy.

There were a couple days where my bike was in the shop, and I hadn’t yet broken down and pulled out my monster Trek and therefore rode the train. And let me tell you, I do NOT want to go back to commuting by train. In the span of two days I missed the train by a hair and had to call a friend to pick up my kids from school. (Meanwhile, the second train was late.) I was squeezed between two unfriendly men, one who smelled of alcohol and one who insisted on sitting with his knees nearly three feet apart. And, of course, I shelled out nearly $16 for these privileges. I am so grateful that the option to commute by train is there when I need it, but so happy I can usually take advantage of the two wheeled option instead.

The third day without my bicycle was an absolutely gorgeous, beg-to-ride-your-bike kind of day so I pulled out my old Trek Hybrid from 2001. Certainly not the worst bike in the world, but after sitting in the basement neglected for a couple years, and after becoming accustomed to a bicycle that I love, it almost felt tortuous. I don’t know if it was the bike or just my psychological state when on the bike, but I felt like I was riding a beach cruisers while everyone else was on Madones. The only bike I managed to pass was one of those fold-up deals. (Why do people ride those on trails? Aren’t they for riding five blocks from the train to the office?…)

And lastly, should anyone be looking for another alternative while the trail work along Lincoln Drive is going on, to the side of the guard rail along Lincoln Drive there is a narrow but passable path. A bit tough to ride the whole thing without dismounting for those of us with side panniers, but at least it is an alternative.

My husband took this picture on the way home one night. This guardrail is on the northwest side of Lincoln Drive, paralleling the trail that is closed.


This alternative may not be there for long, however, as I got an email tonight from WMAN stating:

“Beginning Friday, March 2, a single lane will be closed on southbound Lincoln Drive from Wissahickon Drive to Forbidden Drive.  The closure is needed for the continuing repairs to the supporting retaining wall.

The closures will be scheduled at 9:00 am after the morning rush starting Friday, March 2 and daily through the next two weeks. Advanced warning signs will be placed to channel a single lane of inbound traffic around the work area. During construction, the parking area along southbound Lincoln Drive is closed.”
I’m not sure how having both the trail and the road closed will affect the option next to the guardrail. However, Ken also reports that continuing along Ridge into Manayunk to Henry to the Walnut Lane Bridge is a good alternative. And, of course, one can also turn up Midvale off of Kelly Drive and go through East Falls and Germantown.

A run in the woods

I had a delightful solo run through the woods today. So peaceful. So few people. Such a beautiful thin blanket of snow. Running bliss…I stopped to take a couple of pictures so that people could see the current state of the trails after the light snow this weekend. The trails are certainly passable on foot or by bike, but look out for the patches of ice. Here are some pictures taken this (Sunday) afternoon:

Wissahickon Creek

Bottom of the hill leading up to the Kitchen's Lane parking lot, Lot 11

Forbidden Drive near Valley Green

Ice patches along Forbidden Drive

The (very icy!) bridge over the Wissahickon Creek near Kitchen's

Whew, it has been awhile…updates on riding in the snow, bridge work and an upcoming trail closing (?!)

Riding home from work today I saw signs along the trail leading from Forbidden Drive Trail to Rittenhouse Town (near Lincoln Drive) stating that the trail would be closed from February 7 to April 30th! What? I’ve done a bit of searching online, but I haven’t found more details (such as the reason for the closing, exactly which sections of the trails will be closed, whether or not the trail will be closed at all times of the day, every day of the week…). Anyone know more? Let me know!

Anyway, when I saw the signs I remembered this blog and how I’ve long neglected it. So, a few quick updates:

Biking this winter has not been as much of an adventure as the last few, because it has barely seemed like winter at all. Our weather has been so nice! I’ve had a whopping ONE bike commute in the snow (January 23rd). (Our one other snow storm was on a weekend…in October!) Yep, just one day of commuting in real snow. But, I did take some pictures.

Commuting through snow (Lincoln Drive Trail, bridge near Forbidden Drive Trail)

Lincoln Drive Trail

By the time I got here, along the Kelly Drive Trail, the trail had been plowed, as the Kelly Dr. Trail usually is when it snows (often well before most streets are plowed), and the remaining snow was starting to melt. So pretty!

In other Philly bicycle commuting news, the bridge over the Kelly Drive Trail that used to periodically drop large rocks onto the trail has been fixed (January 13th). So, now the only thing I have to dodge on the way to work is the woman who rollerblades in zigzags wearing only shorts and a tank top tucked up under her bra (in January!). Yes, it has been warm, but I haven’t yet had the urge to bike in a tank top, much less tuck it up into my bra. I haven’t gotten up the courage to take her picture yet, but here is the construction on the bridge:

Crew fixing the bridge above Kelly Drive Trail (and shadows of Ivan and me)

Great start to the morning!

The crazy turn in the bike path at the corner of Kelly Drive and Ridge Avenue has been widened! I am a happy, happy commuter! Hi-hip Hooray! This is particularly good news with winter approaching. I have had numerous near wipe-outs  trying to make this tight corner (pre-widening) on ice covered cement, only to notice at the last minute a cyclist or jogger coming the other way. This should make the transition from the Schuylkill path to the Lincoln path much more pleasant. Hooray!

See the Bicycle Coalition Blog for before and during construction photos.

This morning, I was able to ride on the completed, widened corner (and didn’t have to go flying out into angry morning traffic). I was so delighted, I stopped to take a picture:

Newly widened corner at Kelly Drive and Ridge Ave.

And boy was I lucky I stopped! I felt lucky enough to have the construction completed of course, but then I noticed one of my panniers had fallen off (something that has happened only twice over a few years of riding daily)! I rode back to find it and see this handsome man riding toward me with an extra bag. My knight in shining spandex! Ivan, it just so happened, had been running late behind me, after dropping off the little ones so I could get in early for a meeting, saw my bag on one of the Wissahickon bridges and picked it up, recognizing it as mine. So, not only did I get my bag back quickly–and didn’t miss my meeting–but I got to ride in with my love after all. Great start to the morning!

Where would you rather be?

Where would you rather be?

Well, I think you know where I’d rather be.  Of course, I was on the trail that day, just behind this cyclist when I took the picture and was as happy as could be.  But today, oh nasty today, events of a two-kid-two-parent-two-job family and a dinner meeting got the best of us, and I did not get to ride to work.  And let me tell you, I was grumpy about it.  Not only was the chocolate I ate all day not guilt-free, but while dropping off the kiddos and showing up at work I kept getting “you look nice” comments, which makes me wonder just how terrible I must look on most days.

That’s so dangerous!

Our perception of danger is not always very accurate.   Most people, my irrational self included,  fully aware of the danger of cars and the relative safety of air travel, will jump in fright in turbulence but hardly notice going over a bump in the road. There are plenty of things I am scared of that are not likely to happen, and plenty of things I put out of my mind and do anyway because I have to or want to.  But when it comes to riding my bicycle to work, I will admit that I am always surprised by how dangerous others perceive this activity.  I would understand if I were commuting on busy streets, but I am not (most is on trails).

Is bicycling dangerous?  Absolutely.  So is walking across the street and driving…especially driving, and especially on Kelly Drive.   In the years that I’ve commuted to work by bicycle I have seen only one or two bicycle accidents on the trail, and the cyclists were always able to ride away with barely a scrape.  But in these same few years, I have seen the remnants of four fatal or near fatal car crashes, all along Kelly Dr.  The last one was yesterday.  A car went into the river, and the driver is still missing.  Read more here.  My heart aches for her and her family.

On my commute home around 5pm, I passed the spot she went over the wall and into the river. There was a crowd of reporters, rescue workers and observers:

Rescue workers looking for the driver

The crowd surrounding the site of the accident

Sadly, the rescue workers were still there this morning on my way in. (Edited to add: As of 6:10pm tonight when I rode by on my way home, they still had not found the body.)

So, while I don’t know what the chances are of being hit on the trail  by one of these out of control cars headed for the river,  I feel safer on a bicycle along a trail than I do in a car.  If you’ve heard about a fatal bicycle crash, you’re likely about to scream at me, “But I know this…”  Yes, I know of people who have died or been terribly injured riding their bicycle.  I know it is dangerous.  But no mode of transportation is 100% safe, and whether it is an accurate perception or not, I feel safest and, perhaps even more importantly, happiest on the trail.

As a parting note, please cycle and drive safely.

Alerts and musings from mid-September

What a gorgeous, drizzly day biking along the Schuylkill.  I personally love these rainy days.  The path is relatively free of traffic, and the ride feels more like an adventure than a commute.  It is now slightly less of an obstacle course, though, because the trees that were down across the Lincoln Drive trail have been cleared.  And while I do like adventure, hauling my bike over trees when I’m in a hurry can get annoying.

And while I do mean this blog to be encouraging others to ride their bikes to work, here’s yet another downside to biking to work: I didn’t know my polka-dot bra would show through my shirt, until I put it all on at work, five minutes before my first meeting.  Sigh.