Boulder County and its cycling community has gotten under my skin at times.
Like the time I drove an SUV on Foothills Parkway, hauling a trailer behind me. Fighting to keep the car on the road while battling the cross winds proved difficult enough.
But then when I had to make my way around countless packs of cyclists, riding four abreast. Yep, I didn’t feel too happy and surely mumbled some curse words.
More recently, I waited an extra 6-7 minutes at a work zone, as a cyclist ever so slowly made their way up Boulder Canyon.
I’ve participated in the endless back and forth on the Boulder Canyon Driver’s Forum between Nederland drivers and Boulder cyclists. I will say the discourse has gotten a little off the rails at time — wishing someone ill will because they ride a bike is not something I would ever do.
I have a bike. A mountain bike. I’ve always preferred riding seldom traveled dirt roads, or trails in the forests over battling it out on the roads. Even when I had a road bike many years ago, I mainly rode on rail trails.
But working in Boulder with many colleagues who roll in each morning on their bikes can run off on you. Maybe I should try to shrink my carbon footprint. After all, as a county employee I had a free membership to the Boulder B-cycle exchange.
My motives were altogether altruistic. I’d managed to find an all-day parking space near work. Parking near the Pearl Street Mall can be frustrating, and I didn’t want to give up my parking space.
Needing to run an errand down to the 29th Street Mall at lunch, I decided I’d brave the streets of Boulder on two wheels. I climbed on to my B-cycle bike and headed east.
I felt utterly naked, exposed. First off, I haven’t ridden a bike without a helmet, since I was a young child. I’d forgotten to bring my helmet from home and so rode with a bare head, risking head injury if I fell.
But the exposed part was more about being on such a tiny piece of equipment compared to the large trucks and cars passing by. I didn’t really know what to do at an intersection.
The bike lane was on my right, but I needed to turn left. Should I get in behind the cars? How should I signal what direction I was turning?
Intersections provide confounding for another reason. Trying to get back up to traffic speed on a bike is so much harder. As the light turned yellow much too quickly, I found myself stomping down on the pedals, desperate to clear the intersection.
Not wanting to repeat that brush with danger, I found myself slowing, but not actually stopping as I came to a stop sign. Suddenly, it hit me. I was that person. The person I had cursed at.
What’s wrong with these people? Why can’t they follow the rules of the road?
I quickly realized some streets had a bike lane, which at least provided some buffer between myself and the cars whizzing by. Riding on the streets, I tried to hug the side, as vehicle after vehicle bore down on me.
Then, yet another traffic challenge — a traffic circle. More second guessing. I see car to my left, should I go? Do I have enough time to get up to speed, before he decides to go? Finally entering the circle, a car cuts me off, not even stopping before entering the circle.
Yikes! These drivers are intimidating.
Riding back to work taught me one more lesson — a geography lesson. Boulder streets go up hill as they get closer to the Flatirons. I always thought Pine Street was a perfectly flat street. But riding a bike that only had three speeds to it showed me otherwise.
After my brief 30-minute ride (15 minutes each way), I glistened with sweat on this 90-degree day.
My brief foray on two wheels did teach me some humility.
I’ll think twice now before cursing a bicyclist.