Adventures in Urban Bicycling – Trust But Verify

I’ve been thinking about something that former President Ronald Reagan said.

“Trust but verify”.

He was talking about the Soviets.  I was thinking about all the drivers on the road with me.

I’ve mentioned in previous posts having to adjust to so many other folks sharing the road when I’m riding in the city.  What I want from them is simple – predictability.  It’s what I want when I’m driving a car as well.  I want the other vehicles – cars, trucks, motorcycles, and yes, bicycles, to behave in a predictable manner.  It makes life so much simpler.

For example, if you are turning, I want you to indicate that.  Yes, I want people to use their damn turn signals!  I try to indicate clearly what I’m going to do.  Stop, right turn, left turn.  The attitude that turn signals are optional drives me crazy as a driver as well as a rider.  But it really struck home this past week.  The street was a little busier than most, which means there was a bunch of us stopped at the light.  The cement mixer (honest to God, I ended up having an issue with a CEMENT MIXER!) was the lead vehicle.  I was pulled up next to the line of traffic, but only even with the back of the truck.  From there I can see things like, oh maybe a TURN SIGNAL!! None showing.  So the light goes green, the truck rolls slowly forward as you would predict and I rolled slowly forward too.  Only to discover that the truck was starting to drift my way.  That’s annoying, but big trucks will sometimes wander a bit.  I kept my eye on it and looked for turn signals just to be safe.  Nothing.  Truck continues to drift my way and is now clearly going to turn right in front of me.  Because I was being prudently paranoid (there’s a theme for urban cycling!), I came to a stop without creating any problems.  Problems for me like being crushed to death.

My real lesson on trust but verify came watching a young woman who was on the opposite side of an intersection.  I spend most of my time cycling through the part of Richmond known as “The Fan” (it’s roughly fan-shaped).  Nice streets, not too much traffic.  After a while, I realized that the intersections with traffic lights were predictable.  Once the cross street light went red, it was a two-second delay before my light went green.  Wonderful!  Now I could get a little jump on the four-wheel vehicles and get rolling sooner.  Aren’t I clever?

Then I came to the intersection with this young woman.  The light turned green and I was all set to push hard and zip through.  Meanwhile, she took a second, looked both ways and made sure that no idiot was blowing through the light.  In the split second that it took me to figure out what she was doing, I remembered all the idiots I’d seen doing exactly that in and around the RVA.  The wisdom of her approach seemed very profound suddenly.  Clever could get me killed.  Relying on other folks to be safe and predictable could put me in a hospital.

Trust but verify.

I am happy to say that the overwhelming majority of the drivers I encounter in Richmond are wonderful.  The day that I write this, I arrived at a traffic circle a second or so behind a car coming from another direction.  But he had clearly gotten there first and had the right of way.  He saw me and waved me through.  Much appreciated.  Most drivers give me the space I need and clearly recognize my existence on the road.  But it only takes one to really mess your ride up.


June was supposed to be the first of the “big rides” – Richmond to Williamsburg.  I discovered that the Cap2Cap doesn’t actually extend to Williamsburg, so I’m trying to find a safe route for the last few miles.  In the meantime, I tried to ride the trail to Jamestown.  Unfortunately, I appear to have not made the appropriate adjustments for the diabetes.  After 31 miles, I was very wobbly so I cut it short.  I am adjusting both my food and water system to make sure the next ride works.  Started off very well with PBs for 10 miles and for mileage in one hour.  Next time I’ll get it.  9 rides, 177+ miles.

I track my riding using MapMyRide.

Ride Total – 17

Mileage Total – 259.69

Let’s roll.


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