I ran a whole bunch of errands back to back tonight. It was a pretty low-mileage day, with 3 errands strung together for a grand total just a little over 4 miles. Something interesting happened on the way home. You see, I was on a relatively empty road in the evening. There were no traffic jams. No psychopaths hell-bent on running me off the road. It was my bike (with about 50 pounds in the panniers from grocery and electronics shopping) and a sporty Audi sedan sharing some main thoroughfares. No one else on the road to speak of.
Through six traffic lights spanning two miles, I consistently kept pulling up behind the Audi. And it’s not that I’m fast. It’s that when you’re in the industrialized suburbs, you might think you’re going 45 MPH, but you’re more than likely averaging less than 10 MPH in a car. In an urban setting, I’m used to being faster than traffic. There are side streets, alleyways, and routes that are perfectly clear but that most drivers wouldn’t bother using. It was interesting to see that even on arterial roadways, I manage to keep the same pace as traffic, even if I can’t go half as fast as everyone else once things get moving.
Next time someone says that riding a bike somewhere close would take too long, tell them that they might be pleasantly surprised. Traffic signals: The grand equalizer. Sometimes they even give you a water break.