Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Easy on the brakes

I was originally going to post how I had a near-miss situation with a car. Of course I'd have to hugely exaggerate it to make it sound dangerous. But when I was writing about that I found a better story.

After the holidays I needed to get some groceries. The shop I went is about 2 km away. I realized I almost always take a different route going there and coming back. Off my head, I can't think of any other case I do the same. The reason for different routes is the small hill on the route to the shop. Even though Oulu is considered flat because it's on the coastal plains, there are some hills that you need gears for. They are just too steep for single speeds.

There are two basic short routes to the shop. (The slightly longer ones are ignored for this post. I'll have to test them to see if they are better.)  A gently sloping route or a steep route. The steep route is basically flat except one 150m long, 10 degree slope. The climb is about 15 or 20 meters. At the bottom of the hill there is underpass (railway) so the climb is higher than the natural lay of the land suggests.

The Steep route bikeway seen from the side.
The route goes through an older section of the town with old single family houses and the roads are really narrow and visibility is limited. So I do not like to go down this steep hill because I'd have to brake all the way down to keep the speed in control. There are cars and people moving around so I can't just race downhill. And I'd break the 30km/h speed limit in the area, even without pedaling.
A look from almost the top of the hill.
Instead I take the gently sloping route. At one certain intersection rather than following the bikeway to the right, I ride straight through the intersection and ride on the narrow road. The road has no bike lane, so I have to ride on the road. I can coast downhill for several hundred meters and I don't have waste the potential energy by braking. I can use it to keep me moving. Very energy efficient. Perfect for us lazy cyclists.

Going back home, I usually take the steep uphill route. I think it's partly because this way I get a shorter uphill section. But bigger reason is the intersection I mentioned above. If I had to stop there I'd have to accelerate while going uphill. On the steep hill I can avoid that. I wonder if the bikeway designers think of things like that?

Oh, and the collision? I was cycling uphill on that steep hill, at slightly faster than walking pace. The bikeway crossed a road. As the bikeway is elevated from the road, there is a speed bump for the cars. So the car driver was driving slowly too and could not get out of my way fast enough so I had to slow down! (FYI: The collision would have been my fault anyway. I had to yield on that intersection. )

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