A year ago, riding a bike down the side of the road would have seemed like a very insane idea to me, but with spring creeping up on me, it seems like it be a great time. Lot better than hitchhiking, and slower than driving. Ride for a while, stop at a stream, catch some fish, read a book, sleep, and wake up. All the zen of the driving nowhere, without the rush, and all the limitation of hitching, without the nutjob rides.
So I've been watching the shoulders of roads, and the drivers on the road. Theres a lot of nice wide roads around here, all two lanes, and a fair amout of traffic on them. Theres a bike trail on the side of the road that connects the two cities, about 12 miles apart. The bike path scares me. Seems like a damn good way to get clipped by a car, either turning in or pulling out. The path's ashphalt connects to the highway when theres a road entering the highway, and the road painters put a big white stripe to indicate drivers should stop in front of the bike path, but paint means little here. I would feel safer on the side of the road.
Riding on the road raises other issues. Us Alaskans have a interesting behavior when ot comes to cars turning left. I never understood why there were signs in the lower 48 states saying "NO PASSING ON THE RIGHT" You see, in Alaska, it is normal, when aproching a car turning left on a road, to pass them on the right. If the shoulder is wide enough, you dont slow down. If its not wide enough, you slow down a litttle, and drop the left tires off the road and pass. This applies everywhere. If your at a light, and want to turn right, you squeeze between the cars going straight and the guardrail/ditch/lightpole. It took me a few months of living in Washington to realize that this is not normal behavior.
So, if Im pedaling around locally. I have three choices. 1. avoid the roads with bike paths and ride on the side roads(a side road being simply a road that doesnt have a bike path.) 2.ride the bike path and be invisable to traffic. 3.ride the shoulder of roads with bike paths, incure the wrath of drivers, and have cars wizzing by me at 60 mph.
Now if im not pedaling locally, I'll be going up the highway. To do some camping/fishing/no i cant come to work riding. Another two lane road, nice wide shoulders, with most people going 65. Not a lot of side roads, so wont have to worry about passing on the right. A lot of people going a lot faster than 65 though.
So a lot of scary sheet when you stop and look at the physics of my rear end and someones grill. So Im thinking mirrors on my bike would at least be a good idea. And a helmet. I see cyclists with a mirror attached to their helmets, is that better or worse than a mirror on the handlebars? I've also got a few crazy ideas. i think im going to mount a small digital camera to my handlebars, and when I get buzzed/flipped off/honked at/stuff thrown at me/ shot with paintballs, I can snap a pic of the plate, get there address and send them VC propoganda, or report them. Also thinking about attaching a cb whip antenna, cut at 2 foot long, with a big red flag tied to the end, just to buy me a bit of space.
Anyway, any advice on high speed highways with crazy drivers?