I believe that the most intimidating places for cycling in the Champaign-Urbana area are the narrow, two-lane overpasses that we have over our Interstate highways. These include the Bradley, Kirby and Windsor overpass over I-57 in Champaign and the High Cross Road overpass over I-74 in Urbana. A cyclist wanting to leave Champaign on the west side or Urbana on the northeast side (or wanting to enter the city from these locations) has to deal with these narrow bridges which can have a fair amount of traffic, especially during peak travel periods. The limited forward visibility while approaching and climbing the overpass (worse for most motorists than cyclists because of their lower position) also adds to the challenge.
One way to negotiate these bridges is to ride as far to the right as possible to try to stay out of the way of same-direction motor vehicles. However, this only encourages motorists to try to squeeze by without changing lanes, or to move partially into the oncoming lane when forward visibility is limited with potentially very nasty consequences. Edge cycling also exposes cyclists to the road hazards found on the edge of roads. And if a motorist does try to squeeze by too closely, the edge cyclist has no room as a safety margin to the right.
Instead, a better way to negotiate these overpasses (and indeed any two-lane roads with narrow roads) is to practice what we call in CyclingSavvy "control and release." This involves controlling the lane by driving one's bike in the center or a bit left of center of the travel lane when it is not safe for motorists behind to overtake and moving right only when it is safe to be passed. We also use hand signals to communicate when to hold 'em (motorists don't pass), when to release 'em (safe to pass) and to often express appreciation for motorists' patience and cooperation with a friendly wave.
This two-minute video, created with the assistance of Founding CCB Chair and current Vice President Rick Langlois, demonstrates the technique on Kirby Avenue over I-57 (this is the overpass with the most traffic in C-U). I initially hesitated making this video public because it looks like I am making a great effort to go fast on the overpass and I do not want to give the impression that this technique requires a strong and fast cyclist (it does not). In fact, our average speed was only about 14 mph in the video. But I was pedaling a loaded Xtracycle bike that weighed about 75 lbs. So that is why it looks like I am suffering to keep up with Rick (plus the fact that Rick is a strong cyclist).
Because of the work that went into the video and because I think it is informative despite my uncharacteristically unpleasant facial expressions (does anyone know how to digitally blur a face in a video?), I have made it public for now and plan to re-do it when I get a chance at a much more leisurely effort (and lighter bike!). I'd also prefer to have a woman as my video riding partner (so let me know if you are interested in being a traffic cycling video star).
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