As city streets at rush hour go, St. Louis isn't bad. With most drivers snarled up on the highways, I'm able to string together greenways, no exit overpasses, paths through city parks, and the two-lane cut throughs that only drivers using the Waze App know about... all to make a legitimate route without too much stopping (which could turn an hour ride into an hour and half ride if you aren't careful).
Occasionally, though, I find myself in a squeeze, and this is where the jungle part comes in. The bike lane ends with an aggressive curb. Sticks or roadkill find their last resting place on the roadside. A honeysuckle branch leans into the road like a limbo stick. A sudden line of cars backs up at a slow red light, parked on the roadway inches from the white line. Where to safely put my skinny tires?
Think like a cyclocrosser and adopt these new rules of the road!
1. Know how to how to get your wheels up a curb.
2. Watch for potholes, but train yourself to ride over them (or jump) rather than swerving.
3. Don't be afraid to take the room you need on the road (3 ft. rule!), jump on a sidewalk, ride across a median or lawn.
Last night, as I crested a hill Westbound on Clayton Rd., cars backed up in front of me, at least 2-3 cycles of the red light. It was starting to get cold and close to dusk. The setting sun slanted into my eyes and the eyes of the drivers around me. On the road, there was barely a foot on the right side of the white line (ending in a 6-inch curb) and no bike lane I could use to get myself out of traffic. Plus, there were drivers attempting to nudge their vehicles through unrecommended maneuvers from side streets, across multiple lanes of traffic, to make a turn.
I approached the car stopped in front of me, took the whole lane, and angled my tires somewhat perpendicular to the curb. First one wheel, then the second, I gingerly eased my bike up and over the curb and along the cracked and weedy sidewalk. I ducked under a tree branch, then jumped the end of the sidewalk into the cross walk of a side street occupied by one of the aforementioned maneuverables, swerved behind them (they were not going anywhere), jumped the next curb onto the grass (apparently this was where the sidewalk ends), off-roaded for fifty-feet, then popped back onto Clayton Rd at the head of the line of cars in the most visible spot at the red light.
There are some benefits to riding a bike at rush hour.