Thanks to everybody who shared your thoughts and experiences. As
always on the OBRA list, many insightful and challenging comments. I
find myself agreeing with all of them, even and especially those that
directly contradict one another. Clearly, keeping ourselves safe while
sharing the roads with cars and trucks is a complex business that
requires constant calculation and behavior modification. We have to
weigh all these possibilities in the moment, check our intuition and
our surroundings, and commit to a decision we can live with, literally
My experiences with it over the years have turned me into a pragmatist
rather than an idealist.
I certainly agree with taking the lane when circumstances dictate, and
using the roadway on the SJB fits the bill. I have no interest in
being part of a driver's experiment to see if a car and bike can fit
side by side at speed in traffic with life or death in the margin of
error. Even when the roadway isn't busy, I tend to ride the center of
the right lane and hold my line.
I will probably continue to use the walkway if the bridge is real
busy, but I don't love that either. As Susan pointed out from my
original post, if you're headed westbound on the walkway, you may be
closer to a large truck in the far right lane than you would be were
you in the middle of that same lane and the truck had to go around
you. In this case, I know he didn't see me. I heard him behind me, and
when I started to turn my head to the left to see him, I realized he
was WAY too close for me to be turning my head that direction, so I
held my line (and my breath) instead. In the lane, the curb is indeed
tall; but there's no great bailout to the right if you're on the
walkway either. Maybe I should invent the Pannier Parachute (TM).
All that said, commuting and training in Portland is so much safer
than in Austin (where I moved from) that I can't even describe it to
you. There is nothing safe about commuting there - I did it for years
- and many/most people have a commute for which there is no cycling
solution. So mostly I try to constantly remind myself how good we have
it, and how many affordances have been created to make the road
sharing thing a little safer and easier.
The St. Johns Bridge is a stunning bridge. My girls call it "The
Castle Bridge". I love the form and the function - it leads me to some
of my favorite rides. I just need to learn how to use it better, and
all the advice in this thread is helpful to that end. The OBRA
community is awesome - perhaps the best example of how good we
cyclists have it here.