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Day 1 (Monday, March 3rd)

First, let me introduce you to my partner for this experiment: my commuter bike, a 1998 Bianchi Milano “Cafe Racer” with a front rack, fenders, a chain guard, and a heavy, 7-speed internal gear hub in the back. I picked up this bike used for a couple hundred bucks, then like any right-thinking bicyclist proceeded to exceed that initial purchase several times over with add-ons and upgrades, including a GoPro camera and a speedometer.

Last year when my bike computer’s battery died I never got around to replacing it. Gradually I realized how much more I was enjoying my rides by just paying attention to my environment and going whatever speed felt right, as opposed to being tied to a number on a screen. However, for the purposes of this experiment I finally caved and reinstalled it with a fresh battery.

This morning’s 4-mile ride from home to work was thankfully uneventful, although it definitely took me a while to get there; nearly 35 minutes altogether! Today I chose to leave just a little after rush hour to avoid some of the worst traffic, and to stick mainly to official bike routes which provide either separated lanes on busier arterials or shared lane markings on side streets.

This short, 4-mile ride still included 10 stop signs, 28 traffic lights, and a total of approximately 6 minutes, 30 seconds of waiting at 16 red lights (almost 19% of my total travel time). I actually feel as though I was able to catch more green lights today than I usually do when biking upwards of 15 mph, which means that I’m normally expending more energy for little to no time savings.

This was even more evident when I was headed south several blocks through Oakland’s Chinatown at 10mph or less, but still keeping pace with all of the cars that I caught up to at each traffic light. This means the city could easily apply a “green wave” signal timing here so that any cars or bikes traveling about 12 mph would get constant green lights, without causing much or any delay to traffic beyond the current conditions while also creating a much safer environment for all road users.

By slowing down a little bit I was also able to avoid some hazards that might have been trouble at a faster speed. For instance, do you see the pedestrian lurking to the right behind this poorly placed car parking spot, blocking the view of the crosswalk? No?

Well I did! And I stopped for her, for which she gave me a hearty “thanks!” before crossing. Bicycle ambassador for the win!


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