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I know this is going to sound like “tooting my own horn” here but I’m a pretty unflappable commuter cyclist. It takes a lot to intimidate me, but I’ve got to say that there’s a lot of the Northland (Kansas City, north of the River and north of North Kansas City -trust me it makes sense if you live here) that quite frankly fucking terrifies me.

I had a meeting Tuesday night up in the Northland. I’d had another one a month earlier at a different location (near World of Fun on the east side versus near Lake Waukomis on the west) which was very easy and pleasant to get to, so I was lulled into a delusional state of security. I’d forgotten how oddly-laid-out the Northwest side developments are. Some, nay, many developments really only have one way in/out. Such was the case for the area I was headed.

I’d done my Google Map search and the route sounded reasonable – about 12 miles and the directions seemed pretty straightforward. That was until I tried to follow them and realized that I was going to be funneled on to a very busy state highway. Bear in mind that on this particular road, it’s not illegal for a bicycle to travel on the shoulder, but it’s pretty damn unwise. I wasn’t about to take that risk. I double-checked my instructions and noted that part of the route picked up NW Vivion Rd. for a bit, so I figured I’d backtrack up North Oak for a bit, catch Vivion, and take Vivion over to whatever that next street was. Ooops, as I traveled along Vivion, I hit Old Pike Rd, where Vivon goes from being a street to being a highway junction. Again, I looked at the 50mph+ traffic and said, “not just no, but oh HELL no!”

I ended up being able to co-ordinate with a co-worker who was co-hosting this event and I hitched a ride the rest of the way out with him. Next time I have a meeting at that location, I guess I will have to buck up and check out one of the company cars, although I am really quite nervous about driving one. I haven’t driven on anything like a regular basis in nearly a decade, and I was a pretty nervous driver up to that point. Someday, I’ll probably have the old ’59 back on the road, and we’ll see how I feel about things then, but for now, driving somebody else’s car makes me even more nervous because I feel like the stakes are that much higher if I messed it up.

I’ve been accused of being an urbanist snob when I admit my unwillingness to do much in the Northland, but it’s not so much a snotty prejudice as an actual inability to navigate a lot of that part of town. Many of the streets up that way are really not suitable to ride on; either they don’t go through or they are frantically busy, crowded, and basically don’t have space for a bike. The traffic is moving fast and tight and there are too few secondary arterial or collector streets that go through so you’re stuck riding on a busy trafficway with, well, traffic. I know the Critical Mass people like to reiterate that Bikes Are Traffic, Too, but the fact of the matter is, there’s some traffic that’s just too damn much for me. Since I don’t have a functioning car and can’t always lay out a reasonable and safe route to places, I have to concede defeat to certain chunks of the Metro area.

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