A Blog About Brian Albritton's September 2012 Cycling Ride Across Britain

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

The Bridge of Fear

On the way to Ft. DeSoto Park in St. Petersburg, you have to drive through an small island community known as Tierra Verde.  To get to Tierra Verde and the Park, you have to cross what I call, the Bridge of Fear.  It is roughly 38 miles from my house in South Tampa to Ft. DeSoto.  I have to cross The Gandy, ride through downtown St. Pete, areas south of there, and along the Pinellas Bayway.  Most of this ride is pretty safe, and there are bike lanes for much of the trip, including before and on the other side of the Bridge of Fear.  The single most dangerous point of my ride --of most any rides I do-- is this bridge.

I named it the Bridge of Fear because this is the kind of place where cyclists are truly afraid.  The four lanes of road and bike lanes entering each side of the bridge are squeezed into a narrow two lane bridge, with no bike lanes.  Cars driving at 45 mph on either side of the bridge (the apparent minimum speed limit) reluctantly slow down a little, but it is not unusual for them to go roaring by at full speed.  Apparently, the three foot rule between car and driver is aspirational on the bridge as well.

When the bridge narrows going up and over, there is rough and dangerous broken road surface just outside the lane when heading over the bridge from the north.  Cars driving behind you in the road as you're cycling over are impatiently wondering, "Why is this guy cycling in my lane?"  Well, that's because just to the side of the road is a dangerous, rutted surface that has no resemblance to a road.

And once you get to the top of the bridge, what awaits is a metal grating.  Not the dense kind that easily upholds a bike.  No.  Rather, the grating is quite broad apart, and it is hard to ride over.  In fact, I noticed on Sunday when riding back over the bridge heading north that there is a sign which says something to the effect of:  Warning:  Bicycles Walk Over Grating.  So, I'm not sure which is worse:  trying to quickly ride over this grating with cars right beside you or slowly walking over the grating, in cycling shoes, with cars right beside you.

At Flying Fish Bikes, my local bike store, I mentioned the bridge to two of the people who work there:  they knew immediately what I was talking about.  They told me, "Cycle in the middle of the lane; drivers will be upset but it is the only way to cross."  One guy told me, "It's very slippery when wet," and "keep your hands on the handle bars when you go down."  That's a strange request, I thought, but he explained that with a metal grating, if you go down with your hands out, they'll get split on the metal grating.

Finally, I can hear some of you ask:  why not ride on the sidewalk?  A sensible suggestion but almost always impossible.  People fish from both sides of the bridge, sitting on the sidewalk with their poles and equipment. On the west side of the bridge, the sidewalk is closed as well.

Thus, I have come to believe that cyclists deserve some sort of medals for the scary traffic and road conditions they endure.  Me, I want a medal for "Crossing the Bridge of Fear."

A. Brian Albritton
August 20, 2012

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