Thursday, July 23, 2015

Riding Two Abreast is Illegal in Nebraska?

During Wednesday Night Worlds last night, the group was stopped by a police officer. We were warned that what we were doing, riding in a rotating double paceline, was illegal and that we needed to ride single file in the state of Nebraska. Needless to say, all of us were pretty surprised by this information and most of us simply assumed that the officer, while very polite, was on a bit of a power trip.

He caught up with us again in Ft. Calhoun and showed us the specific statute that stated that cyclists must ride single file on Nebraska highways. I made sure to write down the statute number as read from the officer so I could look it up myself later. Despite getting the number written down with two digits transposed (I swear I wrote it down as he said since I read it back to him to confirm, but no matter), I found the statute and figured I would share my findings here.

Nebraska Statute 60-6,317 does state that any cyclist riding on a Nebraska highway must ride in single file.
60-6,317. Bicycles on roadways and bicycle paths; general rules; regulation by local authority.(1) Any person who operates a bicycle upon a roadway at less than the normal speed of traffic at the time and place and under conditions then existing shall ride as near to the right-hand curb or right-hand edge of the roadway as practicable except when:
(a) Overtaking and passing another bicycle or vehicle proceeding in the same direction;
(b) Preparing for a left turn onto a private road or driveway or at an intersection;
(c) Reasonably necessary to avoid conditions that make it unsafe to continue along the right-hand curb or right-hand edge of the roadway, including fixed or moving objects, stopped or moving vehicles, bicycles, pedestrians, animals, or surface hazards;
(d) Riding upon a lane of substandard width which is too narrow for a bicycle and a vehicle to travel safely side by side within the lane; or
(e) Lawfully operating a bicycle on the paved shoulders of a highway included in the state highway system as provided in section 60-6,142.
Any person who operates a bicycle upon a roadway with a posted speed limit of thirty-five miles per hour or less on which traffic is restricted to one direction of movement and which has two or more marked traffic lanes may ride as near to the left-hand curb or left-hand edge of the roadway as practicable. Whenever a person operating a bicycle leaves the roadway to ride on the paved shoulder or leaves the paved shoulder to enter the roadway, the person shall clearly signal his or her intention and yield the right-of-way to all other vehicles.
(2) Any person who operates a bicycle upon a highway shall not ride more than single file except on paths or parts of highways set aside for the exclusive use of bicycles.
(3) Except as provided in section 60-6,142, whenever a usable path for bicycles has been provided adjacent to a highway, a person operating a bicycle shall use such path and shall not use such highway.
(4) A local authority may by ordinance further regulate the operation of bicycles and may provide for the registration and inspection of bicycles.
Source:Laws 1973, LB 45, § 90; R.S.1943, (1988), § 39-690; Laws 1993, LB 370, § 413; Laws 1993, LB 575, § 20.
Now, as Randleman argued, the roads we ride on aren't considered to be highways, right? The officer told us that ALL public roads in the Nebraska are considered highways. Most of us thought that answer was wrong, but again, I had to find out for myself. Cue up Nebraska Statute 60-322:
60-332. Highway, defined.Highway means the entire width between the boundary limits of any street, road, avenue, boulevard, or way which is publicly maintained when any part thereof is open to the use of the public for purposes of vehicular travel.
Source:Laws 2005, LB 274, § 32.
By that definition, it certainly seems as though the officer was telling us the truth.

So, it seems as though riding two-up on Nebraska roads is strictly illegal. Am I missing something?

Also, did anyone notice item 3 in 60-6,317? We're required to stay off the roads if a "usable path" is provided next to a street? I declare right now that I deem all sidewalks to not be usable paths! :)

Friday, July 10, 2015

I found the hills in northern North Dakota and they found me out

It’s becoming something of a tradition to go visit my mom’s family in North Dakota for the 4th of July weekend. Last year, Tyler and I brought our bikes up and did a little gravel riding out near the town my mom grew up nearest, Munich, ND. It was a fun 50ish mile ride and we found some interesting minimum maintenance roads, yet like most of northern North Dakota, it was very flat.

A few times, when we’ve driven up to where my grandparents live in Langon, ND by a different route, I’ve noticed this ravine-type area and I’ve been wanting to figure out what kind of riding might be available around there. So, this year I mapped out a route that would take me to that area. I found what looked like minimum maintenance roads that followed the river that runs through the ravine. I also noted that there were some gravel roads running through there that had some nice elevation changes. The MMR I saw on google maps looked nearly non-existant in spots and I figured I may need to backtrack and figure out a different route when I got out there. But that’s just part of the fun of exploring new roads, right?

Google Maps called this a road. Note to self: when riding gravel in North Dakota, never assume that what looks like a road on a map is actually a road!

The route I mapped out was about 78 miles in distance so it would be a pretty long ride though since more than half of it was pretty much pancake flat, I figured it would be completely doable in 5 or so hours which would get me back to my grandparents house before the afternoon got too far along as long as I left before 7 or so.

The day before I rode this longer route I did a 25ish mile ride and I ended up wearing leg and arm warmers as well as a wind vest, cause it was a foggy 55 degrees that morning! Fortunately, the day I went exploring it was in the 70s when I left. As I rode out, I realized that I was riding with a tail wind. As fun as it is to ride with the wind when you’re really fresh, it did not bode well for later in the day when I’d have to ride back in to that same wind. For the time, though, I made good use of the wind and made really good time without putting a whole lot of effort into it.

As I approached the river, the roads started getting really cool. There was some fun descending on dirt and gravel and at one point I realized I was going downhill for longer than I ever do back home. I did not expect that in North Dakota!

This is where the road started going down. Fun, fun, fun! There's pretty much a constant haze in the air from the Canadian fires right now.

These birds were going nutty over something at the bridge over the river at the bottom of the descent pictured above.

When I got down to the river, I turned north onto a road that would lead me to the MMR that may or may not actually exist. After scaling a fence, the road turned into a double track ATV path through some really pretty meadows and increasingly thick trees. I knew from google maps that technically this trail ended at a bit of a stream. However it appeared that the stream was easily crossable on foot and the trail seemed to pick up again after the stream crossing. When I reached the stream, it was slightly more difficult to cross, but really only becase I was wearing stiff, carbon-soled MTB shoes and trying to carry a bike over muddy and wet rocks.

I had to stop half way through the stream crossing to get some pictures. This is looking toward where the stream enters the Pembina River.

This is looking away from the river.

The stream crossing went okay, if a bit awkwardly, but once I got across to where I thought the trail should be and rode a little ways, I realized that the challenge was really only beginning. This is where the maps showed a “road” but the satellite images only showed grass. I had been hoping that the grass would be kind of mowed or beaten down my some sort of traffic.

Nope! Not at all. The grass was as tall as me much of the time and several times I wondered if I was on a fool’s errand trying to go any further. However, there was always an indication that someone or something had been through there not too long before me and so I could sort of follow the trail of slightly parted grass. There were also flags tied to branches and shrubs every so often that seemed to indicate that I was still on the right path. So, I kept riding on, glad for the assurance of tubeless tires and the fact that I hadn’t seen any nettles or poison ivy yet.

Eventually, I got through that section of bushwacking and hit more ATV trails. This is where the real fun began. I had assumed that, since these trails pretty much followed a river, that they would be pretty flat. I assumed wrong! They were never flat at all! Up steep gravelly dirt paths and down fast and loose downhills with water bars you could get a little air off of if you so chose. I laughed out loud a couple times taking corners a little faster than I intended. Such fun! But it was sometimes hard to tell how long a little climb would be so I found myself getting stuck standing and grinding a hard gear more often than I would have liked for longer than I would have liked several times.

There were a lot of these spots on the trails where water runs over the path. Most of them you can kind of lift your front wheel over and be okay. A MTB could probably plow right through them. There were a few that required a bit more caution though.

I followed these trails north until they ended at the river at a spot that couldn’t have been much more than a mile away from the Canadian border. I turned around and rode back to a spot where you could exit on to a gravel road and started my return trip. I was running behind my scheduled plan due to all the slow bushwacking I did. An approximately 8 mph average for about 5 miles will really kill some time! So, I started motoring along my planned route back. There was more long climbing that I had forgotten about and the landscape was still quite gorgeous so I was really enjoying myself.

Canada is over there somewhere!

I got back to where I had turned north next to the river and my planned route had me heading south along the river, but I couldn’t see the road from where I was and I was pretty sure that it was going to mean more bushwacking so I opted to simply follow the roads I came in on. That meant I had to climb back up out the river gorge on the road that had been such fun to bomb down earlier. Only now I was almost 50 miles in and this road just kept going up and up and up for way longer than I expected! It turns out that this climb was over a mile long and averaged almost 6% gradient. I was using every bit of my 34x36 low gear for a looooong time!

I paced myself pretty well going up that climb, but when I got to the top, it was mostly fresh gravel and my energy and patience for things like loose gravel was starting to wane. Also, that wind I was going to be riding into had picked up a bit more. I did not relish the idea of riding any more gravel into that wind knowing that I was already later getting back at my grandparent’s house than I had wanted. We were in North Dakota to see them after all. So, I decided to take paved roads back in stead of the gravel I had planned on.

The Pembina River winding it's way south.

Even on pavement, the wind really slowed me down and my legs had very little oomph left in them. My arms were also getting tired. I really should get a longer stem for road riding on my Crux. Long rides on the bike as it is make me feel a little cramped and always make my triceps a little sore.

The last 9 miles stretch was straight south directly into the wind. I was shattered. Every pedal stroke was a burden. I seriously considered calling my wife to come pick me up at least a dozen times. I’m still not sure why I didn’t. I suppose I knew that if I did, I’d feel like I hadn’t HTFU’d enough. And I was right. The last 20 miles were pretty miserable, but I got them done even though I didn't enjoy it. That’s good mental training right there!

The views from the MMRs I found did not disappoint!

I got back to the house, staggered inside, and promptly laid down on the floor to the amusement of my grandfather and my aunt. Meanwhile, my grandma did what she does and warmed up some pizza and got me whole pitcher of water before I even knew she was in the room! Gotta love grandmas!!

I can’t wait to get a chance to ride up in the Pembina River gorge again! Hopefully Tyler can come with next time cause I know he'd have a hoot and a half! Though, I fear the next time we’re up there together will not be for circumstances that lend themselves to wanting to ride bikes.