Save a Life: 3′

During the month of April I am staying with an active family during my remodel. This cycling family usually mountain bikes or racks up serious miles on a road bikes (triathletes, sheesh!) instead of my more purposeful trips. This weekend, while we did a mix of all kinds of rides on all kinds of bikes, I learned something: drivers slow down and pass me wider than they do other cyclists.

I don’t know if it because of my gender, because my trike is more visible, or because drivers think I am disabled; but the adult male cyclist in my group this weekend commented on how much safer it is to ride in front of me because the cars slow down and move over. Maybe that is why I take some heavily trafficked roads that he avoids (or dreads). I’m not complaining about the extra consideration, but think I should advocate on behalf of the non-female, non-trike cyclists on the road…

When you see a runner or cyclist on the shoulder or right side of the road, do you know the proper passing etiquette?  You should slow down and pass them with a safe distance. The definition of slow is less than 35 MPH and the definition of safe distance is over 3 feet (or one meter). In Tennessee, like most states, a minimum of 3′ is the law:

TCA 55-8-175 – Riding on Roadways and Bike Paths –  (c)  (1) This subsection (c) shall be known and may be cited as the “Jeff Roth and Brian Brown Bicycle Protection Act of 2007.”    (2) The operator of a motor vehicle, when overtaking and passing a bicycle proceeding in the same direction on the roadway, shall leave a safe distance between the motor vehicle and the bicycle of not less than three feet (3′) and shall maintain the clearance until safely past the overtaken bicycle. (d) A violation of this section is a Class C misdemeanor. 

What can you do?

  1. car passing cyclistSlow down and give travelers with less than four wheels (cyclists and runners) a nice wide safe margin when you pass them.
  2. Raise motorists’ awareness for the 3′ law. This site sells gear to raise awareness while biking, but you can post to social media and reach your network anytime. Frankly, some rednecks and idiots think it is funny to buzz past bikes. Let them know it doesn’t make them funny: it makes them assholes.
  3. If you happen to by this guy in London, you can use your GoPro to have the law enforced. You can find out the law in your state at this site.

yellow bumper sticker it's safer it's courteous it's the law

In Chattanooga, police officers on bicycles track the distance a motorist passes them using some relatively high-tech methods. I’m not sure it keeps all motorists safe, but the news coverage on the system may have made motorists generally more aware of the 3′ law.

In short, give bicyclists and pedestrians a safe margin of at least three feet when you pass them: it is the law!

Vertiginous Epilepsy or Vertigo

I don’t want to bore anyone with my medical details and, frankly, think the details are meant to be discussed with only my doctors and the closest people in my life. However, if you read this rambling blog, you will encounter some advocacy posts about my various causes and interests.

Medical Alert Bracelet

Aura: Vertiginous Epilepsy

I ride a trike because I can’t ride a bike safely and shouldn’t drive a car. I have epilepsy. It is as simple and complicated as that. Saying I have epilepsy is about as specific as someone saying they have a virus: there are lots of different kinds. My kind relates to pretty specific seizures, yet they are hard to nail down.

My first known seizures occurred in 1999 and for years they were only witnessed by an abusive partner.  He didn’t report the details observed thus an incorrect diagnosis of “vasovagal syncope” kept me from proper medical care until much more recently. (I’ll save my domestic violence soapbox for another day.)

A seizure (please don’t refer to seizures as “spells”) may or may not begin with a short warning called an “aura”. Some people hear things or see lights as an aura, I have a few seconds of spinning known as a vertiginous seizure. It is kind of like vertigo, except the direction of movement is very specific and always the same. It is not super common to have vertiginous seizures, but they often accompany temporal lobe partial seizures as an aura. That’s fits with my experience: I mostly have partial seizures that begin in the temporal lobe and sometimes generalize. I don’t always lose consciousness and I almost never shake, bite my tongue, or foam at the mouth.

The times that the seizures generalize (spread to the entire brain and knock me out), I end up with a migraine and severe fatigue after I wake up. Usually I don’t want to leave my bed for 12-24 hours, but even after that I’d not be safe to drive for a while. This only happens a few times a month and hopefully less given the right combination of drugs (AKA anti-epileptic drugs or AEDs).

Vertigo

Unfortunately, the spinning sensation is not limited to aura. On days when I am very tired or have a lot of stress, I will have “dizzy” moments several times during the day. So far, I have not tried to differentiate between the vertiginous aura and daytime vertigo… it feels almost the same to me. I once tracked the daytime dizzy moments for a week and had 11 in one day but 1-3 other days. It is hard to say if these are epileptic. While stress and fatigue are known to lower seizure thresholds so it make sense that these breakthroughs would happen, I believe they have more to do with moving my head position. My hearing isn’t great and that predisposes me to regular vertigo. On a bike, even regular vertigo will leave me in the ditch or, worse, pitch me into an oncoming car up to 11 times per day. On Nellie, I can close my eyes and hang on during dizzy moments without overturning.

Severe INSOMNIA

But I know you and you haven’t had trouble driving before except a few days per month. What gives? Over the past several months I have been struggling with wicked insomnia. This is on a different level than a handful of sleepless nights. I average about 15 total hours of sleep every 5 days. (You may notice that I blog and then edit posts over about the same period. Brains need sleep to do things like read and write.) I have tried just about everything, but nothing seems to make it go away. When I haven’t slept for 3 or 4 days, my reaction time, memory, cognitive function and general coordination is off. Some studies suggest that driving with severe sleep deprivation is similar to driving while intoxicated (I can’t drink caffeine or alcohol due to medication, by the way). Mix in the fact that fatigue increases the frequency of dizzy moments and suddenly I am walking because I can’t even ride a bike!

Walk Score

The Walk Score for my current house is 4 (AKA lousy) which is why I am selling my house. I hope to find somewhere affordable to live with a Walk Score over 50. Do you know your Walk Score? Check it out!

I am not asking for donations and links are not meant to solicit donations.

I don’t know the artist for the etsy link from the photograph above. I like having a pretty medical alert bracelet instead of the standard kind. I thought someone might like this one. 

63% What is your score?

After doing some research and speaking to Xavier a few times, I pulled the trigger on the quote and MOAB started the build on February 12, 2016. Today is May 16, 2016 and the trike has been used on a few trips, but the trunk is STILL not complete (which makes it basically a toy rather than an alternate vehicle for me). I’m too tired for a tricycle to still be stressful after 90+ days.

Shifting my lifestyle to less-car means more changes for me than just buying a trike. It also meant that I needed to move. If you haven’t tried Walk Score for your home you definitely should click on over and do that now. While there were definite reasons for buying the house that I chose, those reasons are less relevant now. In the face of not being able to drive, a home with a Walk Score of 4 (out of 100) is not acceptable.

63The place where I will be living by the end of next week has a Walk Score of 63. While that is still not great for walking, it becomes much more manageable on wheels. I am situating myself so that within 10 minutes (less with some turbo power assist) of pedaling, I can be at all the major shopping areas, downtown, and on campus.

So the journey really begins in two weeks. I had hoped that I would be able to ease into sexy bike legs before my move, but now I am butting up against the truck being here on Thursday and my Trike still being in the shop. It is not okay. Yes, I am grateful that I will have a custom trunk that is awesome, but right now the stress of one more thing pending is a little overwhelming.

Politics: TN HB1650

On March 16, 2016, a bill (HB1650–SB1716) introduced by TN Senator Gardenhire and Representative Carter was sent to the Finance, Ways, and Means Subcommittee. This bill prevents the use of gas tax revenue for non-vehicular travel! 

Please contact COMMITTEE MEMBERS before Wednesday, March 30, 2016 to STOP THIS BILL!!!

  1. "No Bikes" Road SignRemind them that the transportation cabinet should fund all forms of transportation!
  2. Ask them to use gas tax revenue to fund sidewalks and crosswalk improvements for pedestrians!
  3. Ask them to use gas tax revenue to fund meaningful bike lanes!

Even though bicycles are considered a vehicle under Tennessee State Law, the intent of this dangerous bill is to prevent TDOT from building bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure.

This bill hurts all Tennesseans, since the majority of those who walk and bike in our state also contribute to the gas tax fund. All road users benefit from decreased congestion and improved safety, some of the many benefits of providing walking, biking, and transit options.

This Bill Will:

  1. Violate Americans with Disabilities Act (as explained by TDOT here)
  2. Jeopardize Tennessee’s access to nearly a billion dollars of transportation funding from the Federal Highway Administration (as explained by TDOT here)
  3. Bring back 1950s transportation engineering
  4. Prevent safety improvements along busy state streets
  5. Decrease state and federal funds available to local governments
  6. Hurt businesses and make it harder to attract a competitive workforce
  7. Eliminate the Multimodal Access Fund
  8. Void TDOT’s Multimodal Access Policy
  9. Further endanger people on our streets
  10. Result in the loss of valuable tourism and commercial dollars

You can help oppose this bill! Reach out to your representatives on the Ways and Means Committee to let them know you oppose HB1650 — SB1716.

 **Big thank you to Bike Walk Tennessee for the use of their information and links in this post. **