Is that an afro or a helmet?

August 25, 2011

Every place I go within my little five-mile radius has been under construction this summer. Doesn’t matter whether I’m driving, biking or walking. Construction and detours. 

There are many lane shifts and traffic pattern changes in my home neighborhood as the city’s second light rail line makes its path through. The front way, the back way, it’s all disrupted. Going in the opposite direction, a mystery project on Interstate 94 creates other problems. The way to my favorite beer store is detoured.

And now the off-road bike path on the home end of my work commute is detoured because that’s where the new rail line comes in to join the existing one. I haven’t been able to find information about whether that will be a permanent situation. In order for the bike path to reopen, there would have to be little bridge over the train tracks and I’m guessing that’s not part of the plan.

The mile and three-quarters between home and work has been a constant obstacle course. It would seem that every street downtown is being shaved down and resurfaced this summer. My bike route to work is one of those streets, so I now enjoy nice, smooth blacktop where it had been cement, seamed, cracked, and pitted. And most excitingly, a bike lane is now marked where previously it had just been an extra-wide driving lane.


In addition to the stripes there is, of course, a pictogram biking dude (or dudette). The first few times I rode over them I thought, wow, the fresh, white paint really contrasts with the fresh black asphalt. Then I realized why I was really paying extra attention. Safety has come to the bike lane pictogram. The dude (or dudette) either has a flattop afro, or that’s a bike helmet. A bike helmet on the pictogram! It has been weeks since I comprehended it and I still get a giant kick out of it.


Being the over-documentarian that I am, I began to notice and photograph other bike lane pictograms that I encounter. On a street near the riverfront that has recently been tarred and chipped, I kept seeing these blocky shapes (left). I thought, oh that’s cute, somebody graffitied abstract skyscraper shapes on the road. After seeing three or four of them, duh, it’s in preparation for a biking dude (or dudette). The bike lanes to and from the grocery store already had theirs (right).


The bike trail between my home light rail station and the grocery store (I continued on to the store on my way home after work) had some faded, older, stenciled ones (left) in which the biking dude (or dudette) was riding a bike with zeroes for tires and wearing cargo pants. On some newer pavement, though, the biking dude (or dudette) was very modern indeed, sporting a rounded helmet and riding what appears to be a “comfort” bike.


The bike lane on the street was helpfully marked with a sign letting me know that should I wish to bike after a snowfall, it would be a good route to take.

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