Yesterday I had planned to go to Spanish Fort. A bicycle was my vehicle of choice. When finally getting to the Battleship Causeway by the Hwy 90 Tunnel, the police had the eastbound lanes of the Causeway blocked. Another wreck?
"What up Officer?" I asked. "The road is closed," responded the Officer. "What happened?" I asked? "They are making a movie" said the Officer. "How can I get to Spanish Fort?" I asked? "The movie crew will be done by 2:00 pm when the road will be reopened." It is 10:15 in the morning. "You mean I have to wait for almost 4 hours before I can cross the Causeway?" I asked knowing that a 4 hour delay would cause me to be riding home in the dark so I am NOT waiting for 4 hours. "How are you detouring the cars?" I asked. "The cars have to get on the Interstate and get off at the next exit and backtrack" said the Officer adding, "The westbound lanes are still open." I was going eastbound. "That means I have to take the detour on the Interstate, right?" I ask the officer. "No, bicycle riders are prohibited from riding on the Interstate" said the Officer. "Are you serious? Then I'm stuck here for four hours?" I mumble. "ALDOT did not give a lot of thought to the road closure and detour," said the Officer apologetically.
Ahhh, so it was the Alabama Department of Transportation (ALDOT) who was responsible for never giving thought to providing a detour route for bicycles on this segment of US Hwy 90 which is a Nation Bicycle Route for Cross-Country bicyclists. Someone in ALDOT should be fired.
Since I was not allowed ride on the Interstate detour the cars were using, my only option to get to Spanish Fort was to ride a detour to the north or south.
The southern Dauphin Island loop detour to get to Spanish Fort is about 103 miles. For me that would be a grueling 8-9 hour ride and involve taking the Ferry. The Spanish Fort store would be closed by the time I arrive in the dark. The southern detour is not feasible.
The detour to the North would involve riding on very busy highways US-43, US-84, Hwy 59 and Hwy 225. The detour to the north is 177 miles to get to Spanish Fort requiring I ride nonstop for 14-15 hours. The Spanish Fort store would still be closed by the time I reach it at 3:00 in the morning after riding most of the night on the busy highways. I'd have to get a motel overnight somewhere. The northern detour is not feasible.
The Alabama Department of Transportation discriminated against people using a bicycle as a form of transportation when they neglected to provide a detour for bicyclists to get around the closed road which happens to be a National Bicycle Route.
"You say the westbound lanes on the Causeway are still open?" I asked the Officer as I watched the cars go by. "That is correct. Only the Eastbound lanes are closed." There is about an 8 foot wide paved shoulder on the Causeway, without rumble strips making the Causeway a popular destination for bicyclists. "Can I ride my bicycle on the westbound paved shoulder going east?" I asked the Officer. "Another bicyclist just tried to do that and he came back saying they wouldn't let him get through," replied the Officer. "You're telling me they let the westbound cars move freely but they stop the bicycles on the westbound shoulder?" I asked adding, "Are you kidding me?" "You can go see for yourself," said the Officer. "But be careful on the narrow bridge," the Officer says.
You see, the westbound bridge over the Tensaw River has no shoulder at all meaning bicyclists have to ride in the lane with motor vehicles, including big wide trucks. It is a dangerous bridge for bicyclists to cross. Due to the curvature of the bridge bicyclists are not visible to motorists until the last moment requiring motorists to make rash decisions like either hit the brakes quickly or change lanes. But the Officer was okay with me riding the wrong way down the one way traffic on the bridge with no shoulder.
Despite seeing cop cars all over the Causeway, no one stopped me from riding on the westbound shoulder to the Tensaw River bridge. I was lucky enough not to encounter any big truck on the narrow bridge. Only two cars surprised by my presence in their lane on the bridge honked at me as they jerked their steering wheel to avoid hitting me. Once over the Tensaw River bridge, I crossed over to the Eastbound shoulder and continued on my trip to Spanish Fort along the traffic free eastbound lanes. I saw no movie activity and no reason for the eastbound lanes to even be closed. Only on the return trip did I see some movie filming on the Tensaw River eastbound bridge.
In hindsight, I wonder how hard it would have been to free up one of those cop cars whose officers were glued to their Cellphone to momentarily block one lane of the westbound traffic on the Tensaw River bridge for 2 minutes so a eastbound bicyclist could cross safely. But I do thank the Police for letting me continue on my trip instead of arresting me for riding the wrong way on a one-way narrow bridge.
Shame on ALDOT and the Police for NOT having a safe detour route for bicyclists on a National Bicycle Route after allowing the road to be closed for Hours because of a recreational pursuit. I guess it is going to take legal intervention to stop the discrimination against bicyclists in Alabama.
The at least 4 hour closure yesterday of 1/2 of the Causeway for recreational purposes (making a movie) just goes to show you closing 1/2 of the Causeway can be done with minimal interruption to traffic.
Spanish Fort and Mobile should join forces to work together like they do in other Cities throughout the world and America and close 1/2 of the Causeway every weekend opening up the 7 miles of the scenic Causeway to only bicyclists, joggers, walkers, skaters, skateboarders, and other human powered activity. Give people a safe place to exercise on a public street on the weekends.
Giving a community a safe place in the streets to de-stress, get healthy, and unite is nothing new. The concept of temporarily closing down a public street to motor vehicle traffic so the public can use it safely is known as Ciclovia. Here is a link going into more detail about the concept and benefits of a Ciclovia in Columbia: