As I’ve mentioned before (probably ad nauseum) I have some hefty climbing returning home from a ride. Well, not recently since I’m still nursing strained tendons from taking a hill a little too aggressively. (I’m also still listening…maybe half listening…to my well-meaning husband lecture me on the use of low gears.) With a bike carrier now firmly attached to my car, I’m driving up and down those hills until my leg is in better shape. But when I am healthy and taking the hills, one hill I won’t take is on Barkley Blvd. and it has nothing to do with the ascent, which is impressive and challenging. So much so in fact that when you tell people you ride, one of the first things they ask is if you’ve ever ridden Barkley Hill. Even though it has a bike lane, Barkley hill is just too damned scary. For some reason, from the stoplight at Barkley Village to the crest of the hill, cars fly up and down like they’re driving the Indy 500…if the Indy 500 had hills.
I’ve climbed the hill twice to the awe of many but mostly myself. The first time was with a pannier full of groceries. (I had to bail and walk the last 100 yards.) The second time I made it all the way sans groceries but not without almost suffering from permanent and debilitating psychological trauma from the insane speed of the traffic. It seems to me that this would be a boon to city coffers if police patrolled the area but rumor has it that a high-ranking cop lives in the neighborhood and doesn’t want to piss his neighbors off by having them ticketed for speeding. I honestly don’t know if this is true, but you never see a cop on the lookout for speeders on Barkley Hill as you do on Alabama Hill. It’s so bad on this hill that you can’t even count on the crosswalk light at Chandler. Oh sure, you can press the button and the yellow lights will flash but you damn sure better wait to see if the traffic actually stops if you value your life.
Two cyclists have lost their lives on Barkley Hill—both on the descent! One was due to cyclist error when for some unknown reason the cyclist swerved into the curb. He was probably startled by some speed freak of a driver, passing a little too close. (Actually, that’s pure conjecture on my part in trying to drive the point home.) The other was when a young woman pulled out of a side street and into a cyclist. Yes, there was a stop sign but she claimed the sun was in her eyes and she didn’t see the cyclist. This incident has turned into one of those cautionary tales non-cyclists use to prove the recklessness of cyclists in general, the most common sentiment being that any cyclist on that hill had to have a death wish. I’ve done the descent a couple of times as well and can attest to the freakishly fast speed you can hit. But then again, I’m not huge fan of speed so I find going down as traumatizing as the coming up.
Anyway, for me Barkley Blvd. is a road best avoided. Bad cycling juju and my own aversions aside, it’s just not a fun or pleasant place to ride. There are plenty of other hills I can climb both to torture myself and impress my friends without the treacherous traffic.
- The Hill Less Climbed, Or Not At All (highonbike.wordpress.com)