Nominal Mass Part 1: “Where the sidewalk ends”

Some of you have heard of “critical mass”, I am humbly proposing “nominal mass”. My idea is that by identifying routes for cyclists to commonly use, they may generate a presence that will hopefully demonstrate to other cyclists to use that route, and eventually these routes become better known by cyclists. The point of that is, a regular presence of cyclists would hopefully signal to drivers that cyclists are using certain streets and to be more aware of cyclists, and also maybe the City might be more inclined to at least post a sign noting that street as bike friendly. All this in response to teh reailty that cities are strapped for cash, and cycling is not a priority when you have crime and streets in need of repair. but bikes can use much of the existing infrastructure, and with some information, a cycling presence, and some signage posted by the city, I think we can make cycling more attractive in Arlington and be a model for other cities with similar challenges.

I also hope to get some pics of the elderly on their scooters ie Larks that use the street to get around, but back to the bikes!

According to the latest Planning magazine, they delineate 3 types of cyclists. A, B and C. A is comfortable in traffic, B is somewhat comfortable riding in traffic, and C is not comfortable or should not be riding in traffic, they are the recreational riders and children or novices. While I am a planning student, and appreciate this tres fix of cycling types, my inner bike snob sees it a little differently.

That is Type A is likely a “roadie” someone who not only is comfortable riding in traffic, but in really good shape, can sustain 18+ mph for at least an hour, and can not ride on a sidewalk or crappy street, cuz they ride a 3lb aluminum frame, with 20mm wide tires inflated to 100-135 psi. A mountain biker may also ride in the street, but at a much slower and comfy pace, of course 2″+ wide tires at 35-60psi is a lot cushier of a ride on Arlington streets! The type B rider may ride a road bike, but slower, they may ride a mountain bike, but probably hop back and forth between the street and sidewalk, navigating the lesser of the two evils. Type C as the authors from the Planning magazine noted are uncomfortable or should not be riding with traffic, for them they can stay in the neighborhood on the wide low to almost no traffic streets.

This is an Arlington sidewalk, it just ends and is poorly maintained, not suitable for even pedestrians!

where the sidewalk ends

This is Fielder facing North, it has enough room for a cyclist and a car, ye barely!

I think I can squeeze in there

This is Fielder facing South, I think this demonstrates the A vs B cyclist, although this may have more to do with riding two abreast for a sense of comraderie, which is a cycling no no when on the street, but at any rate….typeA rides in the street, type B is taking the sidewalk. Now what happens when a pedestrian wants to use the sidewalk and a cyclist approaches? There is little use of sidewalks in Arlington anyways, but other cities there is “trail rage” and “sidewalk congestion”.


This is UTA Blvd. (not sure what makes this a blvd) It has a sidewalk that students ride and walk on. It is odd to me that college students ride on the sidewalk, given that traffic is low, and the lanes are fairly wide. I need a picture of that! But this is what I have so far.


Well those are just a few pics and thoughts. I thought I’d share. I had ideas of identifying corridors for A and B type cyclists to navigate through Arlington and to connect to other cities, but I am not sure I can do that. Even the bike shops are not easily accessible by bike!


3 responses to “Nominal Mass Part 1: “Where the sidewalk ends”

  1. Interesting stuff. Again not sure of how many national differences there are but up here in my Canadian city, it is (and I totally disagree with this) illegal to ride on the sidewalk despite the danger of many of the streets. What makes it tough too is that many cyclists ride into the “car” lane because they want to avoid the greater number of potholes and mounds of dirt and gravel that tend to be next to the curb. They also wish to be more visible and not to have to dart out when going around a parked car. But this being forced to use the street no matter what plus the conditions and predilections moving the bikes over, increased the likelihood of conflict.

    Like the nominal mass idea and it should work. But what is needed most of all is a fundamental shift in consciousness…like all use trails, roads must become less car-centric and thought of as a common ground for all including pedestrians and segways. Might require a whole reorg of the idea of speed, of having to get somewhere fast.

  2. Hey,
    This is great! You have some awesome ideas about cycling infrastructure. I also like the concept of a ‘nominal mass’. I have a related post on sidewalk riding which has become quite the controversy here in New Haven, Connecticut. Check it out:

  3. There are a few roads in my area (Los Angeles) where the bike path is like a whole lane. It’s lovely and I agree but I’m a BMX rider. I’m accustomed to being unwanted by the general public and being nearly hit by cars. It’s all in the thrill of it. I try to ride wherever I feel like, for the sense of freedom. As for making a more organized, safe environment for everybody? Good luck. Until then, people have to deal with my non-polluting bicycling self while they spit out exhaust in their Land Rovers and shit. 🙂

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