Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Hope for the flowers.

I was going to say that my relationship with the automobile is a complicated one but it's not complicated, it's absolutely straightforward.  I've never liked cars.  My friends clamored for a license but I stayed mum.  I didn't get a license until I was 21 and there is still no situation where I wouldn't  prefer walking, running, or bicycling.

Why?  Cars suck.

There are no good (real) car stories.  A co-worker of mine is out of town for a few weeks because his brother-in-law was killed in a car accident.  The guy wasn't wearing a seatbelt (the seatbelt is the bike helmet of auto accidents) and went through the windshield.  Four kids left behind and  the youngest is six years.    Cars are a thing that get you from one place to another the same way that Purina Human Chow can keep you alive on a desert island --- it works, kindof, but it's very ugly.

It took getting older to finally start separating the car from the person driving it.  To have a little compassion for the person who had made the dumb move that had caused me to nearly wet my bike shorts.  There was no single defining moment, there were several moments.  Here are two, for your edification.

1.  I was bicycling with the Contraption Captain.  We were waiting for a green light to cross Embarcadero.  It's a long red and a short green.  Finally it was our turn and a woman in an SUV did a three point turn in the middle of Embarcadero nearly hurting me and nearly making it impossible for me to make the light I had waited for.  I was mad.  I wanted to flip her off.  The Contraption Captain shook his head at her and then smiled and playfully stuck his tongue out.  She blushed and laughed and hid her face.  At that moment she stopped being an SUV and started being a person who got hung up and kindof screwed up in fixing their situation.  Haven't you ever been that person?

2.  I was riding alongside the Contraption Captain who was pulling my youngest in a bike wagon.  A driver cut across us to make a right hand turn.  He came dangerously close to my kid.  I took off after him in a white froth of rage and caught him and knocked on his car.  He rolled down his window.  I said "that was dangerous.  You could have killed my daughter."  He said slowly, "I'm sorry.  I won't do it again."  I could see that he was new in town.  He was sorry.  A crazy bicyclist had chased him down and he was upset and embarrassed.

Try this if you haven't already.  When you're stopped at a busy intersection because of a red light look at the cars around you.  Make contact with their drivers.  If you can find something nice to say or if you have a pleasant smile try it out.  How come?  The drivers will be a fraction more careful when the light turns green.  Not just towards you, but also towards (I think) the next bicyclist they see.

Finally.  The next time a car behaves in a lame and dangerous way towards you consider the lives they lead.  I had to drive my youngest to gymnastics last Thursday.  The cars herded along.  People looked bored and tired and worried.  They cut each other off.  The didn't allow the others to merge.  They pretended not to see each other.  It was unequivocally depressing to see this giant mass of humanity and metal all locked in this slow unhappy dance of traffic congestion.

This was such a contrast to how it is to ride a bicycle.  On a bicycle I always arrive at about the same time, as there is no traffic congestion.  The bicycle makes me feel slim and fast and strong.  Cars just make people feel as if they are trapped in yet another box, no matter how posh the interior.  We bicyclists are so fortunate.  For whatever reason we found the courage to get out into the world on two wheels.  I'm no Danny MacAskill but when I clear a green light at speed or make a difficult turn I think I feel every bit as alive.

Get out there and ride.  Live each day as if you're ready for the funeral.  Show compassion to the people in the metal boxes.  You're big enough to do that because you know how lucky you are to be a bicyclist.

No comments:

Post a Comment