Saturday, March 31, 2012

Sparkle Pony Grows Up

I nick-named my older daughter, somewhat unfairly, as Sparkle Pony.  At Burning Man a "sparkle pony" is someone who needs a lot of attention to thrive, and this does not describe my Sparkle Pony who is in many ways an easy and undemanding child but it does describe her fondness for being served chocolate chip pancakes in the morning.

She loves soccer and has played for a number of years but it is only in the last two or so that she has become serious about refining her skills and training.  There would be opportunities for her to bicycle to a game but she would always refuse saying that the pedaling tired her out for the game and that afterwards she was too tired to pedal home.  When she was smaller Contraption Captain put a pillow on the rack of his Tour Easy and pedaled her home --- very Sparkle Pony --- although she'd would at least contribute to the effort a little by rubbing his shoulders which he enjoyed.  Still, Sparkle Pony grew and the time came when she just couldn't be carried to and from her games on the back of a bicycle.  Instead she went in a car-pool or was driven by car.

Then, some months ago, a bit flipped inside Sparkle Pony.  Outwardly she looked the same but inwardly she had changed.  We didn't notice until she had the opportunity to have a private lesson with her beloved coach, but there was no option to use the car and the field was five miles away up a steep hill.  Without any noticeable hesitation she opted to bicycle to the field, train for sixty 1:1 minutes with a tough coach, and then bicycle home.

She loved it.

Since then she has been biking to every game within reach and if our bike routes were more Dutch and less American (aka safer) she'd be bicycling to every practice.  I am very proud of her.  The Sparkle Pony is growing up and going forward I will refer to her as Pelé because she has the sturdy and uncompromising heart of an athlete.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

dream a little dream

Remember the mean old white bastard who drove a classic model pale blue Mercedes and chased the Contraption Captain and I up the street screaming expletives at us and trying to force us to get off our bicycles and scream with him?  The guy who wanted to tear us new assholes because we had committed the crime of bicycling too close together and talking to each other and having fun?  This is the same guy who chased us all the way to the gate of Contraption Captain's company where we dragged our bicycles inside and hid out until he was gone and I was late to work?

Yeah.  Me too.  I remember that asshat really well.  Every time I drop Rapunzel at school and take Ravenwood St towards work I'm watching my rear view mirror.

Then a few days back I meet Contraption Captain at work and we pedal off on our merry (really!) way towards home and Captain points out a garage to me.  And there it is!  In that garage is the self-same Pale Blue Mercedes.  Alone, unattended by a raging asshole, it is just sitting there nearly begging me to leave some charming mark all over it's minty fresh but vintage surface.

"Welp" says the Contraption Captain "That explains a lot."

"What?" I say.  "It doesn't explain anything!"

The Captain laughs and says "He lives on Bryant" and then he gives me a meaningful look.


"Bryant Street, also known as Bicycle Boulevard."

"What?  So?"

The Contraption Captain smiles patiently, "He hates bicyclists and he lives at the foot of the Menlo Park Bike Bridge which adjoins Bicycle Boulevard.  Every day he sees tons of bicyclists.  It must really burn his ass."

...and that made me laugh.

I haven't entirely ruled out the putting any or all of the following bumper stickers on that vintage car, however:

1.   I Hate Bicyclists.  Don't Ask Me Why.
2.  I've Had This Car Since Signing On With The Gestapo
3.  Since My Wife Left, I Just Have This Car To Mount

the small dreams, angst and tiny dramas of a bicycle commuter

[warning:  this is a long boring story.  feel free to move on]

A few weeks back on my way in to the office I came up to the red light at Embarcadero.  A second bicyclist was waiting there as well and in my usual (hopefully non-creepy) way I look him over and make an educated guess as to how fast he will be and I decide "not so fast."  He has a nice bicycle, better than mine. He's got a half-assed fender which says "I commute often enough that I'm sick of ending up with a stripe of mud" but I'm just not seeing Lance Armstrong here and then the light turns green.  I give him a little bit of time to get up to speed but ultimately he's not very fast and so I peaceably go around and pedal away enjoying the lovely feeling that is bicycling faster and faster on a road where the cars are not much of a threat and there is plenty of room for bicyclists of all capabilities. 

The next light is Oregon Express-way where a bunch of us commuter types are piled up waiting for the green.  One of these bicyclist has an odd, grey, plastic, packety-thing mounted to the back of his bicycle.  What is it?  After considering and discarding a few options I ask the bicyclist what's that bolted to his rack?  The light turns green and as we pedal on our way he describes his home-made bicycle lighting system and how he rigged the rechargeable battery.

Now is the return of the Slow Earlier Bicyclist who has caught up while I waited and passed me while I talked to Home-made Lighting Bicyclist.  I pass Slow Earlier Bicyclist again as he's well, slow but he calls out to me so I fall back.  After a certain amount of hemming and hawing he tells me that with all due respect, he has never seen a female bicyclist as fast as I am before.  Do I race?

Answer:  No.  I do not race.

I say (nicely I hope), "You haven't see a female bicycle commuter who is this fast but by racing standards I am not even average.  Also some of the female bike commuters are faster, they just don't seem to come out much." 

Still, a nice compliment eh?  I like it that the old lady can still turn the pedals.  We pedal along side by side for awhile and he tells me that he has two kids and all of his bicycling takes place on the way towards work or away from work.   We have things in common.  We both really love bicycling.

Ok, so, why is someone who loves racing other commuters not out in the peloton on weekends racing for real?

1.  I'm not fast.  In fact, I'm slow.  It pains me to say this but it's true.  It used to bother me that I was of average speed but you get old enough and you stop complaining about being someone who can't run a 6 minute mile and start feeling lucky that you aren't dead yet.

2.  People bicycling close to me scare me unless we are married.  I like plenty of you but I have a fear of colliding with other bicyclists.  This is not a phobia that is going to serve me well heading down a La Honda mountain in a peloton of crazed roadies.

3.  I don't have the time.  When I trained for marathons I'd run five hours and then come home and eat everything in the kitchen and then fall asleep.  Training takes way more time than racing.  One of my favorite things about commuting by bike is that I get a nice ride in without taking a bunch of time away from my family who I adore.

Then what happened?

A few days later I am bicycling along and I come to a four-way stop with a bunch of cars waiting and taking turns.  I get to the front and it is almost but not quite my turn.  Behind me more cars are waiting.  The car crossing in front of me makes eye contact and we agree that it is his turn.  He starts forward.  A bicyclist comes up on the side at high speed and goes through the intersection without stopping.

This enrages me.  I hate this.  I can't even explain why I find it so violating when bicyclists do this.  Maybe I'm jealous, maybe I want to be an asshole too I don't really know.  But it makes me feel angry and betrayed.

My turn comes around and I go through the intersection and furiously take off down Bryant, catching the rude bicyclist and dusting him thoroughly.  He knows me.  Yes.  It's Slow Earlier Bicyclist and he is happy to see someone he knows and he calls out "hi!" to me and I ignore him, totally snub him because I hate it when bicyclists ride the way he is riding.

But I'm not happy.  I'm sad, almost depressed.

Yesterday I am again waiting at the Oregon Expressway and Slow Earlier Bicyclist arrives next to me.  I can tell he's wondering if this is the day I am going to be Friendly or if this is the day I am going to be Mean.  I can tell he has no idea that the way he rides bothers me.  I think about Contraption Captain who is always smiling and encouraging people and I think about how frosty I am when I'm mad and how the way I am changes nothing for the better.

I smile and I say hello and I ask him how he's doing and whether his weekend was nice.  He looks incredibly happy and tells me he has been well and then he puts out his hand and introduces himself and tells me his name.  I tell him my name.  We bicycle a little together and he asks about my SPD pedals.  He tells me about breaking his hip earlier this year and being unable to bicycle.

I'm still a mean bitter bicyclist who will tap on someone's window so that I can tell them that their car smells like Limburger cheese that has turned but I want peace with the other bicyclists.  It's hard enough out there without having me fighting among my own kind.

Friday, March 23, 2012

and what else is new?

I was riding home on Wednesday when I spotted two small boys who looked like identical twins perhaps three years of age.  They were riding identical tricycles on the sidewalk close to downtown Palo Alto.  I thought that they were making pretty good time considering the engineering limitations that are introduced by three wheels.  Also, they (the children, not the bicycles) were absolutely and totally naked as the proverbial jaybird.

My working theory is that there had been some kind of open rebellion at bath time resulting in this ultimate nude jailbreak.  So if you are reading this and you are either one of those two naked three year olds or you know a naked three year old I want to say that I hope you got to the airport on time and I want to urge you to put on pants before attempting a similar stunt on two wheels.

every time I see you cry makes me smile.

Sometimes, after the kids go to bed the Contraption Captain mixes up lychee martinis and we cue up a nice movie and nibble chocolate and stay up way too late and have a great time.  Basically, it's exactly as Rapunzel and Sparkle Pony suspect:  they miss out on some good times when they allow themselves to be tucked in for the night at a civilized hour.

In the same way, the cars suspect that I'm smirking when they're having a bad time.  Unless the cars are doing something to make me mad I don't show anything on my face but here I will admit that I am probably even more amused by their misfortune than they suspect.  When I see their fender benders?  When they are stuck watching the light change red to green to red again and nothing is moving?  When I see that there's been an accident on the 101 and no one is going anywhere?  When they can't find a place to park?  Yeah, it's true.  I smile.

Today I am pedaling up Bryant Street and it's a little windy and I'm staring way up ahead to see where the traffic light at Oregon Expressway is at and I notice something.  I squint a little.  Is that a cop car?  Yes.  Yes it is a cop car waiting on the wrong side of the street.  What are those policemen doing I wonder.

I come to a complete stop at the 4-way of California and Bryant.  A BMW shrieks up behind me and hits the brakes.  I pretend not to notice.  I look carefully to the left and the right.  No one there.  It is safe to go!  "It is safe to go" I confide to the BMW.


I roll through the intersection.  BMW does not, I note in my mirror, come to the line and make a complete stop.  He rolls right along behind me and now he wants to get past me.


Unfortunately (for both of us really) the BMWs endless companions (those things breed like rabbits) are parked up and down both sides of the street so there is not a lot of room to get around seeing as I am no Danny MacAskill and I can't bicycle over the legion of parked cars.  "No matter" I say cheerfully to the BMW "the intersection is a bare block ahead and the light is red!"

The BMW can't take anymore.  I just hear a low moan of anguish.

The BMW decides to go around me.  "I MUST GO AROUND."

Me:  "Sure thing, BMW.  But really, I think you should just wait for the intersection."

Vrooooooooooom.  The BMW is heading up the lane for oncoming traffic.  "Look!" says the BMW "I am taking a lane!"

Me:  "Ummmmmm."

Up ahead, one of the two police cars finish with whatever Palo Alto police business he was conducting and pulls his black and white out into the road putting him on a collision course with the BMW.  I watch with interest.  "Commuting" I think to myself  "is never boring."

BMW "Out of my way!  I am taking this lane!"

Police car:  "The fuck?"

Initially I think that the BMW will not yield but then the little light on the police car comes on and the BMW shows signs of realizing that he may have over-stepped.  The BMW shrinks back into my lane, an area of my lane, I am grateful to say, that I am not in.  The police car's whirling light stays resolutely on and as I roll up to the intersection I see the BMW pulling over for the inevitable ass-kicking and expensive ticket and insurance points.

Me?  I wait for the light to turn green and then I continue on to work and later I write this and, it is true, I smile.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Thelma and Louise

Bicyclists (some) do this thing that really super-annoys me at 4-way stop signs.  I pedal towards an intersection defined by stop signs for each direction.  I see that cars are queued up waiting.  A car rolls forward and stops.  Another car takes it's turn.  Then the next car goes.  See the pattern?  I fall into line and get to the front and stop to wait my turn.  The cars watch me sullenly. I gesture to show that I acknowledge how they were first and it is not my turn.  A car rolls forward.  A second bicyclist sweeps past me on my right or left, passing the waiting cars and ignoring the stop sign completely.  Car slams on brakes.  Driver of car gives me (me!  so unfair!) a reproachful look.  I think at the bicyclist, "damnit!  that was so rude of you!"

This stop-sign-runner adheres to a style of bicycling that can be termed "all for me and none for you."  It is a style that closely resembles my behavior in years gone by when I bicycled in and around Massachusetts and Washington DC.  If you had asked me about my bicycling then I would have said that I deserved to be first at any opportunity that I wanted because I was on a bicycle and the cars made life as a bicyclist dangerous.  If I cut off a car?  The damn thing had it coming.

I was the bicyclist your mother warned you about.  Bike lanes didn't exist outside of Holland and I considered any square foot of pavement (sidewalk, road, crosswalk, whatever) fair game.  I  loved it when the cars were slammed to a stop by a red light that I then successfully ran.  It was delicious to me.

Interestingly enough during my worst bicycling behaviors (and I got pretty bad in my wanton twenties) no one yelled out their window "This is why we hate you!"  In my dark and evil (but pretty happy when it came to bicycling) past I used to bound on and off the sidewalk (scattering pedestrians) and cut cars off and I heard no screams at all, no one followed along after me delivering a tirade on the evils of bicycling.

That silence makes me think that hating on bicyclists is a new development.  My working theory is that media attention to climate problems and bike lanes have legitimized bicycling, and it's that legitimacy that entrenched car people loathe and find threatening.  It was fine when bicyclists were just these annoying little freaks jumping around like fleas on a dog but once the mainstream started paying attention and giving some kudos to the people bicycle-commuting the car people felt the need to fight back.

So what changed for me because I think of myself as pretty civilized now.  Part of what changed is age and increased fear of death and oblivion by automobile.  But the bigger part of what changed, what continues to change me, is the people driving cars who are behaving nicely.  I just can't bring myself to ride my bicycle like an asshole when the cars put in some effort to be careful.

State Trooper: [Sobbing] Please! I have a wife and kids. 
Thelma: Oh really, well, you're lucky. You be sweet to them, especially your wife. My husband wasn't sweet to me. Look how I turned out. 

The short answer is, if your area bicyclists ride like bi-polar, cocaine-infused hopped-up deaf chinchillas?  You are reaping what you sowed with all your mean-spirited dangerous car-behaviors.

Is is an unrealized truth that the behavior of bicyclists is governed by automobiles.  If you cut us off, ignore us, open car doors in our faces, honk at us and feign swerve as if you are going to run us over?  We'll ride accordingly and you'll be hard put to find a more unpleasant group of wheel-monkies.  If you stop and wait so our kids can bicycle safely through the intersection, if you don't harass us when we take some desperately needed lane and if you control your temper during our inevitable fuck-ups we'll end up properly socialized.

A few years ago now I was bicycling through downtown Palo Alto and a car passed me on it's way to a green light.  It then began signalling that it wanted to turn right.  I was going straight and so I fell in behind so that I would not get hooked when it turned.  But the car slowed and did not turn and as I biked behind the slowing car I saw the driver looking in the rear view mirror of his car and I realized, shocked, that he was looking for me.  He was worried about hitting me, a lowly bicyclist.  I moved over so I'd be more clearly in his line of vision and then I waved, tentatively.  He smiled and waved back and after a moment's more hesitation completed the turn and drove away.  I went on ahead and from that point on, started bicycling with greater civility.

So.  Be sweet to us.  Maybe we'll turn out okay after all.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

As life's parade goes marching by She's gonna need to know some reasons why

The garage door opens and I get on my freshly tuned bicycle (thanks Contraption Captain) and pedal off to work and I am not entirely happy but I know that in the next few minutes I will start to feel better.  Because bicycling always makes me feel better, true story.  If you've ever wondered why bicyclists cling so deperately to their riding the answer might be contained in how it makes us feel:  Happy.  Peaceful.  Contented.  

What I thought about as I rode along was our pet rat, Midnight.  Rats are surprisingly personable (ha).  Rats like children and learn their names and can do a few tricks.  Rats do not live very long lives.  Sparkle Pony's rat is named Midnight.  He's past two years which means he is on the home stretch with respect to lifespan.  Still, a person hopes for three years.  Midnight enjoys sitting on Sparkle's shoulder, watching movies, making kissy-faces with Sparkle Pony, eating snacks of all varieties, and spending time with Rapunzel's two much younger rats.  Last week Midnight developed a lump on his head, very suddenly.  Hoping it was an abscess we got him to the vet.  The lump was not an abscess, it was a tumor.  The vet offered to operate and said that the tumor might be removable but might also have extended beneath his cranium in which case it would ultimately kill him.  We went with the surgery.  The tumor, unfortunately, had indeed gotten into his skull.  The vet told us, "It will be back.  And soon.  It's very aggressive."  We collect Midnight and take him home.  I consider the results of the $300 surgery that I okayed.   That morning Midnight had been a rat with a lump on his head that was killing him.  Now it's evening and he's a rat with a giant wound on his head that has been closed with big metal staples and he's...still dying.  Midnight gives me a look which I interpret as "Y U Do This 2 M3?"  I don't know, Midnight.  It seemed like a good idea.  I meant well.

So this was going through my head as I bicycled along and it always ended up as "I meant well.  I wanted to do right."  I thought about other things I was doing that I might be screwing up.  Am I too hard on Sparkle Pony when she forgets to turn in homework assignments?  Is Rapunzel low energy during gymnastics practice because I don't feed her well enough?  Do my kids fear my disapproval?  It just makes sense that there are tons of other decisions I am screwing up on that have less visible end results.  Consider that every single damn time I bring my pets to the vet, whatever the state, whatever the animal, the outcome is never very good.  My last cat died of cancer.  My pigeons died of old age but only after the vet tortured them a little.  YET I KEEP BRINGING THEM TO DIFFERENT VETERINARIANS.  Does hope spring eternal?  What exactly is my problem here?? 

All these years of bicycling though....that's never been the wrong choice.  Every time I ride I feel better physically and emotionally.  It always works.  Always!  Nothing always works exactly like bicycling always works.  Life is full of these decisions where you assemble the data and then do the wrong thing anyways, perhaps paying out $300 for the privilege of being wrong and leaving someone with metal staples in their head---but bicycling is always right.

I'm still on my way to work when I see a friend of mine at the side of the road in Palo Alto.  He's having trouble with his free wheel.  Together we get his bicycle wheel back on and then continue on towards our respective jobs, together.  B and I met because we both like to race on Bryant Street and we're evenly matched and our work hours are similar.  Sometimes B rides along with me and the Contraption Captain as we all pedal towards our homes.  I know about B's kid and his wife and how his wife bandaged up a bicyclist who fell outside their house.  B and I work in the same industry so sometimes we talk a little shop.  Today we talk about Midnight the rat and the surgery and he expresses sympathy and then we talk about his cat, who has gone blind and falls.  The sky is low and pearl colored and the air is warm and nothing has changed but I feel better. 

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

something little today

I've been thinking about something I read in this article about Mr. Fred Rogers of the television show Mr Rogers' Neighborhood.  

Here's what captivated me:

Rogers heard that before 14-year-old Michael Carneal opened fire on his classmates at West Paducah's Heath High School...the boy had promised to do something "really big" the next day at school.  Rogers said, "Oh, wouldn't the world be a different place if he had said, 'I'm going to do something really little tomorrow?'"

I keep thinking about it because a lot of bicycling to work feels so little.  It feels little when someone driving a big heavy car is screaming at you from their window.  It feels little when you see the number of people who are driving their cars, who won't even entertain the idea of getting out of their cars, who are casual about their potential to hurt someone else.  It feels little when you watch your own children bicycling and you are worried that someone in an SUV will come around a corner and take one of your children away from you forever.  It feels little when your husband pedals away and you want to see him again that evening.  Bicycle commuting can feel very little when I read the news reports of the vanishing glaciers and the disappearing Maldive islands and the coming extinction of the Polar Bears and all I have to offer is a little time on my bicycle.  

One little by itself is meaningful.  It's not less in value than something just because it is smaller.  

A single little idea can fan out and become a bigger idea.  

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Don't grow up so much that you're dead.

A month ago we got a phone call that the Contraption Captain's mother had fallen and seriously injured her ankle.  She went from being a very energetic cheerful person to a very energetic cheerful person who needed surgery and then needed to use a walker.  Since then she has progressed and is now walking with a boot that stabilizes the ankle and only occasional walker use. 

The part of all this that was just mean-spirited somehow is that she broke her ankle falling off her bicycle.  And you know, the Captain and I are pretty big on the bicycling thing and probably (okay definitely) encouraged the acquisition of the nice bicycle that was involved in the accident.  No one blamed us but still, bicycle + fall + broken ankle + someone you like = depressing. 

What was good:  She was not hit by a car.  She was bicycling on a dirt road with big ruts and the tire caught and she fell.  It's good because if a person driving a car had hit her I might have had to hunt them down and kill them.

What was bad:  She broke her ankle falling off a bicycle and I love bicycles.

What was also bad:  She had to be carried out of there, it was at least a midlly remote location.  It can't have been a very fun experience.

Why am I telling you this now?? 

So we've been in touch and sent Get Well cards and some goodies and she's slowly improving and getting her mobility back.  Over the weekend she told the Contraption Captain (who then told me) that someone at her Church had told her that maybe now she'd "grow up" and stop trying to do things like ride a bicycle.  My mother-in-law relayed this to the Contraption Captain very indignantly.  She replied back to the person who was telling her to grow up that as soon as she was well enough she hoped to be back on her bicycle, riding around and enjoying the New Mexico weather.*

So, here's a toast to those who get back on their bicycles.  It takes courage.  And best wishes for a speedy complete recovery to the beautiful S, a lady as pleasant as I am bad-tempered.**

*She says no more dirt roads for awhile, though.  Possibly ever.
**She doesn't like bad language so I left it out of this update.  I like her that much. 

you deserve respect

One of the many things I dislike is mis-use of the word "lucky."  I was lucky to be born in a first world country where no one ever operated on the assumption that I'd spend my life as a trash-picker.  It is not luck that I have a safe dry place to park my bicycle when I get to work.  I have a place to park my bicycle because my company encourages bicycling. 

What you deserve if you are a bicycle commuter.

1.  A safe dry place to park your bicycle.  Locks are heavy and not always effective.  Bicycles are easy to steal and even a locked bicycle is subject to having it's peripherals ripped off. We need to know that our bicycle will be there, and look the same, at the end of our work day.

2.  The same consideration for a flat tire that is given to the automobile people.  If you get a flat tire on the way to work you're going to be late.  Car flat tires are treated as a weird unfortunate act of $deity.  Bicycle flat tires are (sometimes) treated as if the bicyclist took a reckless chance by not driving a car.  Our vehicles break down too and we don't need any added hassle from management.     

3.  Encouragement.  At my company there is an application where I track my trips completed by bicycle (pedestrians, roller-bladers and skateboarders are included here as well) and I earn money for each trip and once a year that money gets donated to a charity of my choosing. 

4.  A locker to put your stuff in, if you want it.  Work has lots of lockers but they are all "time of use" meaning you can only put a lock on for business hours.  Except for bicyclists and other non-car non-petroleum people.  If you commute forty or more times each quarter by bicycle (or feet) then you get a permanent locker of your own and a certificate for the locker.

5.  Guaranteed ride home in the event of an emergency.  You bicycle twenty miles to work and then get a call that your kid was injured on the playground and you need to go home immediately.  You need a car.  Your company calls you a cab and picks up the bill.  Or perhaps you get sick and start running a fever and you're too dizzy to walk or bicycle or whatever got you in that day.

6.  This one comes first for many people.  Showers.  I say "sure" to showers and a place to change.  I put this item last though because I'm tired of the background assumption that bicyclists are in dire need of a wash when we get to work.  Many of us travel just a few miles and I have yet to meet the person who smells worse than the '73 Volkswagen that stank up the road. 

Why do you deserve this?  What makes you so special?

1.  Anyone who does not think we have a car problem has their head in the sand.  Even if you do not believe or care about global warming and polar bears, cars are undeniable killers of adults, children, wild animals, and pets.  You deserve encouragement because you managed to escape the matrix that is the automobile experience.     

Personally I don't think I need anything after this.  The vast majority of us have some of the following:  pets, sons, daughters, nieces, nephews, mothers, fathers, step-parents, grandparents, friends, lovers, husbands, or wives.  Everything on this list is at risk of being turned into chipped beef by a car or pick-up truck or 16-wheeler.  If this is the moment you want to make a pitch about how you heard of a friend reading a story about some person somewhere who was hit and killed by a bicyclist?  Stow it.  Here's why you should stow it.  Ask any parent anywhere what they would prefer given a choice:  having their child hit by a car or having a child hit by a bicyclist.  Ask a pet owner if they had a choice between their dog being hit by a bicyclist and being hit by a car which would they choose.  No one wants to be hit by a car.  No one.  Nada.  People would rather stab their hand with a knife (really!!!) then be hit by a car.  How come?  Because cars are outrageously lethal. 

But anyways.  Here's a few more reasons why you deserve good treatment:

2.  You are not taking up a parking space.  Parking is expensive.  By bicycling you are saving your company a little bit of real estate.

3.  Bicycling (and walking) take up less room.  With seven billion people on the planet, there just isn't enough room for each person to drive their own car and cause their own pollution.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Cars are Killers

A so-called "Infographic" passed before my eyes a few weeks back on a social network where I am as bad tempered as ever but not surrounded by bicyclists.  This item was titled "Carbs Are Killers" and I think my comment was "what a crock" and it turns out, perhaps unsurprisingly that the poster is an adamant Aktins diet devotee.  He proceeded to try and convince me that "carbs were killers" and I doubt he could hear a lot of what I was saying back because overall I was laughing too hard to type.

Bear with me.  This has to do with bicycling.

I'm a hungry and athletic vegetarian who is somewhat lactose intolerant and is married to someone who is supremely lactose intolerant.  That means I eat a lot of vegan food.  Typical breakfast for me is a gigantic bowl of steel-cut oats and walnuts and ground flax because hey, California, trying to fit in here a little.  I just now wolfed down my afternoon snack, a whole wheat tortilla stuffed with kale and quinoa and pumpkin seeds.  Lunch was, ummm, tofu and brown rice and collard greens and fennel soup.  Dinner is lentils and tomatoes in coconut milk.  I'm pretty middle-aged (birthday is approaching) and can safely say that carbs have not killed me, in fact they have not even threatened to kill me.  Unlike cars.

I bet you think I'll now launch into a lengthy boring talk about how what I eat is awesome and how you're fucking up with what you eat.  Wrong.  You're bicyclists.  You're not fucking up.  My totally unsupported theory is that the problem is not so much what we stick in our pie-holes as what we do, or do not do, with the food once we consume it.

Eat a stack of pancakes and drive into the office and sit around and then eat a giant plate of brown rice and tofu and salad (yes) and then later have a coupla Twinkies and then finally drive home and sit down in front of the tv and eat steak and potatoes and you've got a ton of calories that are just milling around like actors waiting for a cue card that never comes.  You're a bottle of soda that someone shook up but never opened.  Personally I think all that food sits and ferments in one place after another, ultimately ending up stored in awkward locations around your body.

Now take the same food and do something with it.  Bicycle to work.  Hell depending on the number of pancakes you mowed down on, run to work.  Skip to work.  Pogo stick to work?  Walk to work.  Saunter to work.  Get up during the day and don't just think about beating up your boss, give him a pair of gloves and lace up yourself and actually do the deed.  You'll probably both enjoy it way more than you expected.

So Mr. Carbs-Are-Killers told me that my tune would change once I had kids, kids would make me fat and my carbs would quickly kill me.  I told him I had kids.  He told me that I was diabetic.  Except I'm not diabetic.  He told me I probably had a thyroid problem and that's why I was slim.  I told him my thyroid had tested aok and that if I was thin it was because I loved to bicycle and that my food fueled my pedaling.  I suggested that he try bicycling to work.  He told me it was too dangerous and besides he loves to drive.

To any bicyclist who sees this, whatever your fuel of choice, keep pedaling and stay awesome.  Maybe we'll race each other out on the road one day.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

I got the tiniest violin in the world...

...and it's playing just for this woman.

I laughed my way through this entire article.  I think coffee came out of my nose I was laughing so hard.  The road this person is whining about has a wide bike lane on each side.  How wide is the bike lane?  In most places two bicycles can ride side by side and there's still enough room left over for a third bicyclist to pass.

But wait!  There's more!  For those too timid to handle life in a bicycle lane alongside the big admittedly ugly-ass automobiles and trucks and general wankers on this road there is yet another option, a multi-use path that runs parallel for almost the entire length of her three mile commute.

“It is currently taking me at least 30-40 minutes in the evening to drive up Sand Hill Road if I leave any time between 5-7 p.m.,” Stevens said, describing the voyage she makes upon leaving her office in the Stanford Medical Center.

Voyage.  A voyage of three miles?  No wonder the SUV makers sell so many cars.  Newsflash:  no one makes three mile voyages unless they are an insect or rodent.  

“The journey is three miles, which should take five minutes with no traffic, and sometimes I wonder if it would be quicker if I walked,” she said.
Here.  Let me fix that for you:  

"The journey is three miles, which would take a mere five minutes if the rest of you selfish haters would commit suicide so that there was more room for me."

Don't you love people in traffic complaining about people in traffic?  

Monday, March 5, 2012

Wednesday's adventure was named "Chafed Makes a Mistake"

Wednesday past I roll out of work and pedal towards home.  I like my home and I'm always excited about bicycling towards it but the wind has been picking up around here (a seasonal thing) and I am not at my fastest.  When I am not going very fast I think of it as "clip-clopping."  I'm old enough that I do not mind the occasional clip-clop.  I'm also young enough (or stupid enough, your choice) that when I spot a bicyclist up ahead I try and catch up, and if I catch up I try and pass them, and if I pass them I try and put some distance down and if I manage that then I look around for the next bicycle to chase.  Possibly this is an indicator that I was a Golden Retriever in a past life.  Possibly not though as I've never grabbed a bicyclist and carried him home in my teeth hile trying to not damage his advertisement covered spandex-lycra blend plumage.

So Wednesday I see a bicyclist up ahead.  I take off.  Fighting the wind and the cars and some unfortunate traffic light timing I finally manage to draw even with the other bicyclist and then (ta-da!) get around the other bicyclist who may very well not appreciate that he was competing in a pedal-powered 2-wheeled Indy 500.  Now I'm hauling down East Meadow and I need to turn right onto Bryant.  Because of the speed at which I'm travelling and because I am not a very sophisticated bicyclist and because there are more cars than usual parked on both sides of Bryant and the road is somewhat narrower than usual...because of all these things...I make that right turn way too wide and at not quite the last moment encounter a bicyclist heading in the other direction.

I have time for a short look at that bicyclist's mouth which is in the shape of a lowercase o.  The good news is that his mouth is not in the shape of a capital letter O because that is the shape of ohmigodiamgoingtoDIE!  Still.  I should have been slower and I should have been entirely on my side of the road.  I  say, "I'm sorry" as  we pass each other and his mouth loses some of it's o shape and we both get on with our respective journeys.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

a week of small adventures

Good news, at least for me.  My silence is not a result of Pale Blue Mercedes Guy hunting me down and flinging me onto the windshield of his car for the crime of bicycling next to my husband.  Instead of death by angry white guy I have each day been bicycling along to work, or bicycling home to my family, and each day has had it's small memorable moments.

Monday I am approaching the awkwardly positioned intersection of San Antonio and Charleston.  There are always some cars here that are just too old and feeble or too young and inexperienced to make the corner without pouring their wide fat cars into the very narrow about to go away entirely bike lane.  I handle this by making a preemptive strike into their lane which at minimum gives me an escape zone if they demonstrate that they are too impaired to drive between the lines.

Today I hear a new noise.  Experienced commuter bicyclists are supremely away of their surroundings and a noise that does not fit the usual pattern of belching cars and muffled music and tires on pavement gets our attention.  Like an antelope who has caught a whiff of cheetah I lift my head and peer around alertly.  A moment later I see a sedan with a flat tire clumping up the street to the traffic light.  It is ahead of me and to the left.  Do they know their car has had one of it's legs shot out from underneath it?  We have two gas stations at this corner, it would be a good time to stop.

The light turns green.  The car blaps through the intersection and on up Charleston.  I sigh grouchily and chase after it, clearing the intersection and drawing up even with the car at considerable cost to my long-suffering but not unappreciated leg muscles.  I start gesturing at the woman.  Unfortunately there is a lane in between us and she is not noticing me with the interference of the cars to my immediate left.  I signal and move over so that I am bicycling along beside her.  I wave my arms and pedal.  A car behind me honks, irritated.

The woman finally glances over.  She looks surprised to see a bicyclist hauling ass alongside her.  She thinks it over during which time my heart threatens to cash this check that my legs are writing.  She rolls down her window.  I yell in what I hope is a friendly but informative voice "YOU HAVE A FLAT TIRE, MA'AM!"  Now she looks both surprised and disappointed.  She slows down and I do not die which I am appreciative about.  The cars behind me honk.  As an aside, fuck you and the horse you rode in on cars because this is why we hate you, always honking and fucking shit up when a someone is just trying to help a someone out.

The woman pulls her limping car over and for whatever reason I join her.  Possibly because I can't breathe.  She says, "What should I do?"  I am non-plussed.  When I get a flat tire I generally call the Contraption Captain but I wisely suspect he would be underwhelmed to get a phone call about this.  The woman adds, "Do you think I should call Triple AAA?"  She has a strong accent and English is her second language.  My chafed and grumpy heart stirs a little.  I could change the tire.  But she's asking what she should do and what I think she should do is turn around and slowly and carefully drive the half block back to the gas station and this is what I suggest.  She thinks it over and then nods a little and then she thanks me and we continue on our separate ways.