Wednesday, May 16, 2012

o frabjous day

Historically, I've been a person who complains about Bike to Work Day. 

1.  I don't like that it's just one day, I mean, can't people get off their sorry asses for a Bike to Work Week? 
2.  I don't have a particular bitch against pedestrians and runners.  It's cars I find loathsome.  It would suit me better if we could have a Set Cars on Fire day.  SCoF, anyone? 
3.  What about, Paid Day Off For Bicyclists day?  Sounds nice, doesn't it?  We get a bicycling day and the big prize is being at work?  Are we that gullible?  We are?

...but what I'm stuck with is Bike to Work Day which means bicycling like I do every day with a few more bicycles but pretty much the exact same number of grouchy cars.  Fine.  Whatever.  Apparently I'm still bad-tempered. 

So this Thursday past it is Bike to Work Day and I pedal out doing the same thing I do every work day (bicycle, avoid cars, look surly) except in Palo Alto a nice lady tries to convince me to stop and have some coffecake.  I wave "no thanks" in what I hope is a polite sort of way.  I do not like to bicycle and eat at the same time.  When I arrive at the office at the usual time I stop and sign in so that I can be added to the tally and a person offers me a tee-shirt (no thanks) and then notes what town I came in from and how far I bicycled.  Then I work.  Ta-da.  One person makes the annual joke about how on Bike to Work Day I should drive to work.  Get it?  Get it?  Yeah me neither but this is the third year I've heard it so maybe it's funny for neurotypicals.

Them:  So wouldn't it be funny if you drove in to work in your car on Bike to Work Day?
Me:  Ha-ha.

What I really wanted to say but could not as I would like to stay employed at my lovely job:  Of course I didn't drive to work, you dumb muppet!  I fucking hate driving!  I hate cars.  Fuck!

Then it is time to go home so I go get my bicycle and start pedalling.  There are a few extra bicyclists on the road and it's easy to pick them out as n00bs.  They are either doughy guys on very expensive road bikes or doughy females on clunky "commuter" bicycles.  I pass them all.  Nicely.  Politely.  When the light is green.  I catch up to a bicyclist I ride with fairly often and I slow down enough so that we can talk shop and update each other on the behaviours of our respective children, his four year old is on two wheels now and they ride together every day after work.  This is happy news for those of us with the bicycling proclivity, happy when our kids are up on two wheels.  Well, happy for about thirty seconds before our meagre brains work it through that our darling treasures will be out on the road with the Tahoes and Tundras of the world.  Behind us a couple of bicyclists pedal along, breathing heavily.  It's like being tailed by a pack of asthmatic dogs. 

Bicyclist friend and I part ways and I continue on alone, as Contraption Captain and I were unable to co-commute that day.  It is at El Camino and Sandhill where Something Happens.  The light is red and I pull up and wait.  To my right, in what amounts to a separate bike lane, a road bicyclist is already waiting.  We nod politely at each other.  Usually there are two maybe three bicyclists waiting at this intersection and perhaps one pedestrian.  And when the light turns green for us the cars continue to drive on through the red light because they are worthless scumbags who know that we bicyclists will wait until they blow through. 

While waiting for the green two more road bicyclists pull up behind me.  It's a long skinny lane and they file into a line.  Then two more.  Then two more.  Meanwhile, other bicyclists are filling in behind the roadie to my right.  So many bicyclists arrive that they are filtering back towards the train tracks.  Not a peloton, all individuals.  Roadies, commuter types, people on crappy department sotre bicycles.  By the time the light turns green there are a majestic fourteen bicyclists waiting with me.  I charge forward and the roadies charge out behind me.  I see a car pull forward to run the light, see a herd of bicyclists approach, and pull back into his place.  I hear a choir of angels sing.  Or maybe it's the theme to Chariots of Fire. 

Bicyclists head towards the multi-use route, they turn right onto the trail that parallels El Camino, they turn left onto El Camino and seven road bicyclists settle in behind me when I get onto the bike lane of Sand Hill Road.  I'm so excited by all the company that it's easy to be fast and I put more and more into it and they draft along behind and we are one long row of fast bicyclists riding by a long row of cars that are all stuck in traffic.  We clear the first green light and the second and then the third.  Two bicyclists pass me, nicely and now I am keeping up. 

It was one of the best rides ever.  The air was hot and the sky a deep contented blue.  Somehow there were so many bicyclists it was as if we crossed a line and became a majority and not a minority.  The ride continue like this until we hit the red light of Sand Hill and the Alameda and we all parted ways.  I waited there, my entire rib cage expanding as I slowly got my breath from what was a supremely satisfying ride.  For all of ten seconds I am allowed to just stand there with my bicycle, absolutely happy. 

Then the car to my right rolls down it's window. 

Yes, really.  Where the fuck is my window to roll back up? 

The guy in the car says "Quite a work-out."

I say, honestly, that it was a wonderful ride, just perfect really. 

Guy is disappointed but struggles to conceal it.  He says "Must be hot.  My car says 85 degrees."

I smile, "When you're riding fast, the breeze keeps you cool."  I pause, remembering, "I was stuck behind a Lincoln Navigator for a few minutes, that was like following a furnace.  Ugh." 

Guy makes a faint frowny face.  I see that he mistook my breathing hard for me having a bad ride and that he was kindof hoping I had been wanting to be in a crappy sedan, like the one he drives.  "Is it bike to work day?"

I nod.  "It is."  I add, unhelpfully, "But I do this every work day.  I love bicycling."

Guy smirks, "I had a meeting in San Jose or maybe I would have tried it."

I refrain from saying that I have co-workers who bicycle in from San Jose.  And San Francisco.  And that they love it.  Instead I smile and say "Maybe tomorrow."

The light turns green and I pedal away and he calls after me "Be safe."

Translation for "Be safe"*  - I hope you get hit by a car because it kills me that you will do what I am too weak or cowardly to attempt.  Also, I want to remind you that it is a well documented fact that bicyclists ride dangerously and do not obey the rules of the road and so I encourage you to reform your bad behaviour because it is far easier to tell you that you are doing it wrong then face the fact that everything about how I get around is in fact, very wrong.

*when it comes from random stranger and not from your immediate family and dear friends


  1. "neurotypicals" - i have never heard this word before, thank you!

    But regarding "be safe" - I think they (non-family/friends) mean well by it, they just don't have the panache to say 'chapeau', and they want to give props but can't break the social norms. They say 'be safe' but they mean 'that's f*ing awesome'.

    It's like when somebody's loved one dies, or somebody sneezes, or somebody's in pain - there are coded safe phrases.

    Stay thirsty.

    1. You are a good influence on me. I am very bad tempered but trying (sporadically) to improve ;-)

  2. Normally, when I ride to work it's a little later than the rush hour and I don't get this experience. But every now and again I find myself among 15 or 20 cyclists waiting at lights and we all head off together and the motorists have to behave. It can be a transcendent experience. I'm glad you enjoyed it.