I was riding home from work last week and there were these haunting delicate hints of wisteria in the air. I could smell the dampness of the coming rain and the fried smells from In 'n' Out and the spicy smell of a Chipotle. People who picture California may see Big Sur in their head or maybe the Golden Gate Bridge or Silicon Valley even but for people living here it is obviously more prosaic and I pedal past Costco, REI, several fast food restaurants and a bunch of gas stations as I make my way to and from work. Yet in this very ordinary of worlds I notice the smells of trees and flowers...and last week I realized with surprise that the streams of people going by in their cars couldn't smell anything but the insides of their cars. Body odor. Shampoo. Maybe new leather.
Because I am not in a metal box I get every noise un-muted and every scent unbound. I think it must be like this for dogs. They get all this information and one day they wake up and notice that everyone around them is oblivious. The cars miss out on a lot of things (including some truly nasty smells that they generate) and they miss out on what they should be looking for (a kid running out into the road) and they also miss out on quieter things, like that the wisteria growing on the Costco building is in pastel lavender bloom.
A video made the rounds of my bicycle circles, it was a supposedly comic (not to the bicyclists obviously) duo ragging on how horrible bicyclists are, how they shouldn't be allowed on the road, how stupid lycra is blah blah blah. I'm not linking to it because (a) we've hard it all before and (b) I got no wish to drive traffic to a troll. I've been trolled by the best and this was no quality trolling - just two weak lazy people preying off an underclass. I know these comic car people don't care about what it's like to be a bicyclist, but if I could corner them this is a version of what I would say.
You get up.
You get into your car.
You back out of your driveway and head out onto a shared road. To your right is a slim bicycle lane and to the far right is an even narrower path for pedestrians and to your left is the road for trains.
These are special trains, they don't need a track. The newest generation of these trains not only does not need a track, they are extra wide so as to be very comfortable for the passengers. A train can carry up to sixteen people but it is more typical for it to have just a driver. Unfortunately the extra width does mean that on narrower roads there is little room between you and the train, so you should be careful.
Did I mention the trains travel at 220mph? They are much faster and more efficient than your car.
Technically the trains are supposed to stop at red lights and stop signs but sometimes they just slow down.
Periodically your lane will disappear and pick up on the other side of the train lane. So then you have to look in your mirror and cross the train lane. Some trains don't mind this and might yield to you but others get angry and speed up.
If you're unlucky the train driver is drunk or on strong prescription tranquilizers in which case they might not see you or even worse, get confused and start driving in your lane.
Of course if their lane is congested the trains will often drive in the car lane anyway.
On older roads there isn't enough room or train and car so they have just one lane and the trains ae supposed to be careful when they pass you. Yeah that works well. Not.
People in cars are encouraged to wear helmets because if you get hit by a train you are going to need some protection for your head.
Periodically a car gets hit by a train. It's sad but really, what do the car drivers expect sharing the road with something so much heavier than themselves??? You have to wonder who would take a chance like that.
There you go. What it's like.
Thursday, March 27, 2014
Q: Are you still a bicyclist?
Q: You stopped writing?
A: Yeah a bit. The aforementioned friend died after the long illness. My friend's daughter had a severe complication during labor and it looks as if the baby is brain damaged as a result. I found all of this sobering.
Q: And now?
A: I'm in less of a dark mood. I am excited that my favorite route to work which is seasonally closed may be open for bicycle business again in a few weeks.
Q: Anything interesting to report?
A: I've seen a lot of car accidents in the past months! They all roughly translate to "I was driving too fast and I hit another car and now I'm very sorry." As I bike by the people standing next to their crumpled vehicles I think "I hope you learned something from this experience."