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

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

keeping it weird.

The roses of Palo Alto are in full magnificent bloom.  They grow on fences, by roads, on trellises, along driveways and on top of the weird wood structures the Californians mount to the fronts of their garages.  These are super deluxe very creamy roses, some as big as cabbages, and they're flowering in all the colors of a quality sunrise.  I like these roses.  I don't just pedal by them I pedal through their delicious scent.  These roses are an extravagance of riches blooming in all their crazy tinted profusion and that's why I forgot to mention the bicycle accident and sociopath from yesterday.

I arrived just after the ambulance and waited at a red light long enough to see that both bicyclists were vertical and calm and that one bicycle looked to be totalled and that a car was there and the police were interviewing everyone.  Two other roadies pulled up beside me and we kindof eyed each other the way sheep eye each other when they find a ewe whose been mostly eaten up by a wolf.  I was super happy that the bicyclists looked to be ok. 

THEN.  On the way home!

To be absolutely honest I'm not sure my writing is up to describing this incredibly weird experience.  But I'm a gonna try.

It was at the intersection of San Antonio and Charleston.  Not my favourite spot to wait but I wait here every day as the light in my direction is pretty short.  Whenever I am waiting at a red light I look at the cars around me.  What I look for:

  • is the driver obviously drunk?
  • is the driver talking on a phone?
  • is the driver texting?
  • is the driver fighting with his girlfriend?
  • is there a driver?  (Google is in the same neighborhood after all)

While I look I make a mild attempt at friendly (and submissive) eye contact.  I want to impress on the cars around me that it's a person on this bicycle, a person just trying to get home from work, and that I'm not worth the delay that running over me would cost them. 

The driver behind me and to my right (I take a middle lane here because the lane to my right quickly becomes right turn only and I go straight) is this inscrutable looking Indian guy with giant bug-like black sunglasses and a motionless face. 

A familiar driving beat starts up.  It is super loud.  I try and place the riff.  I look around again.  I can't believe it but the opening bars of Michael Jackson's "Billy Jean" are coming from Mr. Inscrutable's mid-grade sedan.  His face still doesn't move.  The music is so loud I worry that I will be the first bicyclist to die of car audio.  I notice the drivers of other cars looking around to understand the commotion.  Still, the light is red.  I stare straight ahead.  This would be funnier if Mr. Inscrutable did not look like he was very slowly morphing into Mr. Fucking_Furious.

A loud horn booms in my ear.  HONNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNk.  HOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOONK!  Mr Fucking_Furious (nee Mr. Inscrutable) is indeed upset.  He wants to make a right turn but cannot because there is a car in front of him (would that my problems with cars were so small but whatever) and now in between the cheesy pop strains of "Billie Jean" he's honking the horn on his car and screaming "C'MON ALREADY!" 

Presumably the car in front responds by rolling up his own window and turning his music up because Mr. Fucking_Furious gets no satisfaction.  I will point out to those not familiar with this intersection that Mr. F. is in the wrong.  It is entirely legal to go straight from the right lane at the intersection of San Antonio and Charleston.  It is the lane at Charleston and Fabian which is right turn only. 

Good news.  The light finally turned and I safely escaped to the peace of Bryant Street shortly afterwards.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

"I'm here because you broke something"

I keep getting annoyed but before I can fully focus and complain the weather runs in front of me, screams like a peacock and then fans out it's tail feathers and I completely lose my train of thought in a jumble of "ooo, so pretty, oooooo.." I love the weather especially in the early morning when the breeze is feathery light and there is just the right mix of cool and warm air slithering over my face and arms in a fabulously sensual manner. 

Where was I.

Oh.  Yes.  A week or so back, when I was deep into my obsessing about how to bicycle the nine miles to work in the company of the dauntless Rapunzel and not die or be injured I saw a (not very helpfully timed) article on (admittedly not a bastion of taste) about how (newsflash!) a person driving a car can beat the living crap out of a person riding a bicycle and face exactly zero in consequences.  

I'll pause so any bicyclist reading this can get over their surprise. 

I was a little excited about seeing this unhappy problem get some attention but I was also a little sad because (1) any drivers out there who did not already realize that they can run a bicyclist over and face nada in consequences have now been educated and (2) the featured picture, of a woman in traction, was pretty depressing and serves to reinforce the idea that bicycling is an activity reserved for suicidal maniacs.

I then read the comments because (as my mother has been saying for decades now) I never learn.  I read through that swill so you don't have to and the comments fall nicely into two categories which I have digested and spat out for your benefit.

The occasional bicyclist:  These were pleading desperately for their lives, saying that they themselves never run red lights, really Aunty Em!  Oh dear and yes, we hates those awful bicyclists who *do* run red lights and agree that those bicyclists get what they deserve but please don't run *me* over, okay?  OKAY?

The incompetent trolls:  These are the guys (pretty much always guys for whatever reason although some pose as young women) still living in mom and dad's basement who don't actually own a car (it was repo'd) but when they drive mom's Ford Fairmont, well they love to run over bicyclists!  They like to run over pedestrians and cars and housepets as well, cause that's just how the roll!  To these people all I can say is:  Please.  A well-placed troll is a joy to be taken in by.  The rest of you are just embarrassing.

and the score is....?

Biking to work today I passed one of these.  I'm no car person but I knew it was something fancy just by the growly noise that came from the engine.  Supposedly these things are really fast, I can't say for sure because the one I saw was stuck in traffic.

In other news, the weather was incredibly deeply and divinely beautiful today.  The sky was so so blue that my feeble ability to describe loveliness is entirely overtaken.  The Dr. Seuss-esque bottle brush flowers are blooming and entire fields of lavender are springing to life along my route.