Current mood: pleased
The transition began about 18 months ago. I bicycled into Oakland, about 12 miles distant, to deliver a small package, and biked home [blog from May 2007], a round-trip total of about 25 miles.
(For my out-of-town readers, that would be like round-trip biking from the circle in East Aurora NY into Mercy Hospital in South Buffalo, from the Van Dorn Metro Station in Alexandria VA to the White House and back, Scottdale PA to New Stanton and back, or Jct I-10/I-410 to St. Mary's University in San Antonio TX and back. Except for the last, I've at least driven those areas.)
It occurs to me that I am now doing at least as much cycling to get around as I am driving, in terms of trips out. I am also tackling roads and streets that are most definitely NOT bicycle friendly. Nevertheless, I am out there, cycling around suburbia, chasing into the city, wherever and whatever, a LOT.
Yesterday I cycled up to the high school, along Wexford Flats, a four-lane stretch of US19 that has neither shoulders nor sidewalks, and frequently 50 cars a minute both ways. This was immediately followed by a three-mile trip across PA910, a two-lane thoroughfare that has 30 to 40 cars a minute in either direction, that has large hills, blind curves, and lots of strip malls and traffic lights. Earlier in the day, I made a one-bag grocery trip. I don't think I saw three other cyclists all day, for the 20 miles I traveled. The 50-degree rain didn't help.
Why am I doing this? Money is some of it. Personal fitness is some of it. Tree hugging is some of it. Cantankerousness is some of it. On that last point, upon arrival at my last destination, I found that the office building had no bike rack. No problem; I just tied it up to a "No Bicycle Riding" sign posted by the parking lot. (Darn, forgot the camera again!)
"But isn't it unsafe to ride in all that traffic?" Yeah, well, too bleeping bad. I spent a lot of my teens and 20s riding a small motorcycle all around the Buffalo area, and learned how to take care of myself. Some simple yet salient points apply to both:
* You are invisible.
* Everyone behind the wheel is asleep, drunk, drugged, or too stupid to drive.
* Everyone is out to get you, even if they do see you.
That said, I think I've gotten pretty good at self-preservation. Sometimes this means getting IN the way. To wit: I make sure drivers behind me can see me, then get directly in front of them and have them back up behind me. This approach is used when there is no safe way to have them pass me. If I can get out of their way, I will, but if it's less safe to do that than to hold up traffic, well too bad for the traffic. If I was a trash can that rolled in the road on a windy day, would you hit it just because it was in your way?
I wonder as I ride around just how needed all those car trips are which are blowing past me. Can't some of these trips be combined? Do you really need to run to the mall seven times a month? Try thinking about a world in which you could ONLY go out ONCE a day by car, or maximum FOUR trips a week. That includes schlepping kids to school and soccer and music classes. By car, anyway.
I'd love to see a world in which 10-year-old kids bicycled along hilly, suburban highways to get to softball, or piano class, and people simply accepted it. We're not there yet. Too many damn cars out there, and nobody, it seems, child or adult, has the stamina to bike eight miles on non-flat terrain. The lack of trail alternatives has a lot to do with it. We have a few, but need many, many more.
But this is one more curve that I'm ahead of. I'm trying to do that today. As Elbert Hubbard, my hometown hero, once said, "If you would make men better, set an example."