I heard a nice song on the radio (remember the radio?): "The Ride," by Luka Bloom, an Irish singer. "When the head spins and there is no joy, put me up in the saddle, I'm just a little boy." My son Cord gets the same exhilaration from biking, so I sent him the song. Most excellent, he said. Nice that someone tried to capture the feeling.
Cord lives in Philadelphia, right in the middle of the city. On long rides he breaks free, but he has to get in and out of town. He says it's a bit dodgy on city streets for a biker. It's not that anyone wants to hurt anyone, it's just close quarters with two-ton cars and even bigger trucks and busses. Not to mention the rail track slots that his front wheel slipped into one time. One moment he was gliding, the next he was sitting on the pavement, shaking his head, wondering what happened.
I love to ride too. If I don't get out enough--a few miles to a coffee shop, nothing too serious--I get a little wiggy. Like Cord, I took a tumble off my bike once and got a free ride to the emergency room. More drama than damage, but it makes you cautious.
So I was exercising that caution as I biked home the other day. A long stretch of the street had no bike lane and there were cars parked on both sides. It was comfortable to pass another bike going the other way, or even a small car. But with one coming at me and another coming from behind...gulp. I was glad when the road neared an elementary school and a wide bike lane began. I'd just gotten comfortable in my own safe zone when I had to go around a pickup truck parked in the bike lane. Most people are pretty good about not doing that, but there was a guy in the truck eating his lunch, and as I went by I said, mildly, I thought, "You're parked in a bike lane." I didn't get ten feet before he shouted back, "It's a truck lane too!"
Well, actually it's not. It's only three or four feet wide and it's clearly marked as a bike lane. It's not like he didn't know all this; he was parked right under a sign that said "no parking anytime." I went back and, pretty calmly when you consider that he looked like he was about to have a coronary, I asked him why he was so angry. "I hate bicyclists," he said. "Why?" I asked. "We don't pollute, we aren't noisy. We don't take up much room."
"Because you're all assholes," he said.
My first experience with lifestyle profiling.
I said, "Look, you're huge (meaning his truck), and I'm little. I just want the buffer zone that a bike lane is meant to provide."
He was seriously red-faced by this time. He said he didn't like being talked down to. Then he repeated that bikers are all assholes, threw his boxed lunch on the seat beside him, and drove off swearing.
When I was a boy, just learning to drive in Tennessee, people used to talk about games involving driving close to groups they disliked--blacks, gays, Jews--and knocking them over by opening the car door as they passed. Bicyclists were sometimes on the list of candidates for roadside mayhem. Having just graduated from a bike, I didn't understand the enmity. I haven't thought about it in years, but apparently it's not just a Southern redneck thing of days gone by. Here was a guy in Palo Alto, not some KKK member, spouting vitriol that would have made those of the white robes and hoods proud.
This story doesn't have a moral. Well, perhaps it does, but I'm not courageous enough to speculate about what it is. Draw your own conclusions. And be careful who you assume doesn't want to hurt you.