Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Riding Here

What I say here has little or no impact on the rest of the World, but that’s of no importance to me. My blog and my choice of what to say; simultaneously the biggest plus and minus about the internet.

I read numerous bicycle oriented blogs and websites. Learning about the extent of the bicycle culture and subculture is fascinating. Usually I agree with what is said and sometimes I don’t. I don’t, for instance, care to assert my right to be on roads when confronted by a ton or more of steel and plastic guided (or misguided) by someone whose point of view is me as obstacle. I favor coexistence, though, like the turmoil of the 60s and 70s of which I was a part, I know that there are too many opinions to have riding be as I wish it to be.

I have a difficult time understanding the idea that riding in America should emulate how it’s done in Netherlands. Never been there and unlikely I’ll ever get there, so it’s impossible for me to have a valid opinion about the superiority of the infrastructure that permits the apparent bicycle haven that is Amsterdam. French Indochina (after they changed the name) plus brief visits to the Maritime Provinces of Canada and border towns of Mexico are the limits to my world travel and bikes were not part of my reasons for being there. Maybe I am too ethnocentric or unaware to comprehend the more worldly view of how riding should be done. Or, maybe I am justified in seeing it from my anecdotal perspective.

I think I used up all my activist desires “back in the day” and that’s why I cannot relate to some of the ideas proffered for how to deal with automobiles and their drivers and our current way of doing things. I have a long history as a gearhead and accumulated vast numbers of miles behind the wheel of cars ranging from eccentric to desirable. I once calculated that I’d driven in excess of a million miles since passing my drivers’ test in 1962, so I know a little about driver mentality. Fifty thousand miles a year was commonplace.

For me, the most important thing that I can do as a rider is to protect myself when riding among cars by accepting the inherent danger of being there. That means putting aside angst and anger, concerns about yesterday’s argument and this morning’s breakfast while taking my presence in the line of cars seriously; not fearfully, not lost in music flowing from earbuds; and not with the idea that my rights exceed the damage that’ll be done to me if I assert my rights to the wrong person or ride carelessly. Being in traffic is a full time activity whether on a bike or in a car.

Living successfully is a matter of finding balance. Riding a bike is the same, but it’s not solely about remaining upright. Among the best things the average rider can do is to emulate good drivers, meaning yielding when it’s the best choice, observing rules of the road (as the law expects) and using our presence to demonstrate that coexistence is possible even in the face of those who ride through stop signs, ride two or more abreast, ride without lights or ride the same foolish way that some people drive.

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