28 April 2013

Not alone

As the weather warms here in Missouri, I notice more tree blooms, short skirts, food trucks and bikes on the road.

More bicycles on the road is always a good thing. My years in Columbia give me a perspective on the total numbers of bicyclists. With time there are certainly more people choosing to ride. Sure there are plumb more people in Columbia as time marches on but along with that a larger percentage of people are riding.

There are many kinds of bicyclists in the world and they occasionally talk the same bike language, sometimes not. I see commuters like myself on the road. We are out there every day making our way to work, social engagements, the store and other destinations. As a bike commuter the bike is my choice of mode. When someone asks incredulously on an especially  rainy, snowy, hot or cold day "Did you ride your BICYCLE today?" I relish asking them right back "How else would I have gotten here?" I am not trying to be an asshole rather trying to make it clear that bicycle riding for me is not a fair-weather thang.

Along with commuters, I see bike racers and recreational trail riders. What consistnetly surprises me is how rarely these riders choose to ride their bikes to a destination. Yeah, these folks are riders, too, but I mainly don't get where they are coming from or going to. I run for fun as readers of this blog will know but I ride for my commute. Riding for the sake of riding is fun, too. Last weekend I took a recreational bike ride down to see the flooding Missouri River, enjoyed the trail, a soda at Coopers Landing and the trail ride home. I get it. I am not a hater.

There are also seasonal bicyclists and bicycle-by-default riders. Seasonal bicyclists hang up their ride from October until April choosing to drive during winter weather. Bicyclists-by-default are those riders who because of funds can't afford a car. This group is made up of international students, the poor and almost everyone who bikes in Zambia. They might rather drive a car but funds don't allow that. So they ride.

Mnay of my fellow bicyclists follow common bike rules. Many do not.

Signal a turn.
Stop at intersections that require cars to stop.
Don't ride two abreast in traffic.
Wear a helmet for gawd's sake.

These are common sense and legal rules that I follow because it is important to be predictable for the drivers out there. We bicyclists manage to engender a heap of hate from drivers and most of it comes from being unpredictable.

Much of the anger from drivers has nothing to do with bicycles rather is attributable to general anxiety and fear growing in American culture these days. Alarm system anyone? Gotta Glock?

There is a quote out there about there being no joy greater than seeing an adult on a bicycle. I get that.

I feel joy when I see other Columbians pedaling around town. Be they clad in spandex, thrift scores or business casual attire these bicyclists represent a cultural shift that is significant. Bicycles work for fun or for commuting. Just please don't hang them on the wall of your non-bicycle shop.

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