06 March 2009

attitudes & bikes

i read something recently that made me think about bike riding and personality. now i would say i'm a pessimistic person. my purpose in mentioning this is not to dissect why, but rather to say that i think it influences my bike riding style. this might be a seemingly simple hypothesis, but i've never really thought about it before. so...here we go!

the author of the article/blog post (not quite sure what to call it these days!) stated that when she got on her bike in the morning for work, she would transform into some sort of crazed asshole, obsessed with getting to work without stopping. that's interesting, because maybe she actually didn't transform (?), but rather just acted out how she merely saw the world at the time. i say that in past tense because she has changed to be a more cautious and respectful rider.

my riding style has also changed over the years, and i would say it reflects my ever evolving maturity in things good and bad. i would ride without a helmet without a thought, i would ignore traffic rules, etc. i would basically ride like a 20 year old would ride...until i got in an accident. it was bound to happen. it was both of our faults, and had i not (much like the rider in the article) turned myself and anita (my bike, RIP wherever she is...) to be parallel to the car, i would have gone over the hood going downhill at a good speed. instead, i turned on instinct and the driver ended up driving over my front wheel and fork while i was still on the bike. thankfully, that's all he ended up driving over.

i was shaken (not stirred) with this slow moving accident in a quiet, yet bustling, brooklyn neighborhood. it was quite dramatic, the cops came, people were shouting, the driver was scared and i was yelling and pissed at the world.

so i got my frankenbike anita back about a week later, refused to go to the hospital, but did end up going to the doctors a week later. i was a yoga person at the time, went twice a week with my significant other. i noticed i couldn't point my toe as well as before. turns out, the crankset somehow met my skin just under my left ankle. that is strange because that stuff is on the right side of the bike. i guess that's how crumpled i was. the gears cut into a ligament. fun times. i couldn't point my toe very far for about a year. it's fine now, but i do still have a scar. i also had a tennis ball sized elbow for awhile, i limped for a couple of days and i'm pretty sure my head went down hard.

i was scared to get back on the bike after that accident. i really was, even though i was pretty much ok. again, indicative of how i deal with things. but eventually i did, and there you go. i still would ride without a helmet.

then i got in a little accident that was completely my fault because i was drunk. we rode our bikes to the bar, and left at last call. i ran into a parked car because someone behind me pointed something out to me. i turned my head back, kept going forward. boom, i fell down. my bike crumpled on top of my face. i ended up with a unicorn bump on my forehead, a bump on the left side of my head, and a gross cut on the upper right side of my nose. i still have that nose scar and (i think in the healing process i developed a calcification or something) a small little raised bump just underneath. i had to go to school like that and faced endless teasing. law school is the new high school? more like the new 2nd grade.

those were the two memorable accidents. there have been others, but nothing that really affected my attitudes on biking.

so you know what i do now when i get on my bike? i just hope to get to my destination in one piece. i don't care about going fast, because i'm worried i can't stop in time. i try not to ride in the rain because from my days a long time ago driving in the rain, made me notice that the streets are littered with people who just don't take minor differences into consideration, or their cars aren't tuned, etc, so more accidents tend to happen.

and in my pessimism in not completely trusting other bikers/drivers to look out for me, i have slowed down considerably. i still hop on with a "me/us versus them" mentality, but it's not a malicious feeling. it's more of one that makes me want to be an advocate. i ride with the mindset that i'm invisible. i ride slowly. i slow down at stop signs, and if there are no cars, i will go through them without stopping. otherwise, i stop and use hand signals, etc. i do the same with traffic lights, although i rarely go through them unless it's late at night and i'm positive there are no cars around in the opposite direction.

i'm clearly not a perfect being. not claiming to be at all. i'm an asshole at crosswalks because of right turning cars. those cars are the ones that tend not to see bikes, so i make sure they see me. sorry to the pedestrians, but i've only had a couple of them that have expressed any sort of verbal disapproval. pdx and some other cities have solved that problem by giving bike lanes a bike box. don't block the box! :)

i use my helmet about 50% of the time when it's not work related. when i commute, i use it 100% of the time. i see both sides of the bike debate because i don't go fast, i like to feel the wind in my hair and i don't really feel more protected with one. but i still wear one...just in case. and thankfully i haven't had an accident since the drunken episode i've described above. well, i did fall on the muni tracks, but if you ride a bike in this city, i'm sure you have done the same.

oh yeah, and i don't ride drunk anymore. i'd much rather walk bici if i have her when i'm am. i believed i've previously talked about that one time i still fell while the boo was walking her and she got hurt. um, yeeeaaah. oops. thank you.

and in riding cautiously, i've noticed i'm happier. i feel pleasant-ish, i don't have any more chola moments (yet...i can't promise this wont rear its ugly head), i check out other bikes, check out what people are wearing. it's basically my time for me to stop and smell the roses. and, i love being on my bike so much, the thought of spending more time on it is not a chore, but rather it's a gift.

so in reading her article-post thingy i noticed that she implied most bikers want to ride non-stop in some sort of need for speed. that's news to me. i always thought stopping was part of the game of life on the road in a city, not a mere annoyance with which one must grudgingly tolerate. if one wants to ride non stop for a long time, go on a long ass bike ride on highway one. i hear it's gorgeous.

so she met someone which showed her the smelling-the-flowers side of bike riding. stopping at lights, waving to asshole drivers, etc. and then she learned that by being positive, she got more respect from drivers, including the notorious assholio MUNI drivers. exactly. leading by a positive example is much more effective than being an asshole under the guise of...well, honestly i hate to bunch them in with advocacy. so being an asshole for the sake of being an asshole i guess. like those i've said i've seen on commutes and in critical mass.

so i'm glad she calmed down, i'm glad she's getting a positive response to others. there will always be irresponsible drivers and people on bikes. but by being the best bike rider we can be, our lead will hopefully become contagious and begin to free us from this crazy oil addiction we have.

ok, i'm getting off my soapbox now. back to work.

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