Biking postsSaturday July 14, 2012
Adventures in Cycling: Yo Yos Apologizing
I nearly got killed on the way to work yesterday.
I shouldn't write that. Too many people already think it's too dangerous to bike in the city when it's not, really. Put it this way: If I drove, I might be dead already. At the least, I'd be fatter with higher blood pressure. Maybe I'd be dead from higher blood pressure.
So yesterday I was biking north on First Avenue in downtown Seattle, my usual route, and was about five blocks from crossing Denny. There are two north-bound lanes, and I was in the right lane, as usual, where four cars were moving slowly. They were moving so slowly that I caught up to them, and, since the left lane was clear, I decided to go around them. The second car in line had the same thought I did, about five seconds after I did, and just as I was pulling even with him. Thus, as he pulled out into the left lane, he began to push me into oncoming traffic.
YO! YO! YO!
That's my default yell. It worked here. He finally noticed. And he rolled down the window with a smile on his face and said kindly, “Didn't see you. Sorry.” Then he made the light, which was yellow, while I was stuck behind with the rest of the traffic, and with all of the mixed feelings such encounters tend to bring out.
For some reason, his mea culpa bugged me. “Didn't see you.” Of course he didn't see me. I didn't think he was pushing me into oncoming traffic on purpose.
But at least he was nice about it. At least he said “Sorry.” At least he smiled.
Then I realized this is what bugged me most of all.
A year or two ago, I had another YO! YO! YO! encounter, this time on Second Avenue, which has its own bike lane, heading south after work. A woman driving north apparently saw a parking space she wanted on the east or southbound side of the street and pulled a 180 to grab it. She nearly ran me over in the process. YO! YO! YO! Her windows were rolled up, and she kept them rolled up, but she did apologize. I could see her mouthing these words, angrily, with a scowl on her face: “I'm SORRY!” It was as if she were apologizing for the tenth time rather than the first. My immediate thought back then: You don't seem sorry.
The guy yesterday was the same, if opposite. He was just a little too happy in his apology. He seemed like someone who had realized long ago that you can disarm people with kindness, and that's what he was doing here, disarming me with his kindness, but he, too, didn't seem that sorry about nearly running me over. He seemed pretty happy about it. And then he made the light, while I was left behind with all of the mixed feelings such encounters tend to bring out.
The 10 Sartorial Steps to Winter Biking
There are 10 sartorial steps in the transition from summer biking to winter biking. Each one is necessary but a drag.
You start out, free and easy, some time in August, in shorts and a short-sleeved biking shirt. Wheee! To be honest, there aren't many Seattle days, or nights anyway, that allow just that. But let's start out that way--the way you start out with only underwear on the dress-up refrigerator magnet. Then, bit by bit, week by week, you add, with approximate temperatures in parentheses, the following:
- Long-sleeved biking shirt (60s)
- Biking jacket (high 50s)
- Slicks or long biking pants (50)
- Zip-up, woolish jersey for underneath jacket (high 40s)
- Long gloves to replace the fingerless kind (45)
- Cap for underneath helmet (low 40s)
- Long-johns beneath slicks (35)
- Thicker gloves (30)
- Fleece vest (25)
- Scarf (15)
I've never done the scarf in Seattle, only in Minneapolis. Last week I added the long-johns, Monday the thicker gloves. Each layer is a drag, a kind of mummification. The worst for me is the beneath-helmet cap. I hate that.
So in real terms and in biking-clothes terms I've about reached my winter solstice, which is itself a kind of relief, a Lennonesque rejoinder to the McCartneyesque optimism of “Gettin' Better”: Can't get much worse. I now look forward to the true joy of shedding each layer as the light returns and the weather warms.
It's the Day After Labor Day: Has Everyone in Seattle Forgotten How to Effin' Drive?
I mean more than usual.
My bikeride home from work, lower Queen Anne to First Hill, takes about 15 to 20 minutes. Today's trip was bookended by two trucks, the first on Thomas and Queen Anne North, the second on 9th and Madison, both making right-hand turns from the left lane. I must see this a couple of times a week but rarely twice during the same ride.
But those drivers were the smart ones. In-between, a woman in an SUV half-ran a red light on Denny and Second and nearly ran into a motorcyclist. She squealed to a halt halfway through the intersection, then decided to go ahead until I yelled at her to watch out for me coming through the intersection. When I was safely past her, she kept going through the red. Her son was in the passenger's seat.
Continuing on Second, another woman, this one in a sports car, roared past close to the bike lane. Second Avenue is one-way heading south, the bike lane is on the left, and when the light turned green at Battery, she roared ahead of the cyclist ahead of me, forcing him to brake, dismount, curse, give her the finger. I was heading the direction she was, so I saw her at Battery and 3rd, stopped at another red, 20 feet from the intersection, absorbed by a mobile device. When the light turned green it took her 10 seconds to realize it and bolt ahead again. I saw her again on 5th, continuing to drive recklessly, one hand on the mobile device.
More People Don't Bicycle Because of ... Bicyclists?
While we were visiting Portland in June I noticed a few people riding bikes, slowly—almost purposefully slowly—in everyday clothes. It reminded me of a European city more than an American city. It seemed pretty cool.
I didn't know it was a movement.
Yesterday on his blog, Andrew Sullivan quoted both Celeste LeCompte (Special to the San Francisco Chronicle) and Felix Salmon (a Reuters blogger) praising the slow bike movement. Both believe it encourages other people to ride. Both insinuate that the reason there are not more bike-riders is the bike-riders we already have.
For some San Franciscans, seeing slow-riding folks like Logan and Stockmann out on the road can be a refreshing encouragement to hop on two wheels for a daily commute or a quick trip to the farmers' market. ... Being a Slow Bike Rider may mean being left behind by the pack of spandex-wearing cyclists in the mornings, but it also means getting to know more about the rest of your community.
If you live in a city where women in wedge heels are steering their old steel bikes around their daily errand route, there’s really nothing intimidating or scary about the prospect of getting on a bike yourself. If it’s all hipsters on fixies, by contrast, that just makes biking feel all the more alien and stupid.
I'm sure this is part of it. No one wants to join a group in which they'll feel unwelcome or unhip.
At the same time, I've had quite a few people ask me, often shyly, about biking to work, and what it's like, and how long it takes, etc. etc., but whenever I suggest they do it themselves and they beg off, the main reason they give is their perception of how dangerous it is. They're not fearful of “spandex-wearing cyclists” or “hipsters on fixies”; they're fearful of cars. They don't want to be exposed in traffic. They don't want to die.
To ignore this in any discussion about cycling is to ignore the SUV in the room.
My Bike Ride: Imitating Big Papi and Nomah
At what age do I stop imitating baseball players?
I'm 48 now and I find I'm still doing it. While biking, no less.
When I'm about to begin a ride I find myself clapping my gloved hands together. Took me a few weeks before I figured out what it reminded me of: David Ortiz of the Boston Red Sox, Big Papi, who spits into the palm of both gloved hands and claps them together before each pitch. (Parodied in this SportsCenter ad.) Sometimes I'll even mime the spitting before the clapping. One time, I believe, I forgot the mime and brought the spit. Ick. This is a recent innovation, by the way. Not sure why I began doing it. Maybe as a way to kick myself in the ass? A here we go, about to ride! kind of thing.
Then in the middle of the bikeride, particularly at stoplights, particularly in the less harsh months when I'm wearing fingerless gloves, I'll often fiddle with the velcro around the wrists, tightening each glove. Yeah, exactly like Nomar Garciaparra used to do between every pitch. That's two Boston Red Sox. What the hell, right? I'm a Twins/M's fan. But I've been doing this one for a while. I think because both me and Nomar are a little OCD.
Finally, lately, at the end of my ride, I'll take off my helmet with both hands and bend down to touch my toes in one smooth (or its close proximity) motion. Reminds me of when a player, say, grounds out to end an inning, and takes the helmet off and reaches down to unstrap, say, shin protectors at the same time.
Now if for the rest of the ride I only imitated Lance Armstrong ...
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