Thursday, May 20, 2010

One foot in front of the other



I didn't ride my bike even once last year. Its tires are deflated and it is covered with dust. Apparently, given a choice, I will always walk. It's nerve-wracking here in the District to ride a bike. There is a notorious antipathy between drivers and bikers. I've seen many times the dazed bikers sitting on the side of the road, or being loaded into an ambulance, after being hit. I've also seen bikers cursing at drivers, slamming their fists on car hoods, and so on. In DC, bikers and drivers do not generously share the road. Oh no.

When I ride my bike, I'm always surprised to remember how hard it is to stop for annoying things like red lights and stop signs. It's a momentum thing. After a hard stop, it's a whole lot harder to get going again, hence the urge to just glide through intersections, if possible. I notice I am not the only one out there who has this particular problem, though I TRY to always stop.

Then there's the whole bike helmet conversation that I must engage in AGAIN and AGAIN and AGAIN. I don't wear a helmet and I have my reasons. It's one of those things people feel they must lecture me about, fingers wagging, even after I ask them to imagine how many times I've heard the lecture already.

It's true that I can get places in the city on a bike that would be somewhat inaccessible by foot just because of the distances involved. After a long ride to some otherwise inaccessible location, my neck always hurts. No matter how upright I sit, or how many forward bends I do when stopped at a light, my neck gets stiff from overextension.

I can't stop and smell the roses when I'm traveling by bike. I can't gaze at the sky or the architecture, and I'm not as likely to stop and chat with the neighbors. (On my bike, I just wave and keep going.)

I believe I have a constitutional aversion to bicycling; it just doesn't fit. So I'm going to sell the lovely Obsydia (my bike), get a good pair of walking sandals, and leave the biking to those who actually enjoy it. Steven I so look forward to your summer bike ride photos and meditations! And to all the rest of your bikers as well: bravo! Have a nice ride.

I'll be on the sidewalk, taking pictures and stopping to stare at something. To each his own, oh yeah.

21 comments:

NanU said...

I can just see you wheeling down the road, camera precariously in hand! I don't enjoy biking either. Will always walk everywhere I can. Thank goodness somebody stole my last bike off our unlocked porch in Saint Paul.

willow said...

I was seriously thinking of buying a bike, but now that you mention it, maybe I really don't want one, for all the same reasons you've mentioned. :P

Reya Mellicker said...

Many people love biking, including our beloved Steven. Here in DC it's just not worth the stress or overextended neck - for me, though. Others would strenuously disagree.

The Pollinatrix said...

I enjoy biking but it's just too high maintenance. Here in northern New Mexico, you get A LOT of flat tires.

My goal right now is to get fully into running, but nothing can replace the delight of a good walk.

Barbara said...

I haven't had the nerve to climb back on my wonderful Specialized since I broke my hip, but I'm not ready to sell it, not just yet. It gives me a sense of freedom that walking never will. You can probably walk about as fast as I ride.

ellen abbott said...

I like to ride my bike for short errands in my city neighborhood but only during certain seasons and full summer isn't one of them. It's just too hot. Here in the country destinations are so much farther since we live in the county (and people speed like demons on those county roads). If we lived in town, it would be different, so I don't know what's going to happen with my bike. I imagine I'll keep it. I also don't wear a bike helmet tho I have never been lectured. I have had people be rude to me when out with my grandkids in the city neighborhood because they weren't wearing helmets either. I could do my rant about bike helmets but I won't. Pretty soon we will have to be wearing helmets for walking outside cause you know, you could trip and fall and hit your head!

Reya Mellicker said...

Ellen I agree completely. It's like people think wearing a helmet is a magic spell that will keep the rider from harm.

I don't object to helmets. If people want to wear them - fine! But why lecture me? I mean, really.

Linda Sue said...

LOVED my bike- it was part of my anatomy, I dreamed it, washed and sparkeled it, gave it passionate kisses- then I moved to Bellingham where everything is up hill always...bike lanes were dodgy (though now that has changed- more bike friendly in the past few years)Walking is my preference, too.The dog is pleased about that.
Having seen the wild traffic in DC I can't even imagine trying to compete on a vulnerable little push bike.Wise Reya!

Tom said...

we have a pretty good trail system developing, and it's fun to ride. but i'm strictly a recreational rider...don't enjoy the grind of riding to and from work, and yeah...skip the helmet!

Reya Mellicker said...

From The Onion. Had to laugh:

Nation's Bicyclists Remove Helmets For Head Injury Month

May 20, 2010 | ISSUE 46•20

CHICAGO— In celebration of concussions, cerebral contusions, and other forms of blunt head trauma, bicyclists across the country removed their protective helmets Monday for National Head Injury Month. "It is an honor for me to commemorate this wonderful, wonderful month," said NHIM organizer John Harris, who made the announcement while simultaneously riding his bike, blasting Danzig-era Misfits on his iPod, and veering wildly in and out of traffic.

Cyclists observe National Head Injury Month each May, immediately following their recognition in April of Flailing Uncontrollably Through the Air Month.

Ronda Laveen said...

You're right about the neck thing. Extension is not good for a healthy happy neck. I've always wondered about the ergonomics of the design. Some peoples necks must be anatomically bike friendly.

Miss Footloose said...

And you can't take photos while you're biking, and your photos are pieces of art! I just discovered your blog and your photos do my soul wandering good.

steven said...

oh reya! i used to ride a bike in downtown toronto and i expect that like dc or any other big city, riding a bike is a calculated risk with the odds heavily weighted in favour of anything with four wheels. i've only been hit once and it was a nudge from a wing mirror. i've been ridden off the road, had things thrown at me, sworn at, cut off, and my usual response is to laugh because it really is so funny! of course the drivers don't share the same perspective so that sometimes makes things uglier for a while but hey i feel good!! i ride in a small city now and then out in the country. it's still not entirely safe but it's more predictable and people are kind and becoming way more understanding. i've also found that if i wear my biker duds rather than my funky ripped up stuff that i get more street cred and tons more space! thanks for the nice shout out by the way - man i can't wait to get my pics on the road onto the blog. only six more weeks to go. steven

Paul C said...

I like biking very much but its horizons are different. My wife and I biked Point Pelee National Park recently, a place filled with exotic migrating birds this time of year. We saw very few birds; we weren't connected to their rhythms. Good point about the difference between mindful walking and biking.

Karen said...

I rode my Trek Woody to work today for the first time in a long time! (I had to get there quicker than I could on foot.) It's very retro--only has one speed, and coaster brakes (on the pedals, no hand brakes), so it's not for serious riding, just for around town. I think of it as my Pee Wee Herman bike. :) And we joked, when I first got it, that I need to hook a basket on the back & play an endless-loop tape of the soundtrack of Mrs. Gulch on her bike (from the Wizard of Oz). :) Look out, Toto!

Beautiful, beautiful photo at the end there--I can almost smell it!

Norma said...

Lovely.

Reya Mellicker said...

Those low-tech bikes are all the rage on Capitol Hill these days. Someone rides a "hello Kitty" bike - it's pink and has a huge seat and a basket in the front. I kind of have a jones for that bike. Mine is super techy, light as a feather.

But ...

I don't ride it! That is the bottom line.

Norma said...

I've now browsed through all your May 2010 photos, and have decided you have the best composed, most varied and most interesting photographs of any blogger I've come across. That's saying a lot, because I've been blogging since Oct. 2003 and may visit hundreds of blogs a month, many by artists. And I don't remember how I got here, so I might never be back, but thanks!

Dan Gurney said...

Oh, you've touched on a fertile topic here. I used to be a CYCLIST. I'd bore people with my enthusiasm for the "noblest" technology of human invention. I still like bikes and have five of them.

But hello! SHOES are the noblest invention in the transportation realm.

I'm a cyclist cum walker. Walking beats biking in almost every way possible, especially since cell phones and drivers got mixed up.

Reya Mellicker said...

On Bike to Work day, one bicyclist and one SUV driver were killed after colliding into each other. Case closed. The bike is going on craigslist.

Spiny Marshmallow said...

I so agree with you - I find it very scary to bike in traffic and it seems that vehicles just dont see cyclists or something. Keep walking and keep up the lovely photos and the rose smells - walking is fab meditation as I can see from from your lovely posts