Yesterday, I decided to punish myself with a bike commute to and from work. I use the word "punish" because I've been quite a sissy-boy in the "cold weather riding" department. Resolving to ride the fixed gear bike to work 2-3 times a week, all winter long, I decided to pick one of the nastier days as a way to "break myself in". "Future rides to work won't seem as bad" I reasoned.. Well.. aside from a quick fall on black ice, my ride to work was quite enjoyable, all 9 miles of it. The ride home.. a different story.. It wasn't the darkness that ruined it, it wasn't the cold wind or the damp drizzle or the slick roads.. It was the people who I shared the road with. Quittin' time does something to New Englanders I think. Getting home seems to be a bigger urgency than getting to work, that's for damn sure.
A motorist driving an enormous pick up truck- the kind with four rear wheels and four doors- thoughtfully slowed to my pace, lowered his window, wagged his finger and yelled at me to "GET ON THE SIDEWALK!". On at least three other occasions, motorists blared their horns at me, and then once they could get past me, gunned the throttle while shaking their heads in disapproval. I can't read their moving lips too well, but their "body language" makes it pretty clear that feathering their brakes for a few seconds while basking in the warmth and comfort of their car, in order to avoid pasting the road with my shivering body parts, , is not appreciated.. at all.
Mentally, it really takes the wind out of your sails. You know you're doing something good for the body, for the mind and even for the environment, but those who can't afford to be delayed for 5 seconds by a human life perched precariously on top of a 20 pound machine going 20 miles an hour through the darkness on top of frozen asphalt, really make it hard to be optimistic about anything to do with PEOPLE. Enough said.
If you're a motorist and encounter a person riding a bicycle on the road, try something new: YIELD deliberately- give way- wave them through- let them pass before you make your turn. I PROMISE you that the cyclist will respond to you with a wave and a smile, or otherwise go out of their way to express thanks. If they don't, caulk it up as a rare exception- friendly motorists are so rare these days that sometimes an act of kindness is met with shock or disbelief. Have faith. WE still do.. or else we'd give up on this bike cummuting thing entirely.