Yesterday, I rode my bicycle to work. I try to ride at least once a week, though I admit that it’s a much more appealing process in the spring and fall than summer and winter. The streets of Boston are cold, cold, cold.
Luckily, if you know how to bundle for a bicycle ride, you are in pretty good shape after about 2 minutes.
Yesterday felt like a harder day to ride than usual. My commute is about ten miles, through the somewhat suburban – and therefore pretty busy/fast/bike-lane-less – streets of my city, through a college town or five (because it’s Boston, so they are ALL college towns), and then right through Boston, around both Boston University and Boston College. It takes just under an hour, which is pretty comparable to driving, so why not fit my exercise in at the same time? Plus, riding my bike always gives me some quality time to feel pensive.
Last week, a 23-year old grad student was struck by a truck on his commute. He was wearing a helmet, obeying the traffic signals, and was an experienced bicyclist. My heart is broken for him and his family. I am also afraid. I thought about this a lot during my commute yesterday. “Well, I’ll just listen for big trucks and cars,” I thought. “I’ll be safe. I’ll avoid it all.”
I realized quickly that it’s tough to hear when a truck or bus or car is zipping up behind you. It’s easy to miss them until they are right there, whizzing by your elbow. Many cars think those white lines on the road are suggestions. The bicycle lane is really a double parking lane. Turn signals are optional.
It’s scary out there, you guys.
But the other part is that it’s wonderful out there. It is really, really wonderful. There is nothing like the feeling of getting yourself everywhere you need to go. No gas, no waiting for someone else to move or speed up or slow down or get out of your way. You can get off and walk if you want; you can stop anytime. Yesterday I was struck by all the smells of the city. It seemed like there was a new smell on every block: Christmas trees, coffee, baked goods, gasoline (gross, but I’ll deal), spicy food, perfume, water, trees… I don’t even remember all of them. You miss this in a car. On public transportation, you get a whole new set of smells and they are probably not Christmas trees and baked goods, that’s all I’m saying.
A good friend of ours just converted my mom’s old bike into a custom bicycle for Turtle. It is perfect for her, and she’s excited about it. I’m trying to get her to ride with me more. She was seriously a trouper for our first ride: it was snowing lightly on our way into town, and it was like little pins going right for your face on our ride home. She did the whole thing anyway, with a smile on her face.
I want her to keep riding, and I want to keep riding. There is such joy in riding, but also such danger. It’s wonderful and scary and I don’t know how to make it better for everyone. For now, I’m going to try to ride more carefully, I’m going to get a little rearview mirror, and I might even get a horn.
If you are out driving, check your mirrors before you open your door, check before you turn, keep an eye out for us. We are just trying to get to work and take in the world on the way.