Thursday, October 06, 2005

I'm a fairweather cyclist

One day after my self-righteous comments about single-occupant automobiles, I proved myself to be a big ol' hypocrite. Doubt me? Dig this: I drove to a local observance of International Walk to School Day.

I played a minor role in this event and needed to transport some materials that were too cumbersome to move on my bike. But that's really just an excuse. I'm sure I could have done it had I put some thought into it. It felt lousy to be behind the wheel for such a short trip.

Driving home from work, however, I must admit was truly glad to be in the car. I saw a cyclist with plastic bags on his shoes. His head was lowered as he bravely trudged along. The plastic bags and bravery were necessary because this fellow's ride coincided with landfall of Tropical Storm Tammy. Heavy rain and windblown debris do not make for pleasant cycling. Factor in power outages that disable street lighting and traffic signals and you've got a pretty inhospitable bicycling environment.

I'm proud of the miles I put on my bicycle last month. But I shouldn't be. Very little rain fell locally in September and the temperatures were mild. It doesn't take much dedication to ride a bike under these conditions. There are folks who cycle straight through blizzards, sandstorms, black ice, earthquakes, geyser eruptions, meteor showers and all sorts of other terrible stuff.

This morning's commute was just a bit difficult because of the severed tree parts left behind by the storm. The streets were littered with sweetgum and pecan branches. And palm fronds. This forced me to ride further left than I normally do. Fortunately, most motorists who passed me gave me a little more room than usual.

I encountered another cyclist riding ahead of me just north of 37th Street. He stopped briefly at Anderson Street before riding through the red light. He did the same thing at Henry Street. Legally, only law enforcement officers and drivers of emergency vehicles can elect not to respect red lights. Clearly this cyclist was a very important person on very important business. I presume lives were at stake.

I waited at both intersections for my turn to cross. Still, I reached Gwinnett Street only 10 seconds after he did, riding at my normal (slow) pace.


Jim said...

If you read back in my archives, you'll find a similar pattern of behavior early in my Adventures in Cycling. One day, it'd be sunny and warm and I'd be spouting about how everyone should ride bikes, and then the next day it'd be cold and windy and I'd make some excuse to take the train. It's always interesting to me how, after I'd been a committed cyclist, riding in or driving a car along my regular bike routes caused a feeling of guilt. It isn't even so much because of all the geopolitical/environmental/social implications of driving - it's more like, "Hey wait a minute, I didn't earn that hill back there; I'm not even winded; this is too easy..." Anyway, what you have done on your bike is admirable, especially given that you live in a city that is not altogether committed to supporting cyclists.

Philadaddy said...

Don't beat yourself up, it's hard to ride all the time.