Thursday, September 5, 2013

Are Bikes My Friend?


Today I’m excited but also a little bit scared, because I’m going to buy a new bicycle. My last one spent several years in back of our old house, leaning against the trashcans, rusting and covered in vines. Eventually we had to throw it out. I don’t remember exactly why I stopped riding my bike, but it was no longer necessary to get to work via bike, and I was just as happy to walk or drive or take public transportation. There were also a few encounters and incidents that I’d rather forget. I’m not even going to mention the trauma I experienced when a miscreant absconded with my back wheel! But it was the feeling that I had been violated that was much, much worse.
For some time, however, it served me well. My red men’s 3-speed was about $200 when I bought it new back in the early 1990s.  My next bike will cost about the same, but it will be used.
I recall the devastation I felt when someone stole my back wheel. I didn’t know at the time that using two different types of locks, one to secure the frame and the other the back wheel, is ideal to deter thefts—it requires thieves to use multiple types of tools. Of course some thieves come prepared, with a tool kit, so it just makes it a bit harder. I wonder if anyone would actually intercept an ongoing bike theft in Philly; probably not. I’ve noticed, on the other hand, that most bikes I’ve seen locked up on the streets only have one Kryptonite lock through the frame or one of the wheels, so perhaps the double lock precaution is only necessary if your bike is going to be in one place for a longer period.
My state of mind while riding my bike, circa 1995.

I’m older and wiser now; will this maturity help me become a responsible and safe cyclist? I’m counting on it. Years ago I crashed into a stationary pole because I was cycling while daydreaming (rule number 1: keep your wits about you at all times). I also rode on the sidewalk a lot because there were no bike lanes back then, and Philly streets are very narrow. Unsurprisingly this pisses off pedestrians because, well, that’s their turf and they’re not expecting you. That’s changed; the city has created many bike lanes by eliminating parking on one side of major city streets. At least I never got into an accident with another cyclist, a pedestrian, or a car, so that’s something to be happy about.
As a pedestrian and motorist, there are a lot of things about cyclists that I don’t like, such as the inconsiderate ones, who simply do what they want rather than following the traffic rules. They ride through red lights, narrowly avoiding pedestrians who have the right of way on green. Some still ride on narrow sidewalks where they have no business being. And still others insist on riding in the middle of the street on roads—here is where I silently and/or audibly curse the cyclist as I unwillingly cruise behind them at an infuriating 10 mph—where there is no bike lane, when there are multiple streets with bike lanes for them to choose from. I hope I avoid these lazy pitfalls as a beginning cyclist. And what is up with the hipsters who have no brakes?
UPDATE: Got a sturdy girl’s bike for $300. The bike is sturdy, not necessarily for sturdy girls. The only downside to it is that the frame is adorned with pink and purple circles; a hit with my daughter, not so much with me, but isn’t that what spray paint is for?

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