Tuesday, November 15, 2011

A (Nearly) Bike-Free Month

What's it like to not be a bike commuter? I got a glimpse of it this month. For various reasons, I have biked to work only a couple of times this month so far. The reasons aren't all that interesting, but here they are anyway:

  1. I had a breakdown in my Inclement Weather Management System (my waterproof bicycle trunk doesn't fit my new rack so I'm back to plastic bags).
  2. It's National Novel Writing Month and I need every spare hour I can get.
  3. My youngest moved into a dorm at the UW and I now have sole use of our spare vehicle.
It didn't take long to (re-)discover the downside of car commuting. Last Tuesday I was driving southbound on Aurora approaching 125th when I slowed down to let someone in who was waiting in a parking lot to my right. The light at 125th was red and I was slowing to a stop anyway, so it was no big deal. Suddenly a horn sounded behind me, repeatedly. Looking in the rearview mirror I saw an irate woman gesticulating wildly and mouthing, "GO! GO!" I held out my hands in the universal "what the...?" gesture, but she only grew more irate. I waved the driver in anyway, then looked back again: more irate still! The 'F' word was clearly discernible on her lips this time, and her wild gesticulations had grown even more exaggerated.

Traffic was starting to move by this time, but I turned around to mouth "chill out" a couple of times. More 'F' words followed. Once we were moving she aggressively passed me on the left and cut in front of me at the earliest opportunity, nearly clipping a bus that was stopped at the bus stop just past 125th. She turned right a couple blocks later. All that to gain two car-lengths!

If I ever needed a reminder why I hate car-commuting, I got it that morning. The rat-race mentality that kicks in whenever you can't go where you want, when you want, is blissfully absent on my bike commute. A bicycle, 99% of the time, can go where it wants, when it wants. Sure, we have to stop for red lights (and yes, I do), but rarely is our mobility hampered by the behavior of other commuters. Bike-riding, simply put, fits the human psyche better than car-commuting.