Saturday, September 26, 2009

A Manifesto-like Expression of Somethingness

Though I’ve made a point over the years of living in places where I can easily get around by bike, I don’t consider myself a cyclist, anymore than when I drive I’m a driver.

I just use a bike. I use it to get to work. I use it to shop. I use it to visit friends. I use it, very occasionally, for fun.

I know so little about how my bike works that I can’t even change my own tires. And I kind of don’t want to know.

I have this idea that all I should know is that when I get on my bike I’ll be okay. If I obey the law, if I stay aware, if I do everything a reasonable person would do, I’ll be at least as okay on a bike as I would be in a car.

But I’m not okay. No one who uses a bike is okay riding on American streets—at least anywhere that I’ve lived and biked.

I’m a target. A lightning rod for drivers’ frustration with the misalignment between how easy it is to drive a car and how hard it is to get around using one. How all you have to do is press a few pedals and twist your wrist to shoot along faster than any earthbound thing on the planet did for several billion years before the invention of the engine. But how sticking tens of millions of those kinds of machines next to each other often means going more slowly than many people can walk. How so much money and care is tied up in something that only rarely realizes its obvious potential. How wasteful it all is—burning gas and money and not calories. And how isolating.

Here’s my vision for the future: I can bike without spending almost every second of that time sussing out the accident that’s about to happen. The door that’s going to open. The delivery truck riding three feet behind me and going twenty miles an hour through narrow streets, the driver feeling martyred and angry because he’d rather be going forty. The pedestrian who only listens for traffic, doesn’t look.

Here’s what’s crazy: that vision counts as radical.

No comments:

Post a Comment