Thursday, May 5, 2011

Notes from the Saddle

It's officially National Bike Month, and the weather is (mostly) grand! Gas prices are rising, the Ice Caps are melting and there's plenty of reasons to ditch the car for your short-distance errands or commute. You don't have to do 20-mile trips, but if you've got errands or social events within a couple miles of home, why not bike? Chances are you'll enjoy them more, and you'll save some fuel and get a bit of fresh air. Plus, parking is easier (bring a lock!).

This fellow seems to have gotten an early start on Bike-to-Work week. While I think the Leage of American Bicyclists is trying to promote cycling to your legal job, I certainly applaud his commitment to reducing his carbon footprint.

If you're thinking of cycling for transportation, you may think twice about whether you want to deck yourself out in dedicated cycling garb. Consider this discussion on how a woman in a dress seems to get a lot  more space from motorists. From now on I plan to bring an attractive woman with me on all my rides... you know, just as a safety feature.

Actually, I've been finding Central Jersey motorists to be, generally speaking, really courteous towards me on my bike. I think the combination of a fairly utilitarian-looking bike (upright position, cargo basket, fenders) with riding in street clothes makes me look more like a "regular person" who happens to be riding a bike, whereas the lycra and jerseys of a sport cyclists appear as more of a uniform, and act to make them look more "other." There's some psychology going on there, and I'm not sure how much of it is real and how much is perceptual bias.

On the flip side, I do feel like I'm experiencing some "basket discrimination" from a certain class of cyclists. The disdainful looks seem to come from both the "weekend warrior" racers who ride two-abreast on $4,000 racing bikes while talking about sales figures and the "urban commando" guys who tool around on their singlespeeds wearing what their suburban imagination thinks a hardcore messenger would wear. As I seem to be enjoying my ride more than the latter, and am often moving faster than the former, I find myself unconcerned.

If cars and other cyclists are not a problem, what is my current arch-nemesis? Geese. Canada geese are always a nuisance in this region, especially as most of my local routes pass near water, but at this time of year there are goslings about, so these normally obnoxious and aggressive critters are in full-on "psycho bird monster" mode. I haven't been bitten yet, but have had a few close calls (and will a bite by a monster goose, who has been swimming in the chemical cocktail of New Jersey's waterways, transform me into the most embarassing super-hero ever? I hope to never find out).


EMF said...

I, apparently, am an "other".

I don't fall into the $4000-sport-bike-and-sales clique; I often ride alone, cranking along just about as fast as I can manage the trip without utterly exhausting myself.

Neither am I the hipster-commando, foregoing the benefit of multiple gears in some attempt to thumb my nose at technological progress.

My bike resembles a road bike to anyone who doesn't take a good long look at it, and I wear my Lycra-based wardrobe to minimize the wind resistance on my trek to and from work.

And so, today, I got yelled at to get on the sidewalk. Nevermind that a) there was no such surface and b) even if there was, I'm not legally allowed to ride there.

Matt DeBlass said...

I have occasionally responded to the "get on the sidewalk" with "no, YOU get on the sidewalk." the momentary look of confusion is priceless. My favorite anti-bike chant is "get off the road, I pay my taxes!" which... well, just makes no sense.