19 May 2007

Bike To Work Day, 2007

By all accounts, the turnout was much higher than previous years, despite the chilly morning temperatures and the threat of rain. The clouds hung low and a vague mist held the air like a dew-soaked spiderweb. But still, the Bug People came out to party.

Bug people? Guilty!

I've spent many years as a bike commuter, by necessity. I never learned to drive a car until the age of 30, because I simply wasn't interested. Look around, it's clear that driving makes people crazy. Angry. Irrational. Tranced out. Suicidal. Why the hell would I, even as an anxious teenager, willingly join that hoarde of madness?

Moving to Tucson changed all that.

I had taken for granted how comfortably close everything is, in these east-coast cities. In Tucson, the public transit system is hilariously inadequate, and of course the scale of things is much bigger. The air is bigger; it's the desert, for crissakes. Folks will drive two hours just to get to that massive Mills shopping mall in the Phoenix suburbs. In southern Arizona, driving was as much a biological necessity as sunglasses and tequila.

It's revealing to think that in the DC area, Driver's Ed was never required in high school, like it is out west. It was just another elective course like typing, or industrial arts, or gang warfare, etc...

Thus, if I never moved west, I'm sure I could have gone through life without ever holding a steering wheel. Public transit, the bike, and a pair of feet seemed sufficient...and infinitely cheaper. Downtown walking is still one of life's greatest pleasures. Cycling began as a necessity, and with time and practice, became a pleasure.

And so it was, on a cold and misty Friday morning, that I donned helmet and padded gloves to join several hundred of my two-wheeled comrades in Freedom Plaza for DC's Bike To Work Day.

The rally at Freedom Plaza was a cheery thing to witness: hundreds of plastic helmets wandering around, local politicians speaking to the cause of bike lanes and finishing long-delayed bike route construction around DC, and of course, an ocean of free bagels, water bottles, and t-shirts. DC Delegate Eleanor Holmes-Norton did not disappoint with her firebrand speech (FIGHT THE CAR CULTURE!!!). Even DC mayor Fenty appeared on his spotless Cannondale, looking fitter than many of us.

Overall, the event drew an inspiring mix of mantis-like spandex droids and regular folk. I'm probably somewhere in between those classes: My Bianchi racer is well over 15 years old, but is very lovingly cared for and can still, on special days, surpass the speed of light while cruising down the 14th street hill.

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