Stupid is as stupid does

“What are you? Stupid?”

My biking to work year round gains that response from family and outspoken people on occasion. It, of course, makes me react. Usually on the inside.
Perhaps they are just trying to be funny. As it probably was with the volunteer where I was giving blood the other day.
But I have the impression they speak for many. Certainly for those who honk at me in the road or don’t give me my fair share of the road.
But I think it’s more. They are giving voice to a deep resentment many people have about cyclists.
But why you may well ask?
Below I try to examine both sides of biking as I see them.

Reasons NOT to bike:

  • easier
  • less dangerous
  • the elements (especially in a Canadian winter) and stuff on the road are hard on chains, gears, tires and brakes so there is a requirement for spare tubes and bikes
  • it does require some gear (which doesn’t have to be too expensive if you don’t mind layering)
  • bugs, dogs, animal poop and parental geese

And now WHY I ride:

  • extremely enjoyable (almost addictive when you’ve done it enough)
  • relatively quick
  • if the trail hasn’t been plowed it’s much rarer that the roads aren’t and I can use them legally
  • physically healthy respite from my sedentary lifestyle
  • relatively carbon neutral
  • economical (gasoline for two weeks alone could buy me two used bikes in good shape and two months would get me a real nice one)
  • mentally healthy alternative for our sedentary minds (provides me with the time I use to think things through)

So there you have some cons and pros. I don’t know where you come down on any of those but it probably doesn’t matter. These points don’t give the real reason people think I’m stupid because deep down I’m pretty sure they don’t. Not really. They might, if they like or love me, be fearful for me but then they’d be the ones that are joking about my intelligence.
So why the stupid?
I think it’s because they wish they were doing the same. They feel guilty because they don’t and I do. Despite the too many excuses they’d have to fight off to bike themselves, they really want to. Even those angry that I’m in ‘their’ lane probably wish they were the ones biking. So they react angrily to what they perceive as my stubbornness to continue biking. Well they’re right about my stubbornness anyway, my wife can attest to the fact.
Maybe they lack the will power. I know I certainly do when I’m playing video games late and should be sleeping.
Maybe they’re stuck in a rut but that’s not right: it’s easier to get out of a rut in a car than it is on a bicycle.
Or maybe I am just a pretentious tree hugger who wants that big old world to stop so I can get off. But I do own a car (it was supposed to be in my wife’s name but the misogynistic car dealership put it in mine–whatever! I pay for it either way.)

So that’s it in a nutshell. I know I’ve posted on this topic before but I felt compelled to do it again. I just love biking and wish more people did it for most of my reasons above are bound to be really good for them too.

Maybe, in the end, my attempts at explaining myself are the real proof. Why am I trying? I must really be stupid.

Why Cyclists ride up to the intersection, cars or no

I was baited into an argument at work today about this habit of bicyclists. I am offended every time it comes up and, not being a very good debater, was very frustrated by the end of it. So I thought I’d blog about it. Not because I’m better at blogging… no, just to be able to get the whole argument out without interruption.

Here’s the argument for the other (dark) side:
Cyclists should wait at their place in the queue at a red light or stop sign and not sidle up on the right by the curb.

Well. I could respond that cars pass me in my lane when I’m travelling by the curb all the time. I don’t think, out of all the thousands of hours I’ve spent cycling, I can think of single example of a car not passing me as I’m on my way.
I could say that, as a cyclist, I try to share the road. It is probably safest, for both cyclists and motorists, to assume that there is a dedicated cycling lane on the right at all times (especially when there actually is one). If I need to turn left I go into the left side of the lane and signal. And, even when I do that, cars coming up behind me pass me on the right and in at least two cases on the left in the opposing lane.
As I cycle every metre/yard is thanks to my own will power and personal exertion, not thanks to some petrochemical pathway to climate warming. Just me. Cars are zipping by me all the time and I’m not going to win any races. Isn’t it fair that I take advantage of that superior flexibility allowing me to pass them when I can?
Finally I could say that I have never seen a car queue up behind me when I’m stopped at a stop sign or red light. Never, not once.  And if I did queue up behind stopped cars how much do you want to bet there’d be someone beside me at the next opportunity?  If I did it ‘properly’ and ‘took the road’ by going in the centre of the lane do you think the motorist(s) behind me would be any happier?  I very much doubt it.

So why do car drivers feel this hypocritical road rage at cyclists who do this? I came up the following possible reasons/motivations:

  1. the motorist is afraid of hurting anyone not contained in their own half to one ton cocoon of steel
  2. it’s just not fair
  3. cyclists are idiots
  4. the motorist doesn’t like any non-polluting vehicle passing them (and don’t bother bringing up the breathing and/or farting of the cyclist because the motorist is doing that too)
  5. the motorist isn’t interested in sharing the road

So the answer is no! I’ll keep doing what I’m doing thank you very much.

Cycle Touring on a Budget

I’ve already provided an exhaustive (-ing?) set of posts about my bike trip to Montreal a month ago. But there are aspects of my trip that I left out.
Why did I bike? And how could I afford it?
This summer I had the opportunity to do this trip because my wife has started a new job and wasn’t able to get more than a few scattered days for vacation. It was an ideal opportunity for me to try a little part of a dream I’ve always had to tour by bike. I wanted to bike across Canada when I was younger and still hope to one day. So I tried the experiment and I enjoyed it very much.
The how is contained in a bunch of lucky breaks. I had purchased a used bike for $35 from my favourite supplier in Kitchener about a week and a half before the trip but once I had it home and set up, it didn’t look like it would be reliable enough for such a long trip. I went to Backpeddling twice in Guelph, here, and as luck would have it I found a really interesting bike being sold on consignment the second time. It’s a big frame and of the older hybrid style both of which I really like. An older Sekine I think (it’s painted black with fluorescent green/yellow highlights so it’s kinda hard to tell): probably about 15 years old. I added in some old toe clips (not installed) and the total came to just over $165. It was a gamble (I rarely fork over that much for a bike since I’m so hard on them, it’s rarely worth it) but, as it turned out, entirely worth it.
I put on a new seat, a bell, fenders and a water bottle holder from my stock at home. I go through a lot of bikes so I tend to accumulate extra parts! I had lights for night driving already.
Then I went shopping for panniers. After quite a few tries I finally found what I wanted at Braun’s bike shop. My set of Vaude panniers (with the all important waterproof covers) were on sale there for about $100. They wouldn’t fit my existing old-style rack so I had to buy a new one but it was fairly inexpensive (around $25). I already had a cheap, strap held handlebar bag for holding my wallet, munchies, camera and maps so I was set there.
I already described the cheap tent I had (probably a mistake but certainly light) but I also bought a cheap tarp to cover the bike with from Canadian Tire.
My homemade Gator/PowerAde mix I described in a previous post but make no mistake, that is a very good thing to have.
The next thing I needed were pants that wouldn’t chafe. Biking pants are REALLY expensive (hundreds of dollars) and there was no way I was going to fork over that much money on my ‘little’ trip especially as our family budget is so strapped. I only had one night to go when I found two stretchy kids shorts that I could wear underneath my track pants as underwear. Not perfect but as they were under $10 each at Value Village I judged that these were far better than normal underwear. I was right… there was no discomfort from chafing at all. The pain I experienced was, I think, from pushing too long and too hard with my deadline.
The only thing you really need after that, besides the will (and perhaps a will), is a good set of directions. I described where I got those before too.
So my conclusion? Although there is a tendency to think that the finest in expensive equipment is required to tour, I can tell you it isn’t. If you take a little time to look around before your trip, you’ll find it’s entirely possible to make do without having to spend a fortune. You do have to buy food along the way, true, but you would have to do that on most other types of voyages too.

Dangerous driving by a City bus driver

This morning a bus cut me off in the lane I was biking to work in. I was shocked at the cavalier attitude of the driver and decided to take action. Here is the body of an e-mail I sent to the transit authority in Guelph with a copy to the Mayor (who also rides her bike to work), the City Administrator and the two representatives for my Ward:

To whom it may concern,

I commute daily by bicycle to work year round and the most consistently dangerous situation on the road I experience are City bus drivers who have no idea about what it is to share the road. This morning I had enough. I have decided to document each case of City bus aggression that I encounter.

This morning (20090616) at 7:40 I was cycling west on Stone Road West between Edinburgh Road South and Scottsdale Drive when the 52 bus (#218) started to pass me in the right lane with only a few inches to spare and then swerved even closer to the right side of the road cutting me off. I was forced to swerve to the right. I can think of no reason why the driver would have performed such a dangerous manoeuver outside of aggression. There was no one at the bus stop ahead and the driver didn’t stop before he or she changed into the left lane to turn onto Scottsdale.

If this e-mail isn’t sufficient I would like you to let me know how I can formally lodge a complaint against this driver. I have encountered lots of aggressive drivers in almost a decade of daily biking but, day to day, most City bus drivers obey the rules of the road and drive appropriately. So I realise my experience today was unusual but it is that kind of driver who needs to be counselled or simply taken off the road to work in some less dangerous job before another cyclist is killed. I will await your reply for a reasonable amount of time before pursuing other avenues.

Sincerely,

Terry Grignon
Ward 2

Nothing may happen, of course, but I am hopeful that something good will come out of my ‘action’. Guelph is trying to promote cycling as a way to cut down on the carbon emissions, traffic and all that goes with overuse of the internal combustion engine. Educating our transit people about sharing the road with bicycles should be at the top of the list of to do’s if the City is serious about this, in my opinion.

Raincycling

It doesn’t
take long when the
rain hits.
You get it from the sky
from the road
from the spinning wheels.

The trick
if there is one
is not to flinch.

Enjoy your shower
and think of how our
skin is so
waterproof.
And getting so squeaky.
Even the grit from the road
can be clean
if you give it a chance.

It can be warm
or cold
but unless you’re tripping
you’ll be dry of it soon enough.
And just remembering
the dampness
smiling
as you pile your wet things
in the laundry.

And remember, too,
your approach to puddles
long ago
when you hadn’t learned
everything yet.

-2008/08/05-