I’ve been thinking a lot about bike lanes lately. Who can help it? It’s the “it” story of spring 2011 local press. Outrage here, indignation there. Mostly, I’ve been pretty ‘meh’. Sure, I want the bike lanes to stay, but mostly because I like winning a fight. I’ll keep riding my bike, even if they tear out every single bike lane in the city.
I feel bad about that. I’m part of the problem. I’m not a “good” cyclist. I’m an asshole. I’ve never obeyed the traffic rules, ever. I run red lights. I weave in and out of traffic. I’ll “salmon” if it makes sense to me (go the wrong way down a one way street). In sum, there are a couple principles that guide me:
1) the best route is the shortest distance between two points, even if it isn’t legal
2) preserve forward motion, as opposed to foot down on pavement.
I admit all this not boastfully, not righteously, but truthfully. I’ve spent quite a bit of time wondering why it is that I am completely incapable of obeying traffic laws. I’m a 40-something mother, ferchrissake. Shouldn’t I be the one driving the SUV, not cutting it off?
It’s more than just 20-some years of habit. The simple answer: because I can. Bicycles are nimble. (And that little burst of adrenaline when you dash across an intersection is a little addictive, too).
For the past couple months, I’ve found myself truly hating my bike, “Nimby”. We had a great time for a couple years, dodging the double parked cars on Flatbush avenue, seeing how many fixed-gear hipsters we could pass on the Manhattan bridge. But it all changed when I put the kid seat on the back.
There is nothing badass about a hybrid with a kid seat. It’s not just the slow. I’m sure, come summer, that I’d be passing hipsters on fixies on the bridge once again. It’s just .. it wasn’t that bike. As I shopped for my new commuter, I kept finding myself in a web of contradictions, my new life as commuter-mom, vs my old life as kamikaze cycling asshole.
My new bike is handsome – a steel three speed that’s – against expectations -- even heavier than “Nimby”. And “Nimby” got sold to Waleed for $100 off Craigslist, and I'm sure is much, much happier in his rebirth as delivery bike.
So I have a new bike. A slower bike. And I'm going to try, a new approach, because I’m part of the problem. If I continue to be commuter-mom-kamikazi-cyclist, the bike lanes might just go, and then we lose. And plus, I know people who really like those bike lanes. So, my spring challenge: I’m going to try to change my ways. Be a little less aggressive. See if I can turn down the adrenaline junkie a notch. Try not to get involved in a “Cat 6” race with everyone on the bridge, or on Chrystie coming off the bridge. Perhaps wait for the light at the Atlantic/Flatbush intersection. Maybe obey a traffic law or two.