Posts tagged ‘safety’

February 13, 2012

Consider Adoption–of a Bike Lane, That Is

Now that our itty-bitty bit of snow has melted, the bike lanes are left with the detritus of road sand, leaf piles some of your neighbors pushed into the lane last fall, and all the rest of the things that accumulate over the winter.

On my way home I occasionally have to take the vehicle lane instead of the bike lane because of the amount of gunk piled up alongside the curb.

Herewith, an idea for something we could get rolling informally with the goal of a more formal program down the road (ha ha—transportation joke!): Adopt-a-Bike-Lane.

Back row: Casey Owens, Carolyn Cooke, Suzanne Richardson, Cory Bone, Linda Hartley, Margaret Mendoza, Lori Morrison, Merritt Riley and Bill Riley Front row: Althea Riley and Mike Bauer Bill Riley Communities Litter Crew has participated in the Adopt-a-Highway program since April 2005. The group adopted SR512 from Canyon Road to 94th Avenue. Mile Post 6 to 8.Many years ago I had a mile of highway adopted (in north Idaho on Hwy. 41). A few times a year I got out and picked up trash. It offered all the entertainment value of an Easter egg hunt except what you find is NOT chocolate and you DON’T want to put it in your mouth….

What I have in mind for bike lanes is kind of along those lines, but made a lot easier since the city already cleans streets every so often. (No one was off in the weeds alongside Hwy. 41 gathering empty generic vodka bottles and crumpled cigarette packs except me.)

What would be utterly fantastic as a starting point would be people adopting the stretch of bike lane (or designated bike route, or heck, even the two or three feet of a regular street closest to the curb) alongside our homes.

It’s essentially a small extension of yard work. When we go out to rake up pine needles or maple leaves in the fall, shovel snow in the winter, or clean off debris in the spring, we just extend our responsibility beyond the sidewalk (which is already our job, in case you didn’t know) and the bike lane. In cold conditions we make sure we’re not rinsing water into the lane where it will freeze and create a hazard. Then we take it a little further and pick up debris: broken glass, lug nuts, stray hubcaps, pieces of wire.

When it goes formal with signage, I can see local bike clubs, service clubs, organizations like the Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts, and others adopting stretches that aren’t in residential areas.

Part of the inspiration for this is, admittedly, a not-very-good neighbor down the road from me on Southeast Boulevard around Fourteenth. I’ve told a few folks about the encounters I’ve had in front of the house owned by people I have not-so-affectionately nicknamed “The Blockers.”

It hasn’t been bad in recent months. Maybe they moved.

But in the past, in the bike lane there on various occasions I have encountered—I kid you not—a cardboard box full of potted plants, a table full of glassware, and a stove—an electric four-burner stove. Talk about needing to be mindful–I need to be on the lookout for major appliances!

They routinely set their garbage and green waste bins in the lane. They rake their leaves into the lane (which is a violation of city code, by the way). The next step would be to just start throwing things out of the house windows directly into the lane without bothering to containerize first.

They have a perfectly good driveway and lawn that they ignore in favor of the bike lane for all their disposal needs. Those of you who utilize the bike lane going north on Southeast Boulevard probably recognize this description.

Since everyone has something to contribute to this world, I give them full credit for inspiring the adoption idea.

Cruising the Web I’ve found a few places with something called an Adopt-a-Bike-Lane program that’s really a problem reporting program: Bike/Walk Alliance for Missoula and Fort Collins, for example.

Since when did adopting something mean you only call others to deal with the problems instead of dealing with it yourself? Sure doesn’t mean that for kids or pets!

I’m looking for more hands-on solutions in which we don’t just complain about this–we do something about it–and am hoping to see links to examples of working civic or government programs posted in the comments.

So what do you think? Would you take this on right now without the fanfare and hoopla? Would you be more likely to do so if you got a nice sign with your individual or group name for acknowledgement of your effort and commitment?

Your Turn

  • What weirdness have you encountered in the bike lane?
February 11, 2012

Unmindful Biking by Yours Truly

At times I try to approach biking as a genuine mindfulness meditation. The immersion of self into the experience feels really wonderful when I get there.

At times, though, I’m immersed in something more like dumb-ass-ness. Herewith, three stories of times I was not 100% mindful on the bike (all of which took place some time ago and believe me, I learn from each one):

Dumb #1

I’m 3rd in line (taking the lane) behind a car and a pick-up truck at a red light (westbound on Spokane Falls at Bernard, for you Spokanites–in front of FedEx Kinko’s).

Light turns green. Car goes. Pick-up goes. I go.

I look down to check what gear I’m in or some such.

Car stops for unknown reason. Pick-up stops. I am looking down so….

I run into back of pick-up, fall over, and scrape myself up badly enough that I’m still bleeding when I arrive at the meeting I’m going to.

Good news: The driver stopped to ask if I was okay and if I needed any help.

Dumb #2 (although I give myself lots of latitude on this one because of the cause)

I’m turning left onto the Southeast Boulevard bike lane from our street. As is our ritual whenever one of us leaves and the other is still at home, Sweetest Husband is on the front porch waving to me.

I make sure it’s safe to make the left turn but…. in my love for my sweetheart and my desire to wave back, I manage to take the turn a little too wide, clip the curb, and fall over, scraping my knee. (There is a theme here.)

Good news: Sweet Hubs didn’t see my fall so he didn’t have to be all alarmed and rush to my rescue. However, I may hear about this now that it has been confessed to the Gods of Google.

Dumb #3 (could have been life-ending)

Sometimes–for some deeply masochistic reason–I ride at least part of the way up Stevens on the South Hill. It’s a heart attack hill with four lanes that split into two two-lane roads, one climbing farther up the hill as Bernard, one swinging left and dropping down to join Grand Boulevard.

As I go more and more slowly up the hill I eventually give up and move to the sidewalk to push my bike up. Someday I’ll climb the whole thing again–I used to ride up Bernard on a heavy old big-box special I called the Iron Maiden.

For the record it’s a 6.8 percent climb for this particular stretch, from Fourth Avenue up to Ninth. If you search for a Google Maps route on this stretch with the Bike option they don’t put you on Washington at all; they quite wisely send you up the much quieter side street Bernard, where your huffing and puffing aren’t slowing people on a four-lane arterial.

As the lefthand lanes swing left they also top out. This is a relatively blind corner for drivers who are accelerating up the hill on a major arterial.

Map of a portion of South Stevens Street, Spokane, WA

You don't want to climb this unless you're in training. Besides being steep, it carries a sometimes scary volume of traffic around blind corners and drivers don't expect cyclists here.

Like an idiot–and I have done this more than once and lived to tell the tale–instead of continuing to push my bike on the sidewalk at this point I get into the lane, clip in and start riding again.

I do always check to make sure no cars are coming. Since there’s a traffic light a couple of blocks down it’s relatively easy to recognize a burst of traffic and wait for it to pass so you’re in a clear zone. But that’s no guarantee, as traffic can come from side streets out of sight around the corner.

On one particular occasion–the last time I ever did this maneuver–I had trouble getting started pedaling after I’d clipped in and almost fell over before I could get my foot free to catch myself.

My pulse raced beyond anything I’ve achieved on a hill climb as I realized how easily I could have died if a driver had come whipping uphill around that blind corner just then.

Good news: I learned the lesson without paying the ultimate price. Never again.

Related Reading

Your Turn

  • I’ve confessed some of my dumb-ass-ness. What near-miss did you have that shook you out of some of your less mindful or more careless/complacent biking habits?
February 10, 2012

Mindful Driving, Mindful Biking, and “Accidents”–Part II

This post is Part II, continuing yesterday’s diatribe meditation on use of the word “accident” to describe a preventable negative interaction between a driver and a cyclist or pedestrian.

The conversations I often have after someone on a bike is hit tend to circle around the premise that riding a bike is an inherently risky choice of transportation.

1) First, a reminder of the point I made in Part I: The word “accident” often used in these incidents does NOT apply when someone is in error. 

2) If something does happen it’s not “caused” by riding your bike! 

You could be in a vehicle/vehicle collision, a vehicle/pedestrian collision, a lightning strike or an earthquake. Your choice to bike didn’t create the situation–the driver’s behavior (or yours) did.

When pedestrians get hit by a driver while in a crosswalk no one says, “You know, walking is so dangerous. People really shouldn’t do that.”

They talk about whether the walker or the driver wasn’t paying attention or was somehow at fault, but they don’t blame walking itself. (Nor do they blame driving, you might note.)

If I am riding my bike in the street, following state law and all local ordinances, if anything happens I am not at fault solely because of my choice of vehicle.

Yet that is what you hear when something happens–not, “Drivers and people on bikes should be aware of the laws concerning how to share the road” but rather, “Bikes should stay out of the way of cars.”

And so often people say “cars” instead of “drivers” in sentences like the previous one.

We’re talking about people, people–not their vehicles. It is people who make the choice about whether to behave safely, predictably, and legally. Let’s put a face on this problem and face up to it.

So do we all give in and quit riding our bikes and walking? Heck no—we need more people to get out there.

Conflicts between people riding bikes and people driving cars aren’t a new problem. The first automobile crash in the United States occurred in New York City in 1896, when a motor vehicle collided with a bicyclist.

Maybe now—116 years later—we can start to get a handle on this if we all drive, bike and walk more mindfully. Here’s to more fully aware drivers, bikers and walkers (aka “people”) on the road and fewer collisions (not “accidents”!) in 2012.

Related Reading

  • Can you honestly say that you drive, bike and walk with full mindfulness and awareness of your surroundings close to 100% of the time?
  • When you talk about something happening that involved a vehicle with an engine other than the human kind you use on your bike, do you refer to the car or the driver?
February 9, 2012

Mindful Driving, Mindful Biking, and “Accidents”–Part I

This post has its origins in my brush with fate this week, and before that in fall 2010, when two things happened within a few days of each other: Arleigh Jenkins AKA Bike Shop Girl (a blogger whose work I read) was hit by a car, then Matthew Hardie, a young rider in Spokane, was hit. He spent several months in a coma, then passed away just before Christmas 2010.

Because of Matthew the Spokesman-Review covered the “bicycle accidents” of 2010. But–possibly because no one has died recently–no such article was written as a round-up of statistics for 2011. “If it bleeds, it leads” still holds in the news business.

I have described my close encounter earlier this week with a driver who didn’t see me and pulled out in front of me. I was lucky–I had enough room and time in which to avoid the impact.

Matthew was not lucky. He was heading northbound on a steep downhill with the right-of-way on Lincoln; given the steepness of that hill he had to have been going faster than I was on my flat stretch between intersection stops the other day.

He collided with a car whose driver pulled out from a stop sign at Fourth Avenue. It was a classic failure-to-yield on the part of the driver (Matthew had the right of way). But because the initial reports said the cyclist hit the vehicle they made it sound as if it was the rider’s fault, to which the biking community reacted quite strongly.

Arleigh was also not lucky. She put out a comment on Twitter that she was still struggling to reconcile the fact that she’d put much of her passion into promoting biking and had been injured riding her bike by a driver who turned left into her when she had the right of way. She’s back in the saddle now, but it took a while, with quite a bit of off-road riding before she re-entered traffic.

It has been over a year since these incidents happened to others. My own is fresh and vivid, and made me think back to their stories.

With each of these events I get more passionate about two things.

For the first I need to thank Cindy Green, a bike-commuting former Spokane Bicycle Advisory Board member who works at the Spokane Regional Health District. She got me to pay more attention to my language and usage—ironic since I majored in English and linguistics.

1) The word “accident” often used in these incidents does NOT apply when someone is in error. The someone could be the person on the bike, too, but that wasn’t the case in these two collisions, nor was it the case in my avoided collision.

“Accident” means “no one could have done anything to prevent this from happening.” The Spokesman-Review’s characterization of four fatalities in 2010 as “bicycle accidents” is thus way, way off base.

In two of the cases cited in the Spokesman piece the drivers were drinking. Putting down a few shots or beers and getting into your 4,000-pound vehicle-turned-lethal-weapon car is not an “accident.”

It’s a stupid, stupid choice. Those deaths were 100% preventable: no drunk driver, no dead cyclist.

When a driver doesn’t see a cyclist, that potential collision is also preventable if the driver:

  • looks again,
  • is one who is aware that bikes are on the road so the “look” isn’t really just a token head turn without eyes focusing and looking for moving objects that aren’t vehicles (admit it—you’ve done that, and the driver I encountered earlier this week certainly did that),
  • drives mindfully,
  • doesn’t text,
  • isn’t reaching for a Big Gulp or fiddling with the radio station or….

Ditto for the person on the bike who is:

  • looking down to adjust the fitting on a shoe,
  • sneaking up (illegally) on the right side of a car into the driver’s blind spot to duck past a long line of stopped cars,
  • riding on the sidewalk and then popping out into the street unexpectedly and unpredictably,
  • assuming that driver sees him/her (since I’m more vulnerable on my bike than you are in your car I tend to figure it’s in my best interests to own more than 50 percent of the prevention planning),
  • blowing a stop sign because he’s too cool to unclip and put his foot down….

Let’s all ban the word “accident” from our vocabulary except when it truly applies. It’s a collision or a crash or an impact when a driver hits you or you hit a driver or someone hits a pedestrian or a pedestrian steps out in front of someone using wheels–but it’s no accident.

2) The second item speaks to the fear I hear from people who thinking riding a bike is inherently unsafe. I’ll post that as Part II.

Related Reading

Your Turn

  • Do you think about the language used to describe [euphemism alert!] “negative interactions” between people on bikes and people using other forms of transportation?
February 8, 2012

It Pays to Pay Attention

Back in the saddle again after almost a week in New York City, where people on bikes share streets with New York cabbies and millions of people, and what happens? Tuesday morning I have possibly my closest call ever with a moving vehicle, reinforcing yet again the importance of mindfulness for safe riding.

The scenario: I am riding northbound on Sherman between Fifth and Third, in a stretch that has two vehicle travel lanes and no bike lane.

I need to move into the lefthand lane because I want to be in the turn-only lane to head west on Second, which is a newly paved street (and a bike route). I always make this lane change in this block because the block between Third and Second is really short. There isn’t much time or room in that stretch so I am making a safer move by executing my lane change here–usually.

I do what I always do for a lane change. I look back to make sure the lane is clear, signal the lane change with an outflung left arm, and move into the left lane.

At the same time I am keeping an eye on a big white SUV a few yards ahead that is waiting to pull out of the Primesource Credit Union parking lot on the left side of the street and into the street on which I am riding.

This is the mindfulness part: Always be scanning your environment. Always.

My Sweet Hubs, who spent years in the Marine Corps (active duty and reserves), calls this “situational awareness.” You need mindfulness/awareness when you ride the way you need tires and brakes: essential equipment for arriving at your destination.

I see the gray-haired driver turn her head in my direction. I can tell from the way she does it that this is one of those fake scans. She turns her head but I will bet you anything her eyeballs don’t fully register what is coming downhill toward her. She doesn’t keep her face pointed uphill long enough to see for real.

I know for darn sure she doesn’t see me because she pulls out directly into my path.

I see this coming and am hitting the brakes, turning in the same direction she is heading because that’s how you avoid a collision.

But she isn’t turning into the closest lane to her—the legal turn—the lane I was occupying when she initiated this game of chicken.

Instead she is turning into the second, farther lane, the haven I’m seeking as I maneuver to avoid hitting her. (Oh, the irony—if we collide it will be me hitting her because she pulled out into my path. Who is at fault here?)

She ends up in the righthand lane. I am behind her, my heart going 60,000 miles per hour. I ride up behind and knock a couple of times on her rear quarter-panel, wanting her to see the cyclist who is now behind her. At least I’m not under her.

She makes the right turn onto Third, driving slowly and looking back to see if I’m following, now that I finally have her attention.

I debate rapidly in this moment. Should I turn behind her and wave her into a parking lot, talk with her, tell her how close she came to injuring or killing me through her sloppy and inattentive driving?

Perhaps wrongly, I decide against this. I proceed on my way, and so does the driver of a late-model white SUV, Idaho plates 7B 533. She’s from Bonner County—that’s what the 7B on her plate signifies. That’s an incredibly low license plate number so she’s had it for many years. (I used to live in Idaho; low numbers are a point of pride because they signify you’re not a newcomer.)

At this moment I am strongly reminded of the near-miss I had as a pedestrian a few years ago in the middle of the campus where I work. That driver, too, was gray-haired and not looking.

I am reminded of my father, whose driver’s license was the subject of years of effort before we could get him off the road and end the danger to others that he represented when he kept driving long after his hearing went and after any belief he’d had in the need to follow instructions on traffic signs (like, say, “stop”) had evaporated.

I am reminded of the bicycle/vehicle collisions in our area–some of which have resulted in fatalities and ghost bikes planted as memorials–and collisions around the country that I read about on biking blogs.

I am reminded—yet again—that mindfulness is the most important cycling skill I have.

Related Reading

Your Turn

  • Do you have a near-miss story?
  • Who wasn’t paying attention?
January 23, 2012

Just Like Riding a Bike—Or Not

Alternatively you can point your right hand for a right turn, which I use more often because it's more intuitive.

When someone describes something you learn once and never forget, that person often says, “It’s just like riding a bike!” Meaning you can just get on and pedal away and muscle memory will do the rest.

That’s kind of funny, when you think about it: a bike analogy used routinely every day, probably by hundreds of thousands of people who don’t actually get on a bike very often, if at all, in their adult routines.

How this is accurate: Your body does remember the balancing act you learned all those years ago. You can get on a bike after years of not riding and pedal away—perhaps a bit shaky, perhaps having lost the ability to ride hands-free that you practiced and practiced and practiced in the street in front of your house, but still having the fundamental physical skills.

How this is not accurate: You most likely learned to ride a bike as a little kid. You knew nothing about the rules of the road except what your parents told you. You had never interacted with traffic as a driver. You may not even have crossed the street by yourself yet if you learned at a really young age. Your parents presumably (possibly) taught you the basic hand signals (although I don’t think mine did—when I was little we lived in the wheat and alfalfa country outside of Lewiston and there wasn’t enough traffic to warrant much signaling—I was faster than a combine or harvester).

(I remember riding last summer behind another woman on a bike who confidently signaled her right turn with the upraised bent arm–and promptly turned left. Good thing I wasn’t close enough to be counting on her to execute the maneuver she had signaled.)

Those physical skills from your childhood aren’t enough, though, for navigating city streets as an adult. You’re much more aware of the potential danger and you know more about the traffic flow, but you may not know much more about bike law than you did as a kid, particularly if you took your driver’s test a long time ago. It’s only in recent years that they started including bike-related questions on the driver’s license test.

You may misremember or misapply rules you think you know, too. I’ve seen adults riding against traffic because they’re thinking like pedestrians, but bikes are vehicles and should ride with the flow of traffic. And some places have special local rules, like the City of Spokane’s ordinances requiring you to wear a helmet and forbidding riding on sidewalks in the central business district downtown.

When I moved back to Spokane from Coeur d’Alene years ago, I remember my nephew—who had made the move before me—warning me, “It’s weird—there are lots of bike questions on the driver’s test!” We both wondered why that was. Well, now I know—it’s because drivers need to know the rights and responsibilities of people on bikes. People on bikes need to know, too.

Because riding a bike isn’t exactly, well, just like riding a bike.

Related Reading

Your Turn

  • What do you remember about learning to ride a bike as a kid?
  • What do you wish more people on bikes knew about bike laws?
January 7, 2012

Be a Green Dot on a Bike, Part II–The Hard Part

I gave you my “I’m a happy green dot on a bike spreading friendliness!” story in my previous post. This is the rest of the story about why it mattered to me enough to write about it.

I didn’t get the deeper training in the Green Dot approach to violence prevention; I just have the basic idea. But now that I’m aware of the simple concept—that I can make one difference with one interaction, and that all those differences will add up and change what we define as acceptable in the world—I am more apt to do it.

Mind you, I’ve always believed one person’s actions make a difference. But it’s a lot easier to throw newspapers in the recycling bin or remember my cloth bags at the grocery store than it is to deal with violence.

And because I didn’t do something when I think I should have, I feel a moral obligation to pay attention.

Now for the story: an example of being aware, not knowing what to do, and going on my way—

I was riding home one day last year up Sherman, somewhere around Ninth or so, and passed a couple on the other side of the street having an argument. One was in a big black SUV with the door open, the other standing beside the vehicle door. They were yelling at each other in a way that made me think this situation was going to escalate.

I honestly couldn’t tell who would hit who first. They were both furious and yelling with that hard, hurtful tone that means you don’t care at all about the other person, except to the extent that “caring” can be defined as “you can still really get under my skin and piss me off.” It sounded like a custody or visitation fight–one of those with lots of sentences involving “You always!” and “You never!”

I slowed as I pedaled toward them, thinking that I didn’t want to read about this in the paper the next day and realize I could have done something. I thought that maybe if they knew they were being observed they might take a breath, maybe get a little embarrassed and realize it had gotten out of hand very publicly.

I went past them, still pedaling more slowly than usual. I went up the hill a little farther, thought, “I can’t just pass this by,” did a slow U-turn, and coasted downhill gently.

As I got closer they continued to yell. I glanced at the situation to assess whether I felt personally safe if I did intervene in some way.

I realized two things.

One, I had no idea what to do. Say something? Pretend I had a flat tire in front of their house and stop to fiddle with it? (still hoping for that “embarrassment intervention”)

Two, the person in the SUV could kill me with the vehicle, even if there were no other weapon immediately available. If I intervened in a domestic violence situation—every police officer’s least favorite call to respond to, right?—I could end up the victim. The dead victim. The “Why was she so stupid?!” dead victim. If I stopped on that sidewalk I was just a few feet away from 4,300 pounds of lethal steel.

I coasted past the house, did another slow U-turn, and rode back up the hill, wondering all the way home what I could have done differently.

I thought about calling the police department. Maybe I shouldn’t have dismissed that, but at the time I honestly figured they’re short-staffed thanks to years of shrinking budgets and two people yelling at each other was going to be pretty far down the list. I hadn’t wanted to actually stare at the yellers so I couldn’t give much of a description. I rationalized my way out of it.

I hope that situation didn’t end in violence. I didn’t read about anything around that address in the paper the next day. I glance toward the houses on that side of the street as I ride by these days, not sure I can even remember exactly which house it was.

I wish I’d done something.

I can be a happy green dot, smiling at you when I ride by and just filling your day full of merry sunshine and rainbows. That’s easy.

It will be tougher to pay that extra bit of attention, to try to decide if I should stop and fiddle with my brakes or take my jacket off or ask for directions, or stop on the next corner, pull out my cell phone, and dial 9-1-1—anything to interrupt the momentum that could be building toward something I don’t want to read about in the paper. Something I don’t want to have happen to my neighbor, or my friend, or my daughters, or anyone.

If you tell me I shouldn’t get involved, I will tell you those two people were somebody’s daughter, somebody’s son, maybe some toddler’s mom and dad. I am involved because I am human, and because I want you to be involved when that’s your kid, or my kid, in that situation or any other that threatens harm.

It doesn’t have to be domestic violence. It could be bullying. It could be racist hate speech. It could be anti-gay words or actions. It could be a parent yanking a kid too hard by the wrist.

I need to act. We need to act. Because if we don’t get involved, the red dots win.

Related Reading

Your Turn

  • Have you ever been in a situation where you wanted to act but were afraid to or didn’t know what to do?
  • Have you taken action to intervene in a bad situation, or one you suspected might be bad? What happened?

 

January 6, 2012

Be a Green Dot on a Bike, Part I

 

The other day I had the great good fortune to hear a wonderful presentation by Dorothy Edwards on the Green Dot approach to violence prevention.

You’ll recognize the visual analogy she scrawled on the board for us. It’s in every science fiction movie you’ve ever watched about some contagious condition: Outbreak, I Am Legend, the end of the new Planet of the Apes. First there’s one red dot, then another, then another, and at some point the pandemic tips into epidemic mode and the red dots are everywhere.

Think of the red dots as episodes of violence, actual or threatened. Dorothy asks, What if every red dot were surrounded by a bunch of green dots: people who will not condone violence and who will take action in some way, whether it’s handled directly, delegated (for example, by calling the police), or accomplished through distraction of some kind?

The world is full of far more green dots than red dots. We just need to know how to act appropriately and effectively and the red dots won’t reach that break-out point.

She asked us to take at least one action in our personal lives and one in our professional lives to pass on this idea, to be a green dot. Just by acting to increase awareness of possibility you make a difference.

This blog post isn’t done just to fulfill that, though. It arose out of my pondering on the talk as I rode home because it relates directly to an experience I had on my bike, and it taps into my deepest fears as a mother—that something bad will happen to one of my babies and that someone who could have done something to stop it stands by, or worse yet walks away.

I think the mere act of riding a bike in some ways makes me a green dot.

Not necessarily always in the direct intervening mode—story to follow on that. But by riding my bike I remove the steel shell that surrounds so many people. I make myself available. I am open to interaction. I make eye contact with total strangers.

This means I frequently give directions to pedestrians and drivers. I smile at the skateboarders in downtown and the people sitting outside the single-room-occupancy hotel or jaywalking on Division. I once told a guy with long gray hair wearing a leather motorcycle jacket covered with patches that I too was “Born to Ride”–that’s what it said on the big patch on his back.

I have the chance to say “Hi!” to the kids waiting at bus stops. I usually ring my bell for them too, to try to get a smile at the crazy lady in the skirt on the bike, and to get their attention so I can be an object lesson: “Look! Adults ride bikes—you don’t have to stop when you get your driver’s license!”

I recognize people and wave, and because I’m not going very fast they have time to see the wave and maybe even respond.

Riding my bike makes me happy so I’m often smiling. At a stoplight I look up at the blue sky or around at the architecture or the trees (depending on where I am), and by doing so I remind people there is more to life than the asphalt ribbon in front of them.

I chat with pedestrians as we wait together at a red light. I admire babies in strollers. I ask people on bikes stopped alongside the road if they need help. I’ve confessed I even get a little ticked off if I don’t get this kind of friendly interaction from a fellow bike-riding member of humanity.

I am in the world in a way I just don’t get from driving.

Someone in a car can just keep driving if he or she sees something happening. Wouldn’t want to halt traffic, now, would we?

On a bike, though, it’s easy for me to stop and take a minute. Since I try to be mindful, and since I’m not as hassled about time on my bike as I am in a car, I’m more apt to make that extra bit of eye contact with someone that makes me approachable, makes me someone you can ask for help.

I’m going to take advantage of the openness a bike gives me to see what difference I can make.

Related Reading

Your Turn

  • How are your interactions with people different because you ride a bike?

 

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