Monday, November 21, 2005

Commuting Adventures/ Biking Double Standards/Brrr

Last Monday morning I was buzzed by a man driving a red mini-cooper. This was on the ‘under the El’ stretch on Wells St., which means that the El supports don’t leave much room to maneuver on the right. He buzzed me to get to a red light, so I pulled up alongside him and told him that he passed me too close and should be more cautious. His excuse was that he "stayed in his lane and didn’t cross into the other lane while passing me."

Ummm.....That Is Exactly What Was Wrong!!

His failure to leave his lane was what caused us to be cozy as he passed me. Yet somehow he believed that this actually justified his behavior. Dumbass – passing vehicles almost always requires entering another lane of traffic. Our conversation was civil, but he couldn’t understand what he did that was wrong – then he rolled the window back up while I was trying to explain further. Grrr.

Tuesday morning I left Paul’s place with just enough time to get to work. My first pedal strokes revealed a problem and when I stopped to look at my rear wheel, it was confirmed – a flat tire. I went back up the stairs and we started changing the flat. I found a tack in my tire in the same position where the tube was leaking. We patched the flat, and heard a hissing sound near the patch – apparently the tack punctured it twice, so we patched that spot, too.

Somehow the removal of the wheel caused my fender to get out of whack, so that required adjusting too. I had already called into work with the flat, so I wasn’t in a super-great hurry. I ended up arriving just less than an hour late for work. My boss wasn’t in the office yet, so No Harm, No Foul. Still it wasn’t an ideal way to start the morning.

Thankfully none of the people who like to give me shit about biking were in the office today. It’s weird, but on the very few occasions when I have bike maintenance problems that cause me to be late, the bike as transportation is blamed (blamed in a somewhat kidding, somewhat serious manner). Yet when a partner is late because he is caught in bad commuting car traffic, nobody blinks. Same thing for car flat tires, winter battery failure or other mechanical problems–they are just considered a normal part of life. When people are late because their train was late, again no one says a word. Yet when I get held up for some biking reason, several people have to make comments about the inherent ‘problems of biking’.

I know that this is mostly just said to rile me, but I know that it holds more than a kernel of truth for most people. I’m not late because ‘shit happens’ but instead because I choose to bike to work. Likewise, when I was sick last winter, people blamed it on me biking in the cold. Everyone else’s illnesses are blameless, but I somehow bore responsibility for mine. Same thing for the cold -- if I am cold and pink-cheeked upon arrival to work, it is because I biked in, but other people are cold....because the weather is cold.

Since my office is weird in other aspects, I’d like to believe that this is just another manifestation, but I fear that other bikers get this weird double standard, too.

Speaking of cold -- I was completely unprepared for the deep freeze we experienced last week. I didn't know that it was going to get so cold, and I didn't realize how cold it was. I assumed that I was just being wimpy for feeling so cold, guessing that the weather was really around freezing, even though I felt colder as I biked to/from work in a thin shirt. My exposed forearms, ankles and neck/face felt as though they were freezing off, and I was embarrassed for losing my resistance for cold over the summer. When I got to work and informed me that the temperature was actually in the teens, I was vindicated. No wonder I was so cold and the security guard gave me such weird looks.

Now instead of feeling wimpy about the weather I feel once again that my second BikeWinter will go as smoothly as my first. The BikeWinter Calendar is awesome and provides lots of fun activities in the cold months. Looking at the BikeWinter homepage reveals that an important cold-weather biking city is missing.


At 10:14 AM, Blogger annie said...

Yeah, seriously. If I happen to ride to work and then bitch about being tired later that morning (which is a very frequent occurrence whether I ride or drive, it's a function of being awake before 9), it's always "Well, of course you're tired, you just rode your bike all the way from Minneapolis!" as opposed to "Me too, I hate morning" or "yeah, I haven't had enough coffee yet either" which is the response to the exact same bitchery on days that I drive. Never mind that riding my bike does not make me SLEEPY no matter how far I ride it.

At 12:42 PM, Anonymous Jim said...

I find that riding my bike to work is a good way to wake up.

As for the double standard, it is in some ways justified. I have no doubt that bikes get flats more often than cars do, especially when we consider the situation on a per mile basis. Same goes for other disabling mechanical glitches.

But that's only half the story. A few weeks ago, the master link on my chain fell apart, temporarily disabling me on the side of the road. I pushed my bike to the nearest bike shop a block away, but it was closed. I then pulled out my chain tool, resolved to get dirty hands, and fixed the problem myself in about 5 minutes. I wonder how many motorists could get back on the road that quickly with an analogous broken universal joint. Similarly, fixing a flat, with a little practice, only takes five or ten minutes. Could motorists beat that time?


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