Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Biking Is Better. It Just Is.

Last night there was a public transport disaster trifecta: a fire in a building close to the L tracks, so 3 train lines were shut down, an apparent suicide on the tracks of the Metra train line going north, and a freaking Cubs game. All of these things happened at evening rush hour, and all of them sat square in the path that lies between my workplace and my home.

And it was the first time in weeks that I hadn't biked in. OF COURSE. My bike is on its way to Tahoe for The Big Ride, and since I'm supposed to not supposed be pedaling around anyway (rest the legs!) I didn't borrow my friend's bike, as I'd been tempted to. I just heaved a sigh in the morning and got on the train. So I was screwed. It took me just over TWO HOURS to get home, on a seriously crowded bus.

Last week, when I was late to work because of a flat, I told my coworker that it was not the best morning since first I was going soooo slowwwwly, riding into an unbelievably strong wind, and then in the midst of all that effort I got a flat tire. It was like the bike gods were not with me, I told her. She said "That's the kind of thing that would make me never bike to work again, I just could not handle that kind of thing when I'm trying to get somewhere." I suppose it's what I would've thought myself months ago. The reality is that all forms of commuting (unless you walk like 2 blocks to work every day) have their frustrations, and you're never guaranteed a completely carefree trip.

But the thing about being on a bike and having these obstacles crop up - construction on your route or bad weather or a flat tire - is that somehow it doesn't seem so bad because you have complete control over your fate. Or at least it feels like you're less helpless than you would be in a car staring at gridlock, or trapped on a train waiting for the conductor to tell you what's going on. There is a lot of independence in getting around by bike, but there is also a lot of empowerment, too. Especially in a city. It's never deterred me, when I've run into trouble on my bike rides. Every single time, instead of feeling like a hassle, it feels like a little adventure. My reaction is always Okay, self, how are we going to solve this one? This is a sharp contrast to the times when something happens on the train, and I sit in my seat feeling helpless and fuming and wondering what the hell is going on. And far more different is when I've commuted by car and been suddenly stuck in an epic traffic jam - then I just would shout curses and pound my fists against the steering wheel and hate the universe.

But on a bike, I become a problem-solver. I hunker down into the wind and urge myself to pedal steady and strong, don't give up, I'll get there. If it rains, I tell myself to be careful, avoid manhole covers, put on my reflective vest and lights, and I let myself smile inside because it feels like being a kid, to be out getting soaked in the rain without coming inside. If I get a flat, I assess my surroundings and become even more aware of everything around me, I formulate a plan and get started on it and see what happens. If something blocks or shuts down my planned route, I just keep moving and try another street - there are no bottlenecks in a bike lane. On a bike, there is always a way. You really can't say that for the other commute options.

So I think I'll dust off my friend's bike this morning and go back to my most reliable form of transportation. It is terribly beautiful weather outside and I can feel my hip adductors tightening up with all the inactivity of forced leg rest. It should be an adventure, since my friend's bike has shifters that I  do not understand and cannot reach easily. I'll have to take pictures and show you. Wish me luck. But really, even if it goes badly, it can never be worse than last night's commute.

1 comment:

Charlie said...

It's funny because the same thing always happens with me! I'm always riding my bike, and when something unusual happens I'm never with the bike. That's why I have the same thoughts of your headline: It just is!

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