December 6, 2005
Chasing down a winter-bicycle-commuter
I don't know. Normally people would think this is crazy. Even crazier than riding in the winter when it's so cold. I saw another bicyclist tonight in downtown, a block ahead of me as I was leaving work to go home. I tried to catch up to him in downtown, but he kept running red lights and I sat there and waited for each one. But then he headed over the Robert Street bridge and I caught up to him on the hill past Plato. I don't know why I followed him, it's not my normal route. For some reason I felt like it was important. When I caught up to him I started to talk to him and he told me he works about two blocks from my office and that last winter he missed only 7 days of commuting by bicycle. I commend this person for his winter commuting tenacity. In Saint Paul, it's a rare sight I think. But there are a few. The other advantage of it was I got to try a different route home. Robert Street is a BAD bicycle route. This man rode on the sidewalk, while tried (risked my life) on the street where we are supposed to ride. Robert street was designed as a highway made for cars. There is no shoulder or bike lane, just two automobile lanes. But get this...with two lanes and not a lot of traffic, when I pulled up alongside this other bicyclist and was chatting while riding, in the right lane, someone had the audacity to honk at us while passing rapidly in the left lane. It's tough to have to switch lanes while driving, I know, I used to be arrogant too, until I tried riding a bike and get the finger, honked at and almost run down. Changing lanes is a burden I think. A car driver is much too important to slow down and yield part of the road to a bicyclist. There were two lanes and hardly no traffic!!! Why do people have to be such jerks? Can we even blame the cars? No, we have to blame their attitudes toward other people. In any case, I'm glad he didn't decide to run us down to make a point instead of just honking at us!
St. Paul needs more bicyclists if nothing else than to change automobile driver's concepts of road sharing and treating others with respect and kindness. What is our true theology? It is what we live while passing bicyclists, and pedestrians walking across the street for that matter. How we treat others is important.
But on a lighter note, I am happy that I followed this man home. I got to experience riding up the Robert Street hill, the one that leads up to George Street. That was nice! I ran up this hill once last year with Dan and thought I was going to die. But tonight on my bike I wasn't suffering. It felt GOOD! Then, there was the freedom and sense of exploration I felt at having ridden a new route. I loved doing this in the summer, but lately my commutes have become less than adventurous the colder it's become, mainly to minimize the chance of becoming too cold. But it was fun and envigorating! I also met someone new and checked out his bike. He thought I was riding an expensive bike. It's a 50 dollar solid steel huffy that was repainted a nice brown color. It has cheap brakes, steel wheels and a really heavy steel frame. But it has extreme knobby tires, very good traction without studs. And it's a 10-speed, not a modern bike. So, it's a great winter commuter that can handle anything! This is one tough bike! I will ride this all winter now and it willl be the perfect commuter bike. It's funny how we think we need 'expensive' in order to have fun or even to be practical. By the way, a 10-speed mountain bike is plenty good enough to handle that Robert Street bridge. No Granny gear necessary. ;-) Keep on riding! It's good for the soul. Kind of like Dog-Sledding I imagine.