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April showers bring May bikers

The days are getting longer, brighter and warmer; always a momentous occasion after 7 months of winter. This has two implications: more people are outside doing recreational activities – like biking; and those who are in their cars, impeded by the extra foot traffic are proportionately more aggressive to the amount of spring bikes. And that’s understandable. I can’t tell if I’m more of a jerk on my bike or in my car, but I know the street is a mean showdown between pedal power and auto authority sometimes. It’s just that some people ask for it more than others. Like those bikers that ride in the Critical Mass once a month (I really have no choice to go because I work every Friday), they’re asking for a showdown, deliberately pissing off everyone around them not on two wheels. It’s a kind of protest, but I don’t think it generates the results that the Mass ride hopes to achieve. I think it’s better to persuade by example. I started biking in the winter because I saw others doing it, and thought that if they could deal with the elements I could too, and after I tried it a couple of times, I realized there wasn’t much to it.

Today, I noticed the seasons were changing from the way people were driving. It’s a subtle change, but noticeable. This morning on my way to school, I was riding a few blocks from my house, where 31st Ave. turns into a two lane street just before it reaches the 35W exit. Normally, I just stay as close to the right as is safe and ride right next to a car as cars decide which lane to go into, compared to taking my own lane. But this woman would not give me any room. This wasn’t a big deal, but I could tell she was doing it on purpose, and it was kind of a jerk move. On my way home from school, I was riding downtown, down a one-way street in the bike lane on the left side of the street. This lady started turning right into me as she tried to take a left, completely oblivious to anyone in the bike lane. This is something that I can’t say I would never do, with all the distractions downtown and whatnot, but it hasn’t happened to me in a while.

I miss riding in the winter sometimes as it gets nicer out, because then people are very cautious as they drive, and generally everyone goes slower. With all the increased bike traffic in the spring, there is an urgency to stake out territory on the street, it seems from both sides. I might even go as far to say in the winter, bikers are allotted more sympathy, pity or adulation, but in the summer they are a nuisance, clog up the road, or as the more bikes there are the less likely a motorist to notice them. I think it’s safe to say that the seasons in Minnesota affect the mind as much as the obvious change in nature. These are some of the things I think about when I’m riding along.