Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Bicycles and Benzes

For about a week now, I've been riding my bicycle to work. Saves on $4/gallon gasoline and gives me a little much-needed exercise.

Consider for a moment that I haven't been on a bicycle in nearly two years.

But you can just wheel the bike out of the garage, pump up the tires, and pick up right where you left off, right?


Yeah. Sure.

It makes for what I am sure is a comedic image to passers-by.

Dress clothes, big goofy helmet, metal pant-leg clips, dress shoes.

Don't forget the tie flapping in the breeze.

Consistent, repeated riding puts you in tune with the rhythm of traffic. You keep in tune with your bike's idiosyncracies. It also lets you hone those little skills that you forget over time.

Little things like forgetting that while riding parallel to the curb and approaching a commercial driveway to swoop up onto the sidewalk, you can't just drift over the little lip at the end of the driveway.

Especially not while at a full-out sprinting pace.

Do you know what happens? Even with a thick, knobby mountain bike tire?

If the lip is just a tad too high, that wheel ain't goin' over. Not if you attempt a "drift"; at a greater than ten degree angle, perhaps.

Do you know what happens?

The tire decides it likes to stay on the gutter side of the driveway while all the other parts of the bicycle--including the rider--simply decide that they prefer to keep accelerating onto the sidewalk side of the driveway.

There's a reason they teach you to jump off a bicycle rather than ride it to the ground. Fortunately, I remembered and jumped. Rather, my muscles remembered and jumped for me.


Now my muscles are punishing me.

I will not even start to discuss the lobotomy that apparently occurs when an individual purchases a Mercedes Benz. I was almost taken out by a brand-new Mercedes sport-utility vehicle of some ilk just five minutes after the curb incident.

The guy was speeding out of an office parking lot.

He was looking to the right. Watching the traffic on the right.

He was turning right.

Do you see the problem here? Why are you watching the traffic in a lane of traffic in which you do not plan on driving?

He never even looked left. Never looked at the oncoming traffic, into which he was going to be merging.

Never even saw me.

At least, not until I had stood the bike on its front wheel trying to stop before he hit me.

All I got in return was an open mouth and a blank stare. No mouthed apology. Not even a friendly wave.

An open mouth and a blank stare.

It happened again about four minutes later with a completely different Mercedes, completely different driver. At least this time his wife yelled at him before he got to me.

The thing's a hood ornament, people. It ain't crosshairs.

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