So the other day, I got in an argument with a driver who honked at me for an extended period of time and then buzzed me. In the huge pantheon of silly, pointless things to do, arguing with motorists has got to be at the top of the list. Getting into shouting matches just reinforces the stereotype of bicyclists as loudmouthed jerks. Even though I know I was in the right and just trying to be safe, it ruined my day. By the time I got to work, I was angry, frustrated and just mad at the world generally.
However, my world completely turned around on my night ride home. I often get positive feedback on the wide variety of lights I keep on my bike. That night it was complement after complement from motorists. One motorcyclist commented with a laugh, “Jeeze, your lights are brighter than mine.” Then the driver of a giant pickup truck, with a huge set of roof lights, a lift kit and Glasspack mufflers (generally considered to be the archenemy of cyclists in these parts) helped me trigger a troublesome light even though he was turning right. He then departed with a shout of, “Awesome bike, man!”
That day spurred a few thoughts about cycling in Oklahoma. Let’s face it, it’s been a tough year for cycling in the state. Over the past few months, there have been too many serious accidents including some with fatalities. Two of the fatalities were two important members of the cycling community and they died within days of one another. To me and many others, it has felt like a war zone on the streets: A battle between us and them. For some of my friends, they are avoiding the battle by moving to the trail system. For me, cycling is both transportation and exercise which means I’m stuck on the streets. But I too don’t want to fight a war over the control of the roadways. However, I am not willing to give up one of the great joys in my life.
There is a riding event that started a few months ago called 30DaysofBiking. Instead of setting a distance to beat or a time limit to match, this event is designed to remind us of the various reasons we got into cycling in the first place by encouraging you to ride at least once everyday. If your love involves the feeling of the quiet speed only possible with your racing bike in top gear flying down a piece of perfect blacktop, or the love of a quiet ride around the lake with someone you love, or the love of a perfect run through a boulder garden on your mountain bike or even a nice game of bike polo; all are encouraged just so long as you ride. Each day, you send a tweet describing your day of riding with the hashtag #30DaysofBiking. It’s an amazing community of riders and an event that really encouraged me to ride last time through even though I didn’t make it all 30 days.
Well, this time I’m going to ride all 30 days. I’m also adding an extra challenge to myself to be the cyclist I want to be. So here is my pledge for happy cycling over the next month:
I pledge to ride my bike everyday for the next 30 days. I pledge to remember why I love to ride: The feeling of connection to nature, the feeling of quiet and calming motion, the joy of burning legs and dripping sweat, the joy of self-propulsion. I pledge to renounce my life as a “soldier for biking.” Instead, I pledge to wave happily at every person who honks at me because I know they just want to tell me how awesome my bike is. I pledge not to yell at those who buzz me because I know they probably don’t know any better and yelling won’t inform them of anything. I pledge to wave at every kid who smiles at my bike. I pledge to say hello to every cyclist, jogger, pedestrian, rollerblader and other outdoor personages I pass. I pledge not to be just an evangelist for cycling but an evangelist for being a nice and polite person. Finally, I pledge to smile every time I see my bike knowing that I will get to ride her soon . . .”
If anyone else wants to join in for these last few weeks of warm weather, please visit http://30daysofbiking.com and sign up. I’ve discovered that the hashtag #okbikes is almost never used, so if you want to tag your tweets with both tags (#30daysofcycling #okbike) then you can track the events of local riders here.
Finally, I’m going to try to organize a party for the end of the event somewhere in the city. If you have any interest, please leave a comment and please feel free to leave some suggestions for locations.