The unthinkable has happened: I’ve misplaced my bike helmet. Now, I know there’s controversy about whether or not bike helmets really help, and I also know that in some of the most common accidents, a bike helmet will do little to keep me safe, but I also know that I feel naked without one. I am somewhat skeptical of the helmet’s ability to keep my egg uncracked in the case of a serious crash, but I also know that I always wear one, I don’t think they make things worse, and if, god forbid, I should ever be seriously hurt or killed when riding a bike, the last think I want E. to have to do is shake her head when asked the inevitable question, “Was she wearing a helmet?” Continue reading
It’s Christmas Eve and S. was taking me to Damascus-the Maryland one-so I headed out on my bike for an early ride. I bundled up because it is finally getting cold here and zipped down the hill. Folks were lined up under the JFX to collect holiday packages and again at the park on Baltimore, lined up for food. I continued my ride, locked up the bike, went for a swim, and then headed back up toward home. I snapped this picture while waiting at a red light. Cars, taxis, buses, and me on my bike, all of us depending on the rest of us to follow the rules, which we mostly do. I stopped to chat with E. and walked my bike for a bit, past the folks lining up on the walkway at Health Services for the Homeless. A man stopped to chat with me about the importance of bike safety, wearing my helmet, paying attention, and all that jazz. Always, I said. And then I got on my bike, headed up Fallsway, and narrowly avoided being hit by a driver who raced through the crosswalk at an intersection on her way to make a right. Yep, stay attentive at all times, and drivers, please take your time; that could have made a really terrible holiday for all of us. I made it home safely, happy to have gotten in some exercise. Before I left my house I’d read an article about how children are getting iPads for Christmas instead of toys, an it’s a terrible thing. From what I saw on my ride today, that’s not all children, and I’m thinking we’ve got bigger problems than that.
I spent the last couple of days at the Delaware shore with S., and although I brought Brompty with us, I mostly just sat myself down on the beach and stayed put, once the rain cleared. Today I was back at home gearing up for the first day of school on Wednesday. I’m sad to see summer end, but I’m happy to be getting back to a routine, even if it does leave less time for bicycling aimlessly about. Continue reading
K. moved to Baltimore several months before I did, and we were going to be best friends, but you know how it is when you’re both starting new jobs and she’s taking on a life project and I’m learning to ride uphill, so when she asked me to join her for a show at the Creative Alliance where she works, I jumped at the chance to finally hook up. But the 5 mile bike ride in the cold at night when I’m already tired? Sure thing! Because as it turns out, getting a nice ride in is the best way to get your energy up. I cobbled together a frankenoutfit of layers, turned on my lights, and rode down the hill. As I pedaled east along Baltimore Street, I kept my eyes on the cars and signaled every time I moved even a little bit into the lane. There’s a whole lot of trust going on when you ride in traffic, and there’s not necessarily evidence that the trust is well-placed. All you can do is be as predictable as possible and communicate as best you can. Folks think riding a bike, especially at night, is incredibly dangerous, but if you follow basic safety rules, it’s actually a pleasure, and no car came even close to knocking me down. The sidewalk along Patterson Park where they suggested I ride? That’s an entirely different story. In fact, every fall I have had–and if you ride, you will fall, and you will learn that it’s ok because you just get back up–has been caused by road surfaces. Well, except for that one. Anyway, I took my turn on SE and followed the shiny lights of the Patterson Theatre. They are all a blur here; you will just have to come for a visit. What a cool place. Let’s hope I’m as chipper for the colder ride home.
I woke up tired and feeling a little sickly, and I knew it was bad when I left my house with my bike but no helmet. What! I always wear my helmet. I read a story about health officials coming out against mandatory helmet laws, arguing partly that there isn’t conclusive evidence helmets decrease serious injuries for cyclists as a group. I rode my bike a mile and a half to brunch, all naked-headed. Yeah, that just doesn’t feel right. I didn’t even feel carefree, wind in my hair, all that jazz. A helmet on my head is what feels normal to me. I was so tired I went ahead and drove to E.’s house this evening. I can’t really believe people feel so scared to ride a bike and yet so safe in a car–there’s so much heavy metal hurtling through space at high speeds! But we make the trade off for the convenience of the thing to get us more places faster. I wear my seatbelt, or my helmet, neither of which takes the place of defensive driving/riding. And then there’s the faith that the people behind you are going to respect your space. It is totally worth it to get to ride a bike, and the more us us do, the safer we all are, helmet or not.
Today’s ride took me Uptown from my current digs in the Marigny for lunch with N. and then to the office where I took care of last minute things for my trip to Baltimore tomorrow. I had meant to also stop by the courthouse as the Danziger trial started again, but the skies opened up and kept me and my bicycle in the office for most of the afternoon. I rode home under crazy thundering skies, stopping for a treat and then coffee with S. I had a bee in my bonnet about how little I have been taught about Frederick Douglass–he was one of our premier statesman! Why don’t they teach us that in schools!–and she filled in some blanks for me–friends, man, they’re the best. After a quick stop at home to get the cat out of the rain, I was back on the bike to meet R. and her kid for dinner. I pedaled up Royal as fast as I could to beat the rain, just stopping to take a picture of this sign outside the 8th District police station. T-shirts for sale? Really? I wonder who buys such things, and if the market’s been hit by the fallout from Danziger or Henry Glover or the cops arrested during their own prostitution stings (I thought we had decided to decriminalize!) or the other cops giving instructions to keep a special eye on all the Black men in town for Essence Fest or any of the other scandals showing this to be one of the most corrupt forces in the nation. Nah, I’ll pass on the shirt. After dinner I did my loop around the Bywater, deftly avoiding collision with that driver taking a left turn in front of me at the intersection of Poland and St. Claude. Look alive, people. It’s dangerous out there, but that’s no reason to stay off your bicycle.
It was already dark when my night school class ended, so I strapped on my safety triangle, turned on my flashing front light, and donned my helmet before pushing off toward home. I was stopped at the light at Jefferson when a cyclist breezed by–no lights, no reflectors, no nothing. I think what cyclists don’t get is that at night, without lights and reflectors, we are invisible. Seriously–absolutely invisible. That’s scary for drivers, and more importantly, for us, because we’re going to lose this battle. A car pulled up next to me at that light, and the driver told me that he could see me clearly with my little slow moving vehicle sign, and that’s good to know. I never see me from the vantage point of a driver coming up from behind, and maybe that’s why so many cyclists don’t bother with any kind of night riding gear–because we don’t imagine that we aren’t being seen. After all, we can see you, so why can’t you see us? Well, they can’t see us. Clip a light on the back somewhere, please.
I got up early early this morning, took a shower at the landlady’s place (I haven’t had running water this week), and hopped on the bike to get to the Regional Planning Commission for Day Two of my bike safety training course. It was way too early for me to be up. I am so tired. But alas, this is the schedule, and I am always on schedule. Continue reading
I was out of town for almost exactly 24 hours and returned home exhausted, to a house with no heat and no water (frozen pipes). We’re having a cold snap. It was so cold in my bedroom that getting out on the bike seemed like a great idea, even in this weather, so that’s what I did, first Uptown to meet a student and then down to the Marigny for coffee and a chat with S. Continue reading
I got up early again this morning and headed out for Day Two of bicycle safety class. Nobody was on the roads this morning and it wasn’t hot yet and it felt simply divine to be out pedaling. We took our written test (29 out of 30–holla!) and then set up to go on a group ride. We pedaled along, each signaling in turn, politely waving at piles of gravel and potholes to let each other know about road hazards in advance. My favorite was when we would come to a stop. Continue reading