Ridin’ in da city, G.

I like the take-care-of-yourself vibe of our pro-cycling city. The grunge vibe of it. The don’t-mess-with me- “I will mess you up” kind of vibe. A city that can foster that kind of feeling in a cyclist is a good thing. It shows that the city isn’t so bad that people are afraid to ride in it, but not so unfriendly that people can’t develop a vibe like that.
I ride through stop signs because I keep my eyes open (for other cars). I know when to ride through, and when to stop (because its not my turn). I know when I’m taking up too much space, and I certainly know when a car is behind me. I hear you, honda prius, and I am going to give you a shifty gaze over at your silent, crass, killing machine.

I know when a driver is being a jerk. I’m aware when, if a cop were around, someone would be pulled over for being a “douche”. I feel you Mr. Passes-too-close. I see you Mrs. Yellow-light runner.
When I’m on the street, I dodge out of the way of potholes, and pray a car doesn’t clip me. When it’s raining, I wear either too much or too little. My butt is always wet. My backpack has one strap.

Riding around late at night, I want to go a regular speed. I want to chat with a friend, and listen to the sound of my chain. I like neighborhood roads for that. All stop signs and no cars. Enough time to smile at a pedestrian and watch a try-hard blow past me. A quiet enough neighborhood where an overbearing Mustang and muscle car is enough to tick someone else on the block off. They wont hear me. I’m just riding through.

When I’m in the city, I like being able to pull onto the other sidewalk. Sometimes that lane is one way, and stopping to turn at that light is the difference between pulling over to wait, or dodging a car in the leg. Being able to plan that turn early and pulling onto a sidewalk is all about knowledge. Some roads are one-way, and going against the grain needs a clear onramp. I like metal street signs. But I don’t like them when they’re in the way.

Pulling up to that destination, I want to step off what I’m riding. Pulling up next to a metal sign, with something to stop someone from lifting your bike up, over the end, is a perfect bike lock-up location. Under an overhang or big tree means a dry bike. Sticking your arm out, or pointing up to the sky makes a pretty awesome turn. Everyone has to see you, so you might as well make a big sign. Darn those pedestrian crosswalks going into a turn.

I like when my bike doesn’t slide out of underneath of me in a turn. I like clean streets and smooth asphalt. Dust is a one-way ticket to bruise town, and putting a dip in the road (good by bike seat, hello butt) hurts. When I’m riding down a hill and see a dark spot fly by under me, I shout because is might be a pothole. Ow.

Most of all, however, I like pulling onto a hill, and making it over, only to be greeted by the most majestic city you’ve ever seen. Hearing the sound and space around you and seeing the city for what it is is wonderful. The geography, routes, lanes and locations spread within and seeing the stars, the moon, the lights, sounds (hear) and views a city has to offer. Richmond has hills; Philadelphia has colors. Some routes are in the mountains in the air, and others are through quiet neighborhoods with no sound at all around. Riding across a bridge provides a moment of clarity and knowing what’s around you. Driving in a car, makes for accidents, but with a view. Empty parking lots are good for turning around, and open parks are a good place for your bike to be on the ground.

Submitted by Michael

3 thoughts on “Ridin’ in da city, G.

  1. This piece is like poetry. The conversation about bicycles is a lot about the nuts and bolts of infrastructure and politics. We forget what it FEELS like to ride. The experience of being stuck in a car in mundane but riding a bicycle exposes you to the elements. A cyclists learns quickly how to take turns or ride with cars because it’s all about adapting. Cars, even the electric ones have kept us stuck in a somewhat lazy mentality. It’s as if the thought of burning calories as part of a commute is an unnatural thing. You capture the danger, the ugliness of cycling but more importantly you capture the beauty and thrill of riding.
    Thank you

  2. Yeah, that was awesome. Not exactly what the assignment called for, but I can’t complain about such a cool essay. I think Luanda described it perfectly, in how the essay captures the “danger and ugliness” as well as the “beauty and thrill” of cycling. You should think about sending this in to one of the VCU student literary publications: http://dig.library.vcu.edu/cdm/landingpage/collection/vsl.

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