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Bike joy beats auto pathology

Posted Dec 02 2008 3:07am

Image of woman on a bicycle
From the American Prospect, 05.30.08:

Pedal Pusher
As gas prices rise and congestion worsens, cities and commuters alike are starting to embrace bicycles.

...So one sunny day, I stopped by the local bike shop after work and walked out with a 24-gear hybrid, perfect for both commuting and recreation. In the weeks since, I’ve saved over $100 on bus and Metro fares; in just a few months, I’ll recoup the entire cost of the bike. Even better, I’ve joined a tight-knit but growing group of bike-commuting enthusiasts...

In addition to the health and environmental benefits, traversing city streets on a bike offers unique insight into the peculiar pathology of American automotive culture. Insulated from the wind, rain, sun, and every other aspect of the public space, many drivers are not just impatient with pedestrians and cyclists--they’re angry.

Beginning urban cyclists quickly learn the trick of "owning the lane"; if you’re riding alongside the curb and don’t want overeager cars to sideswipe you while attempting to pass, you simply shift toward the middle of the right lane, which also decreases the risk of being hit by the carelessly opened door of a parked car. This move, though a crucial safety measure and perfectly legal, can enrage motorists who get no pleasure out of their daily commutes. "Asshole!" one suited, middle-aged man screamed out his window as he swerved around me.

A few minutes later, I smirked as he and I found ourselves backed up behind the same red light. Passing a cyclist in rush hour traffic simply isn’t going to save you that much time. But you know what will? Trading some of those gym hours and therapy sessions for stress-relieving, calorie-burning, good karma–earning bike rides. ( Read more.)
Interesting commentary by enthusiastic new bicycle commuter. This leap-frog game played with motorists--where drivers speed past bicyclists only to be caught at the next light--is one of my favorites. Whenever I travel down Market Street in San Francisco, I have frequent opportunities to grin happily while passing stuck motorists. (I don't recommend taunting them, say with a bell ding.)

The article also mentions many recent strides made in Washington, D.C.--already a Top 10 bicycling city --including the imminent launch this month of the Paris Velib -style bike sharing project SmartBike. This will be the first public bike sharing program in the U.S., and planners in many cities will be paying close attention.

Image: Web capture.
Visit:Washington Area Bicyclist Association
Visit:LAB: Making the bike case in D.C., Bike Commute Tips Blog
Visit:NPR reporter survives (!) Bike to Work day, Bike Commute Tips Blog
Visit:Paul Dorn's Bike Commuting Tips Site
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