Thursday, June 19, 2008

Feeling bike-crazy this morning.

The other day I heard a news story covering a recent study that indicated bumper stickers can help identify a driver prone to road rage. The research claimed that people who put bumper stickers on their cars tend to be more “territorial” about their space/possessions, and thus are more likely to have a strong reaction when they feel those things are threatened.

Well, I have bumper stickers on my car and on my bike and I don’t think I am prone to road rage? I didn’t think so, that is, until my bike ride in to work this morning. (Actually, in retrospect, I think this is more a case of “smugness,” feeling holier than thou, and reveling in my own “rightness”—not road rage, but also not very admirable qualities. I’m working on it.)

It was the perfect Portland morning for riding my bike to work: cool, sunny, and the traffic lights were all going my way. Another biker gave me a friendly hello as I pulled up to a stoplight with her, and all was well in the world. Birdsong, bumblebees, and singing children.

But those darn stoplights—they always ruin things, don’t they? If there’s one thing that makes me feel absolutely batty when I’m riding my bike, it’s the people who somehow think they’re so above the rules that they can blow through red lights. We don’t live in Idaho, people. Red lights in Portland mean STOP until the light turns green (unless you’re making a right-hand turn).

I pull up to a stop light—and granted, the road to the right was closed to all but MAX light rail, but that’s no excuse!—and a cyclist draws up behind me, barely slows, and zips past on my right, blowing the red light. I wanted to blow a raspberry at him. I was willing to not feel annoyed, though, because of the road closure.

My light turns green moments later (oh, the irony), and I follow him up to the next light. Which he blows through. No forgiveness for you now, my son. He gets a little ahead, and predictably, my light turns green moments later.

Now comes the part that I’m not especially proud of, but it made me feel sooo good. Here I am, wearing my work clothes, on my squeaky, rickety bike. I’m wearing sandals, and I know that I often get passed by people just because I look like I’m the type who’s not serious and is going to just slowly mosey along. And—at least in my mind—Mr. Stoplight-blower with his shorts and his mountain bike had that same impression when he decided he couldn’t wait behind me at a light.

I get in gear to cruise down the ramp to the Steel Bridge, and lo and behold, I’m right behind Speedy McImpatientson. With my rattle-y bike going clank-clank-clank on every bump, and my squeaky pedals going “reeeeeee-reeeeeee-reeeeeee” every third revolution or so, it would be hard not to know I was behind you. (It’s not an especially quiet bike. Rocinante, as I’ve chosen to call it, needs a tune-up.)

Squeeee-squeeee behind him on the Steel Bridge, and then ZOOM, as soon as we hit the Waterfront I’m off! I fly past him, and zip off on my way to work.

I never thought of myself as the competitive type, but under these circumstances, it felt so great to pass him. (I also came up on a person today who’d been at a light with me, and then took an illegal short cut—it was also great to pass her and know that my legal route was actually just as fast.) Then again, all that, and I still got to work 5 minutes late. Roh-well. They probably got there ten minutes late. OH SNAP!

Anyhow. That is my mostly unflattering bike gloat of the day. Yes, I am small and petty just like everyone else.

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