June 22, 2009

Car-Free Commuting: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

It has been a wonderful week with my new bike. I love her, she's fast and pretty and I feel extra sassy riding her around town. While I have been doing the car-free commute for awhile, this week has been quite the eye-opener. I would like to share three little lessons I have experienced a long the way. Once upon a time I may have gotten frustrated by these incidents but now I look at the hidden lesson, the silver lining if you will.

The Good: Getting Lost
I decided to forgo the look at the bike map when my regular path was closed and explore the neighborhood for awhile. It lead to a few dead ends, a few unexpected hills, and the best part, a fox mama and her baby. Now I add a little extra time in the commute, just to take the liberty to get lost for a little while because you never know what you'll find.

The Bad: Control What You Can
You may know I experienced a little tap on my rear tire from a driver on my morning commute. It was an accident, no injuries or damage to the bike, and the driver felt horrible however I am thankful for the experience. In this particular situation we were at a stop light. I had checked everything out, was aware of my surroundings, I was prepared but one day dreaming driver could have changed my life forever. While this incident was out of my control it is a reminder to be prepared. Wear your helmet, carry a patch kit, extra tube, and pump, and have an ID handy (I always wear my Xtreme Sport ID). We can't control everything but having control of what we can helps us stay prepared for the unexpected.

The Ugly: Mister Bitter Pants on the Light Rail
On the light rail there is a special spot for biker's to stand and providing there is available seating and space for other passengers, up to two bikes can be in this space. On the evening commute I always look over the situation before boarding. There were about five empty seats and plenty of standing room however Mister Bitter Pants wanted to stand in the bike area. I asked him if I could please put my bike there, it was the rules of the train that I couldn't stand somewhere else. He then told me that was only true providing there was room. After taking an obvious glance around the space I said "Well, I believe any reasonable person would agree that the five empty seats and other standing area qualifies as 'room'." He just told me "You're welcome" in a smug tone and moved.

I almost lost my cool. I really strive to be a kind person but when someone behaves so callously to me for an unwarranted reason I get defensive, hurt, and a little sad. I reflected on this the entire ride home, and for a few more days. Then I realized he could just be a schmuck, or he could be one of the many people who have had a bad experience with a cyclist. When you're on your bike it's so easy to pick and choose which traffic rules to follow, to sneak up on pedestrians, and to generally be self-involved. The joy of the bike is it allows you to tune out everything else, unfortunately tuning out can quickly lead to perceived selfishness.

I like to take this as a little warning to watch my behavior on my bike. While I feel I wasn't in the wrong during the ugly incident, I don't want to be the reason someone becomes bitter towards cyclist. I am striving to be an ambassador for the cycling community and I invite my fellow cyclists to as well.

I love seeing the hidden lessons life deals us. Each of the experiences could have become discouraging and made me re-evaluate being a Car-Free Cupcake. However I embrace the adversity, the challenge is what makes it all worth it.

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