Earlier this year, I bought an Electra Townie at Sweet Bikes in Livonia, Michigan. For years I’ve desired to bike to and from work. Sitting at my desk all day, only to sweat at the gym, to then return home to sit some more, just hasn’t appealed to me. My previous attempts at biking to work have failed.
In 2004, less than 24 hours after buying a Raleigh C700 commuter bike, a less than aware driver cut me off at the corner of Carpenter and Packard and so over handlebars I went and landed on my chin. I ended up with a cracked mandible, 18 stitches in my chin, a broken right elbow and thumb. That bike had nothing but bad mojo for me. I’m not surprised that I’ve probably ridden it less than a dozen times since then. Still, though, I wanted to be a bike commuter.
In 2010, I bought a second bike (the name of which escapes me at this time), with fatter tires, shocks on the front wheel and a thicker frame. The problem with that bike is that it designed to allow the rider to sit forward - an aggressive posture - to allow for the maximum output from the thighs. The problem with this bike?
My back. In December of 2009 I was diagnosed with a massive herniated L7 disc. Sitting hunched forward only increased the stress on my lower back. So that bike has sat in our garage for a good long while. I’ve used it more than the Raleigh, but not by much. Then, and I cannot remember how, I started researching commuter bikes of the European variety and decided to buy an Electra Townie. I love my bike, my back loves my bike, and I have no fears of revisiting my bike accident in 2004. The seat is much farther back. That means I can put my feet on the ground at any moment.
Hot damn, boys and girls! I am now a bicycle commuter. From Ypsi to Ann Arbor takes me about an hour each way, if I ride the entire way. I’m thrilled with myself.
Then I get on the bike paths, many of which are mixed use paths in my area and am confronted with idiots. Idiot drivers who pulled forward past the stop sign and come to a halt in the bike path, idiot drivers who don’t see any bicyclist or pedestrian on the mixed use path, then get pissed when they do, idiot pedestrians, idiot pedestrians with dogs they can’t control, idiot pedestrians with kids they can’t control, idiot pedestrians with headphones on who remain impervious to my shouts of “Passing on your right!!”
A coworker of mine also commutes. We share stories about the dumbest idiot we’ve each met on our commutes. He just stared commuting this year but has already has his fill of idiots. But yesterday he threw me a curveball that, despite wanting it to not be true, proves true and timeless.
“When I’m driving, bicyclists are idiots. When I’m on my bicycle drivers are idiots, when I’m a pedestrian bicyclists are idiots. Whatever I am not, there is where the idiots are.”
On my way home yesterday, I observed my surroundings with these teaching in my mind.
Do I wear my headphones when I walk? Check.
Do I meander across a mixed-use path because I’m listening on my headphones? Check.
Do bicyclists have to really yell when I wear my headphones? Check.
Do I pull through a stop sign to wait in the cross walk? Check.
Do I get mad a bicyclists who don’t follow the rules of the road? Check.
Do I sometimes ride through a red light if there is no traffic. Check.
Despite what I might want to be true, I have to admit: I am an idiot, some of the time.