ADI ANDERSON: Hey! - We Bike Riders Have Rights, Too
Friday, I started a column about violations of bicycling rights. Sunday, I fell victim -- literally -- to the very thing I was complaining about.
There is something humbling about opening your eyes at the intersection of Pennsylvania Avenue and Broad Street to find yourself, and your bike, sprawled across the pavement.
It's the same old downtown Southern Pines story: A car heading south on Broad fails to yield to someone coming over the tracks. That someone on Sunday was me, alone on my road bike.
Now that I think about it, I'm probably lucky that I wasn't in a car. Being encased in the safe innards of a metal, cushioned, air-bagged beast tends to make a driver brazenly brave. In a car, I might've had a T-bone collision, resulting in much more destruction.
Instead, as I cruised over the bumpy train tracks aboard my bike, I noticed an SUV coming down Broad Street. I had the right of way, or so I thought, and I happily kept pedaling.
The car paused for a moment, tricking me into a false confidence, then laid on the gas. In an effort to avoid a collision, I jerked my handlebars to the left, the chain jumped ship, and I went flying from my seat. Once I hit the pavement, I made an executive decision just to lie there for a minute, weighing which hurt more -- my physical injuries or my wounded pride.
Later, I inspected my bicycle: ripped handlebar taping and deep scratches in the metal. Nothing too serious. Still, the damage to my bike pained me just as much as my own scrapes and sprains.
Living in Atlanta over the past year, I became overly protective of my late-'80s-model Trek road bike. I took up a home-away-from-home at the SoPo Bicycle Co-op. Thus, my poor, faithful bike has endured many hours of poking, prodding, and screw-stripping.
The latest renovations, made with the help of Rainbow Cycles, have turned the Trek into a trendy, minimalist, downright impractical fixed-gear machine. The idea behind the fixed-gear bike is that you never stop pedaling.
Coasting is not even an option. Neither is standing up. As long as the back wheel is spinning, your feet are moving. And you cannot change the gear from the rigid middle sprocket, making both sides of a hill equally perilous.
Most people wonder why in the world anyone would expose a perfectly good bicycle to this kind of mutilation. I myself also wonder this when trying to climb up a steep grade to get home. Another curse of this version of my bike is the loose chain, which flies off at any awkward moment, such as Sunday's event.
Now, as I write this on Monday morning, my 18-year-old body feels like it has aged at least half a century.
I am sure there are about 400 lessons I could get out of the experience: Fix the bike chain. Never assume anything about anyone else's actions. Pick the asphalt out of the cut before putting on the bandage. Wear the darned helmet.
But I'd also like to put a lesson out there for others: Let's humanize bike riding.
I wasn't decked out in fancy, brightly colored gear, but that doesn't mean I'm not a cyclist. There is no way I could keep up with those riders who pop up and down the hills on Youngs Road as if they're riding over speed bumps. But I still like how it feels to get to the top of one of those mountains, wheezing triumphantly and boasting about decreasing my carbon footprint.
No, it's not for everyone, but I'd like to discourage the thinking that biking is a serious, intensive endeavor saved for the select few superhumans with thighs the size of my waist.
As for drivers, I notice the ones that give entire lanes to bikes, and I commend and thank them.
For those cars that whiz past, brushing our shoulders: Pay attention. Whether the cyclists are in Spandex from head to foot or blue jeans and sandals, they have just as much right to the road. I assure you that we will be courteous to you if you return the favor to us.
And if those gas prices keep it up, you may soon be joining our ranks. We welcome you with open arms.
And scarred elbows.
Adi Anderson is an intern at The Pilot. Contact her at email@example.com.
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