So here I was, Monday morning, ready to roll. It wasn’t so bad, really: I planned to ride on sidewalks, which are legal to ride upon in Florida, and multi-use paths to get to work, a mere 12 1/2 mile trip each way. So I put some stuff in a little tiny backpack I got for free somewhere, and headed out. No tools, no pump, no patch kit, just my lunch and identification credentials to convince security to let me in the door when I arrived at my final destination.
All went well for a while, until I got my first flat tire. Hopped on the bus with my bike, rode next to smelly people and, after a short snack, fixed the tire. I knew how to do it because I had ridden bikes in my youth, and as kids we fixed up and messed with bicycles. When we got older, we messed with cars. Anyway, when I left for work the next day I had tools, pump and a patch kit, ready for the next flat.
What I wasn’t ready for was how unsafe sidewalk riding really is. Though I became more adept at negotiating the terrain and operating my bike, as the months rolled on close calls with cars entering and exiting parking lots and pedestrians were becoming more frequent. I had a bicycle when I lived in Chicago which I occasionally used to ride through some of the large cemeteries on the north side, but to get there I rode on the sidewalks, because I was afraid of riding in traffic. Now I was afraid of riding on sidewalks, so I began, baby steps of course, riding in the street.
There were designated bike lanes along most of the route I took, so I began using them. Over the next year I became more comfortable riding in the road, as traffic. I was safer, felt more confident, and enjoyed commuting more. I became aware of concepts such as taking the lane and proper positioning of the bike in intersections before, during and after red lights and so forth. While most motorists gave me no trouble, there were a few who were looking for someone to bully, both men and women. And when someone went out of their way to be mean to me, I let loose. Really. I mean, c’mon, I am a big, strong 225# guy who can take care of himself, and some little twerp half my age (or his really rude mother) is going to bully me? Not a chance. So they get it back. Bad. And you know what? They back down. They really do. I figured if someone was going to jump out of their car and attack me, I could just ride away. After 4 years of being car-free, no one has ever made good on their threats to kill me, or run me over.
I am a little more selective about who I lash out to these days, but from time to time I still find it necessary to remind people they will have to find someone else to pick on. Sometimes folks get a little hot under the collar, and these days, rather than calling them out of their car to make good on their threats, I usually just say something like “I’m going now, if you bother me again I’ll report you to the police” and ride away.
As time went on I found putting 150 miles/week on a single speed balloon tired coaster brake bike was great exercise. On windy days, of which we have many here in SE Florida I often found myself riding 9 miles or more into a 10 mph headwind. All this exercise makes one “Strong, Like Bull,” but really, it gets old after a while. That was all about to change when I went to get a haircut..