Lately, I've been riding the house's bike to and from school for the extra exercise, fresh air, and because, when you suss it out, it doesn't actually add any time to the commute. Circling around to find a parking spot with your car, then slogging up the hill toward the Williams building, can be really stressful, like playing Whack-A-Mole on the fastest speed. You sometimes forget to breathe. But rolling up on your bicycle, helmeted, lights installed for riding at night, and parking just outside the front door feels glorious, like happy hour on Friday afternoon.
Then again, Tallahassee is not the safest cycling town on the map. We've got hardly any bike lanes and a large population of texting-distracted undergrads, as well as baby boomers who distrust cyclists, bus riders, and carpoolers--anything other than autonomous automobile drivers--as progressive socialists. I know because I subscribe to my neighborhood's email list, and you should have heard them howl about the new proposals for bike lanes and bus stops. Here's an actual message sent to our community. (Note: the names may or may not have been altered to either protect or ridicule the participants.)
Do I have this right, Tennessee Street is too busy and the city’s answer is to close two lanes? The closed lanes will then be dedicated to bikes, the primary mode of transportation for less than 1% of the population; and to buses, the mode of transportation for which no one will give up their car. This project is a lot like the government’s high speed rail train wreck, spend money on transportation solutions that don’t work. Unfortunately, this plan has probably progressed too far for common sense to stop what will be a self-inflicted disaster.
And that's why we need helmets and bike lights: to protect ourselves from these rogues who when driving treat pedestrians like so many arcade-game point grabs. Knock a hippie off his bike: 2 points. Hit a baby in a stroller: 5 points. Kill a man in French Town: extra life!
When I was in middle school in Orlando, my parents made me wear a helmet to ride my bike to school, which I thought was so uncool. When I'd get out of view of our house, I'd take the helmet off and hang it from the handlebars. One day, while biking up the spacious sidewalk beside a busy road, General Reese, my right knee came up and caught the helmet against the handle bar, sending me swerving off to the right and into the road. Luckily, it happened during a gap in the traffic, and I scrambled to correct my path and get back on the sidewalk before the next car came speeding head-on at 40 mph. The lesson is, helmets can only help you when you wear them on your head.
The other night, I rode home in the rain, sporting my helmet, front and rear lights flashing, wearing my backpack. My books papers stayed dry, but the front pocket where I keep pens, pencils, and gum, got wet. The next day, when I reached in for some gum, my hand came back out wet and sticky. The water and the friction from the writing utensils and the jostling and had effectively chewed the gum inside the pocket. So tonight, I washed my pens and pencils carefully with a soapy paper towel, dried them off, and remembered cringing when a woman on Hoarder's let her pen collection go. She had a barrel full, and the crew got the angle from inside the dumpster when those hundreds--maybe thousands--of pens cascaded down into the metal container. It felt like watching someone pour bottle after bottle of good beer onto the ground. I wanted to slap that person.
There's nothing like a good pen, one that feels good in your hand, writes well, and has a place for your fingers to rest. Pens help you go places, like bicycles. We should cherish them.