Recently, I had the opportunity to interview Fontaine Syer, the director of the Indiana Repertory Theater's upcoming An Iliad. In her program notes, she talks of irrationality and rage as key causes to the never ending cycle of war. But it is her analogy to "road rage" that got me thinking.
She writes: "Most of the time, as we live in the world, we proceed through our days believing and behaving as though we are rational beings...Then along comes an event, a remark, a situation that drives all that rationality right out the window. We shoot the finger at the driver who cuts us off; we mutter, or yell, 'Up yours' as the driver accelerates in front of us... there's a reason it's called road rage."
In her estimation, "War is complete irrationality, giving us opportunities to express the best and the worst of our fundamental natures."
And I have to say not only do I agree, but I am guilty of the same.
Two weeks ago, I waged a war of my own against a total stranger. After a near fatal experience with an IndyGo bus, irrationality sparked inside of me. I chased the bus down by bike, putting myself in perhaps an even more dangerous situation.
My battle continued as I contacted IndyGo and spoke to several very nice people about what happened. But it was in this column that my combat strategy culminated. Rage surged through me as I wrote, aggressively, to the bus driver in question. And while I've been assured that the driver encountered repercussions, which I truly believe he deserved, nothing about my actions or words has done anything to ease the unending battle between cars and bikes unfolding daily on our streets.
I believe that the treatment bicycles receive in traffic is an equal rights issue. Many Indianapolis drivers simply don't know or care to abide by the law that gives bicycles equal rights to and responsibilities on the road. But it's impossible to overcome inequality without allies.
The LGBT community needs straight allies; African-Americans needed white allies during the Civil Rights struggle of the 1960s; and feminists of the 1970s and 80s could not have broken through their glass ceilings without male allies.
Now is a good time for a DISCLAIMER: I am in no way comparing the intensity of violence and discrimination faced by any of the above listed groups with the obstacles bicycles encounter on roadways.
I simply want to make the point that in order for bicyclists to receive equal treatment on the road, we too need allies. We need drivers of cars and buses that are willing to stand in solidarity with bicyclists, to break the "us and them" mentality of the current relationship.
In that vein, I'd like to say merci to the yellow school bus that drove patiently behind me as I took the lane last week on St. Clair Street. Gracias to the ice blue sedan that left plenty of space between their front bumper and my bike tire as I pedaled down Central Avenue yesterday morning. And danke to the big black pick-up truck that yielded to me at the Cultural Trail crosswalk on Senate Avenue.
And to all the motorists on the road who are allies to bicycles every day, thank you.
Dear IndyGo Bus Operator McElroy (Driver ID # 3897),
When you came up behind me and honked your horn during my morning commute, it startled me - so much in fact that I lost my shoe. I attempted to pedal (shoeless and rather unsuccessfully) to the side of the road in the middle of the morning rush. When the bus that you were driving came within inches of taking my life, it upset me.
When you continued to honk your horn as I tried to recover my shoe from the middle of the street, it infuriated me. When you allowed the flow of morning traffic to continue past me as cars came flying around the sharp corner where Central Avenue forks into Fort Wayne, I felt that you had a complete disregard for human life.
When I recovered my shoe and hopped back on my bike, I knew I wasn't going to let you ride off into the sunrise. When I chased you down Fort Wayne, the wind whipped my face causing my eyes to burn and water. Adrenaline pulsed through my body as I dismounted my bike at your bus stop on Alabama Street across from the Starbucks.
When I put my foot in the bus door that was ajar, I hope you saw that I meant business. When I told you that bicycles have all the same rights to the road as cars do and asked for your operator ID, you refused me. With a tone of voice that made it clear to me just how unapologetic you were for nearly killing me, you told me that the incident was all on video and that I was in the wrong.
When I asked again and again for your ID, I knew that in your heart you understood how wrong you really were. Finally you relented and told me - ID 3897. I rode away from the bus and felt a surge of anger I hope never to feel again.
I talked to Suzanne Weir, an administrative assistant in operations at IndyGo. Unfortunately, IndyGo director of operations Juan Battle, was out of town, or he too would have heard from me. When service quality specialist Rod Williams and I spoke, he assured me that interim vice president of operations Mike Birch was also aware of the situation. They reviewed the video and saw your recklessness.
"We are definitely going to talk with that operator and make sure that actions are taken to correct him," Williams assured me. "He should never have honked that horn." And although, because of confidentiality policies, he couldn't tell me what actions were being taken, he assured me that your boss, Dwight Benjamin, would speak with you immediately.
Mr. McElroy, I sincerely hope that the team at IndyGo actually does follow through with you. No, I don't wish for you to lose your job. Although I must admit, I don't think you are very good at it. I just want you to understand the dire consequences of driving like a maniac - the deathly possibilities of not treating a bicyclist, who has every right to take the lane, like any other vehicle on the road.
As Williams said, "They are a vehicle on the road. Whatever is in that lane, it is their lane."
My hope is that you correct your driving and that no other cyclist has to fear your rage-filled driving on Indy streets.
Last weekend I visited Chicago, and found myself missing my bicycle. Trudging from place to place on foot cramped my style and hindered me from getting my bearings as quickly as I could by bike. I longed to sail through Millennium Park, to lock up at the field museum and explore a different district all on two wheels. Unfortunately, the Megabus wouldn't allow me to stow my bike as my 50 pound piece of luggage. Plus, what would I wear?
Once we found our hotel and set out to explore the expansive downtown lakefront, I noticed that the kind of bicycle infrastructure I'm used to at home is largely absent. With hardly any bike lanes or trails, it's difficult at best for the few cyclists out and about on the roads. Perhaps there's less need for such bicycle infrastructure in the city, given its enviable public transportation system. But I couldn't help but feel that citizens of Chicago are missing out on what this tourist had grown accustomed to in her hometown.
I did see a few brave souls weaving through the heavy Chicago traffi. Plus sidewalks speckled with bike racks. And I also noticed the clever monetization of bicycles for tourists. A company called Divvy offers corrals of bicycles every few blocks. The bikes seemed well maintained and the payment interface easy to navigate. Purchase one 24-hour pass and receive unlimited 30-minute rides. Go over the 30 minute limit and your credit card is automatically charged an extra fee.
Users of the bike share program can zip through the city quickly, but not necessarily easily. The lack of bike lanes forces many out-of-towners onto the sidewalk, mixing dangerously with the heavily trafficked pedestrian areas. Also, the corral does not provide helmetsm making it an at-your-own-risk situation if you should decide to compete with the busy auto traffic. In all, I appreciated the idea behind the bike share option, but without an appropriate space for users, it seemed just a little off to me.
Visitors to Indianapolis can look forward to a bike share program set to launch early next summer. You can read more about it at NUVO's sister site Indiana Living Green. But basically, the program will work much the same as the one in Chicago, with the added bonus of a workable infrastructure already in place and easy to navigate.
On returning home, the first thing I did was take a tour of my own city by bike - thankful to live in a town that places importance on the safety of pedestrians, cyclists and motorists. Because I've been using it for the past year and half, I never really stopped to consider the magnificence of the Indianapolis Cultural Trail, the city's bike lanes - and our ability as cyclists to actually travel (and travel safely) from place to place.
If you haven't seen it yet, I really recommend taking a look at this Street Films short, which features the Indianapolis Cultural Trail. My eyes well-up with pride every time I watch it. It's a good reminder of what makes bike culture in Indianapolis, in our city, so special.
I love a good magical adventure, especially by bike. The spontaneity of pedaling aimlessly until some kind of entertainment unfolds almost always leads to a new perspective on all that Indy has to offer.
For instance last Saturday, I enjoyed several IndyFringe offerings on Mass Ave before deciding to flee the theater-y buzz of the avenue to see what else downtown held in store. Bicycling past the City Market, I heard the echoes of engines revving. I made a circle around the Monument, comparing bikes to leather-clad, tattooed Moto GP revelers.
I rolled past the Capitol building and to the canal, where families filled the paddle boat queue as the sun bore down on their strollers and baseball caps. Winding around to the convention center, GenCon gamers lined Georgia Street sampling Indy's best food trucks. But soon the geekdom of Georgia Street Cos Play gave way to more motorcycle mamas and papas. And I headed back toward Mass Ave to find some dinner. The ride was the perfect diversion to work up an appetite and recharge my batteries for more theater.
Whether I'm people watching at a festival or admiring public art, I find its best to adventure by bike. If you're bored at home, just start pedaling and the city will open itself to you. Here are a few suggestions to get you started on your own magical bike adventure.
1) Find a festival: Everyone knows that Indiana loves a festival, which means you can still people watch a-plenty. Take your bike to the IndyFringe Theater Festival, Indianapolis Greek Fest or the Festiv-Ale this weekend for great food and entertainment. Still to come WARMfest in Broad Ripple, the Indy Slovenian Festival, Oktoberfest, Indy Jazz Fest, Irish Fest and more!
2) Free is always fun: When you ride your bike, you've already saved yourself the cost of gas. Why not pack a picnic and enjoy a thrifty afternoon at free events like the Georgia Street Block Party, the White River Community Fun Day or a Colts Kickoff Concert.
3) Eat!: Devour Downtown is my favorite biannual offering. Find a date with a bike, and you'll work off the calories of your sumptuous (and cheap) meal before you've even eaten it. Or look up your favorite food truck's schedule and bike to them for lunch.
4) Play A Game: The Geocache app on my phone has been endless fun, particularly because I can cover so much ground by bike. There are plenty of similar apps that put a digital spin on exploration. Or better yet, make up your own game. See how many pieces of public art you can take a picture in front of and start an online album.
5) Get creative: Adventuring is about spontaneity. Get on your bike and ride; the spirit of adventure will surely grab hold of you.
For a while it was our morning routine, my fiancé and I. I'd fill my to-go mug with coffee and head out the door.
"I love you. Have a good day," I'd say as I left.
"Love you, too," he'd reply. "Please, wear your helmet today!"
I'd scoff and leave, sans helmet. I've been riding to and from work without one. I didn't want to muss my perfectly quaffed hair. Besides, I reasoned, state law doesn't even mandate it.
Currently, our state bicycle laws, according to BicycleIndiana.org, address bicycle interactions with pedestrians and motor vehicles, seats, roadways, passengers, carrying articles, bells/audible signal devices, lamps and reflectors, brakes, traffic laws and the penalties for breaking any of the listed rules. Bicycle helmets simply don't come into play.
My fiancé had my best interest at heart, lecturing me repeatedly about how he didn't want a bride with a bloody smashed-in forehead. That he worried about my safety and I should too. But the inconvenience of it all was just too much to make me listen.
That is until I saw David's ghost bike.
A few Sundays ago, I was riding up the Monon on my way to meet a girlfriend for brunch, when I passed it. Spray-painted all white and chained to a fence just north of 20th street at first I thought it was another piece of public art. But as I approached I saw the attached sign: "For David, wear a helmet."
I was struck. I'd never heard of ghost bikes before, and I'd certainly never seen one. A memorial for one who died in a bicycle accident, the all-white ghost bike is a reminder to fellow cyclists to always use caution. A reminder to non-cyclists of the consequence of our often dangerous interactions on roadways.
I didn't know David Browning (51), for whom the bike was erected. But I learned a little more about him and the concept of ghost bikes from this Indy Cog blog. And because Indianapolis is the biggest small town in the world, I found a common acquaintance I shared with Browning.
My friend, a manager of a Broad Ripple bar, said that Browning was very well loved. The community of people who worked the Broad Ripple strip held him in high regard. He couldn't say much more than that. But he saw him often enough to have been introduced a time or two. And Browning was, in his terms, "a good guy."
To the side of David's ghost bike, leaning against a tree, was a plaque inscribed with the serenity prayer:
"God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; the courage to change the things I can; and the wisdom to know the difference."
I snapped a photo of the bike, and just stood for a while, turning the prayer over in my mind. The courage to change, I thought, and the wisdom to know.
I had been foolish in sloughing off my fiancé's pleas. David's ghost bike was a welcome and needed wake-up call for me.
Now every morning, as I leave the house, I make sure to grab my helmet--hair be damned. The contented look of a worried soul put at ease inevitably stretches across my fiancé's face, and I think of our life together--now guaranteed by a little bit of foam and plastic.
The recent burst of cool air throughout the Midwest has made for some tremendous afternoon riding conditions. It's the type of weather that makes one feel guilty for sitting behind a desk all day. The kind that makes us all envious of summer camp counselors and park rangers whose life's work is spent out of doors. The kind that reminds me why I am an all-season rider.
During the extreme high and low temperatures throughout the year, I often lose sight of my reasons. Though I still do ride, day after day, it's more as a matter of habit now than anything else. And while this summer hasn't been the heat wave of 2012, on occasion I've found myself melting on the way to work.
My short ride (15 minutes, tops, depending on traffic) doesn't merit a change of clothes. How long of a ride does? In long pants and stuffy shirts, I make the trek to and fro my museum gig. Taking an easy pace, I've found that - with some water - I cool off quickly once inside the freezing, climate-controlled building.
And in the afternoon, the heat of the day lingers on the pavement as I attempt an elongated ride. I half-heartedly push myself north for a bit, then south, and the heat takes its toll on my effort for exercise. I struggle to improve but feel incompetent as skinny, spandex-clad riders on faster bikes than mine zip past in the bristling summer heat.
And yet, this glorious cool spell is reminder of why I try to be an all-weather rider. I thought to myself, one robust morning on the way to work this week, this - this air, this sun, this feeling - this is the reason. I don't want to risk missing a moment of those rare but exquisite days when the climate is perfect. I want to wring out every possible ounce of this fleeting moment - of the freedom I feel whipping through downtown streets and rocky riverside trails when the weather is flawless.
On those days, I feel something splendid in the mixture of sun and breeze. Maybe it's the recognition of myself and the connection I forge with my surroundings when it's so nice outside. Maybe it's the increasing pulse of my heart as I keep a better pace, almost keeping time with the cyclists training for better opponents than me. Whatever it is, I feel the weather gods smile upon me, and remember why I ride... weather or not.
Releasing fear has been a theme of my bicycle experience. I've let go of the fear of looking oversized on my bicycle's slender frame, the fear of helmet hair, the fear of traffic and cars, fear of sweating, fear of losing balance, fear of looking like a klutz and more. Some fears went the way of my learning coping strategies. For instance, I've learned to carry a brush and stash a spare deodorant in my work desk to combat helmet hair and sweaty underarms. Others more slowly evaporated.
My fear of biking in traffic melted away with practice and gaining a sense of the road. I know the traffic rhythms throughout my neighborhood and at various times of the day. I plan my route accordingly. I know when to speed up or slow down to catch or miss a light. I know when to take the lane and when to make room for others to pass. I set an effective pace as I hop from road to trail and back again.
The fear of cars on the road is, I think, a good fear. It can be managed but also keeps me alert and safe. While some drivers are unpredictable, many more drivers see me (and all cyclists on the roads) as unpredictable. Whether this is a fair assumption or not depends entirely on the cyclist (and the driver). However, this fear of unknown behavior on both ends drives a continued apprehension about sharing the road. I've learned to be mindful of my surroundings. And in doing so, I'm able to better predict which cars will share with me and which will not.
I relinquished my fear showing a lack of coordination after much practice as well. I've learned the subtleties of my bicycle and how to manipulate the mechanisms most efficiently. Not to sound overly Zen, but I really have become one with my bike. I find a rhythm on my way to work each morning as I twist and turn through downtown streets and trails. I feel the bike as a true extension of my body allowing me to make the most of my own energy output as well.
My balance and coordination are actually at a new high, a fact a credit to bicycling. I've even begun to master the "look-mom-no-hands" riding that I've seen cyclists in Lycra suits perfect as they take swigs from their Camelbacks. And while I still have a moment of fearfulness in the moment before I grab back onto the handlebars, I'm able to delay that moment longer each time.
With each fleeting fear a new boundary is broken. I find a new sense of pride and accomplishment. And I begin to look for new challenges and to discover new fears to push past.
I had my derailer fixed a couple weeks back. As the mechanic removed my bike from his lift he instructed me: "You'll need to get your chain cleaned pretty soon. It's all gunked up."
"How long can I wait?" I asked, thinking of my dwindling bank account.
"If I were you, I'd get it done in the next month or two."
I paid him the nominal repair fee for my derailer, thanked him and hopped on my bike. It was riding better, but I could tell he was right. My chain grinded through my gears as I wove through downtown on my way home.
All signed up for N.I.T.E. Ride again this year, I figured I ought to take the mechanic's advice and get my bicycle in tip-top shape. What better motivation than my favorite summer cycling event?
After work one evening last week, I pedaled to a different shop this time and inquired about the price of having my gears cleaned.
"You'll want to get a tune-up," said the man behind the counter as he lifted my bike into his work stand.
He quoted me $60 for the tune-up, but when a different mechanic step out from behind the counter to assess my bicycle's needs, the price jumped rather rapidly to $100.
"One hundred dollars? Just to clean the gears? Does that include the tune-up or is it in addition to the $60?" I was baffled at the bill--a full one-fifth of the purchase price of my bike. The two men, who seemed to conspire against my checking account, assured me that the $100 price tag included a tune-up and the cleaning. They also recommended that I come in for this kind of maintenance annually.
With no payment plans available through the shop, I had no choice but to agree to the price. I'd never had my bicycle fully serviced in the year that I've had it, only odd (and affordable) tweaks along the way. But I do ride daily, and I've come to rely on my bike as a primary form of transportation.
As I left the shop to walk the rest of the way home, I pondered the past year of this blog. All this time, I've been touting bicycles as an inclusive and alternative form of transportation. Yet, this $100 price-tag to pay each year seemed to make bike commuting more exclusive than I had thought.
I understand that bicycle mechanics have a specialized set of skills, similar to car mechanics. But the price of car maintenance relative to the price of a car is much lower than the one-fifth ratio I faced. I do have the desire to support smaller, locally-owned shops, like the one I'd just left. But at what cost am I willing to pursue that desire, particularly when I felt that I had been unceremoniously upsold? Even if they weren't taking me for a ride (so to speak), I felt they were because of the quick change in pricing I received. But perhaps that was just poor customer service.
I swallowed these feelings when I turned up in the shop two days later. As I handed over my credit card, they wheeled out my bike, which looked practically new. I pushed off on the pedals to ride away from this so-so experience, and I admit that there was an improvement in the smoothness of my ride.
That evening at N.I.T.E. Ride, I whizzed through the course on my now buttery bike--happy for the maintenance but still baffled by the price. I remain unsure about the future of bicycle maintenance for me. Perhaps I'll shop around a little more next time, and keep myself abreast of off season specials. Or I can save my pennies until next year to anticipate the high cost. Ultimately, instead of filling my car's gas tank, I'll fill a maintenance fund instead.
Thursday, June 13
I did not ride my bike to work today. And I regret it. I was experimenting last night a little too confidently with yoga. This morning when I awoke, I had thrown out my lower back... again. That's right, I'm not afraid to admit that at 27 years old I have a temperamental lower back and a sinking mattress that desperately needs replacing. That, coupled with the tail end of a storm passing through my neighborhood this morning, and I made the decision to, against my better judgment, get in my car and go.
I haven't driven in nearly two months. The tank of gas I bought at the end of April remains unused, and my car is starting to smell stale from sitting parked, un-aerated, in the sun day after day.
I realize it was lucky that I drove as the minute I clocked in at work, my phone buzzed in my bag. It was my fiancé, who needed rescuing after he locked his keys his car's trunk. I did an about-face making it home and back without melting into a puddle of sweat from an extended morning ride -- fortunate for sure.
But as the day came to a close and I walked to my car, my jealous heart longed after the bicycle commuters zipping past me on the sidewalk. I made it to the top of the parking garage, a walk that adds an extra seven minutes to my auto commute home. Turning the keys in the car's ignition, I wound down six floors of parking spots to reach the crowded rush hour streets.
As I sat in a hopelessly long line of traffic on Maryland Street, I was reminded of the monstrosity that is rush hour traffic. Inching along, watching green lights turn red before I even moved, I despaired.
"Why was I not on my bike on this breezy summer afternoon?" I asked aloud with nothing but Robert Siegal's deep resonant radio voice to respond. "How did I live so long commuting like this? I want, no, NEED a cigarette!"
This last thought scared me. It's been just over a year since I've had a smoke. I attribute my success to this point in great part to bicycling. Yet, here I am ready to ruin a year's worth of work simply because the stress of driving among throngs of other downtown professionals got to me.
I hate driving. Bicycling has become such a routine part of my day that I don't even consider it anymore. I can find myself on the start of a commute without knowing how I got there. It is as if I'm on auto pilot until the breeze rushes over my skin, the rubber of my wheels meet the pavement and my sense awake to the world around me. Biking has become an alarm clock that wakes me from the doldrummery of a daily nine to five.
I've come to depend so heavily on that release that when it's gone, I revert to old habits, old cravings, old neural pathways that I guess I'm still working to reroute. The long, stressful drive home was sobering reminder of why I bike.
A few weeks back, the not-so-surprising news that Indiana ranks only #42 nationally in bicycle friendliness was released. Living downtown where Mayor Ballard has created a bicycling mecca of sorts for Hoosiers, it's easy to forget that the rest of the state has a lot of catching up to do. Having never really traveled beyond Carmel by bike, I cannot comment on the condition of the rest of the state, but the recently released study by the League of American Bicyclists does and the picture isn't pretty.
The #42 ranking is a reflection of Indiana's bicycle infrastructure, funding for bicycle facilities, education and programs that provide encouragement, and the passage and enforcement of laws that make our roadways safe and friendly for cyclists of all ages.
On the local level in communities like Indianapolis, Goshen, Columbus, Carmel, etc. we see aspects of these factors improving constantly. However, as Nancy Tibbett, Executive Director of Bicycle of Indiana, said in a May 1 press release, "We continue to struggle to achieve similar progress at the state level."
It's definitely unfortunate and a little disheartening to learn about the state's priorities in regard to bicycling. Yet, the process of converting our entire Midwest state (we ranked #11 in our region) is indeed that--a process. Currently, INDOT is working on a state-wide bicycle suitability map that will rank all of Indiana's state and federal roadways according to their ease of use for bicyclists.
What strikes me most about this news is the idea that bicycling in Indiana isn't suitable for people of all ages. I spoke at Storytelling Arts of Indiana's Jabberwocky event earlier this week. Sponsored by IndyCog, this month's topic was bicycles. Myself and two other daily commuters shared our non-professional stories, and then the microphone was opened to the crowd.
A few of SAI's regular Jabberwocky attendees shared stories about their first bicycle, the kids they use to ride with when they were younger and happy memories of bicycling as children. The group didn't have much to contribute in terms of current bicycling activities, causing me to ponder how intimidating and difficult our roadways must be to certain demographics.
Then one middle-aged woman shared her own brief but recent feat of bicycling to her IUPUI job from Speedway. Honestly, I was shocked and proud of her for moving beyond her comfort zone to try that. I certainly never biked anywhere from Speedway when I lived on the Westside. But she noted at the end of her story the scariness factor of riding on not so friendly roads keeps her from integrating such a commute into her daily life.
Focusing on improving infrastructure and not only passing but enforcing legislation that protects bicyclist will perhaps encourage people like her. And I truly believe that in order to add momentum to this arduous process we need our numbers and voices to swell. It's easy to get involved: simply start riding. If you already ride, encourage friends and family to do the same. Encourage your workplace to be more bicycle friendly and/or make your voice heard by elected officials.
May is National Bike Month. If the growing number of bikes I see on my commute is any indicator, plenty of Hoosiers are already celebrating. Finding myself in a pack of cyclists on the cultural trail, drafting behind fellow bikers, I feel the power of our numbers. I, too, want to celebrate the beginning of three seasons of heavy bike use in Indy. Here are a few upcoming happenings that will help you revel the power of the pedal.
1.) Commuter Connect's Commuter Challenge - Even though our state officials have taken yet another pause on the mass transit question, this is a great way to show your support of transportation alternatives. Through the month of May, Commuter Connect (a service of the Central Indiana Regional Transportation Authority) is offering prizes simply for tracking your environmentally friendly commutes.
Join the website, and log your commute activities. Biking, walking, busing, carpooling and vanpooling all count. Each week, Commuter Connect gives away prizes to randomly drawn participants including free bus passes and bike shop gift cards.
This handy website connects users to car and vanpool communities, bike partners and bus schedules. I'm logging my daily commute by bike and already feel more empowered to try other forms of sustainable transportation. Join me as I take the May Commuter Challenge.
2.) Bike to Work Day - The League of American Bicyclists has dubbed May "National Bike Month." The week of May 13-17 is their Bike to Work Week. And in Indianapolis, celebrations of bicycle commuters will commence on May 17--the official Bike to Work Day.
Festivities include a free bike commuter lunch and learn at the Indy Bike Hub, a Sun King sponsored happy hour and bike trains to various parts of the city. This is a great day for beginners to feel the power of large numbers on longer commutes and for seasoned cyclists to celebrate their year-round efforts. For a timeline of all the events that day visit IndyCog's Bike to Work Day 2013 page.
3.) Indianapolis Cultural Trail's Event: "Get Down On It" - On May 11, the Indianapolis Cultural Trail comes alive like never before. Cultural institutions and businesses that line the Cultural Trail will host a variety of events, activities and entertainments from 8 a.m. to midnight. What's the best way to take advantage of as much free fun as possible, you ask? By biking, of course! Hop on the trail for scavenger hunts, food and beer trucks, arts and crafts, games, music and free or discounted admission to landmarks across the city.
4.) Jabberwocky - On May 14th Storytelling Arts of Indiana teams up with IndyCog to host the monthly Jabberwocky event at IndyFringe Theater. This month's topic: Bicycles. Hear stories from non-professional storytellers (yours truly included) about our experiences on two wheels. Come prepared to share your own yarns, and stay for a film screening of Reveal the Path, a documentary about a 36-day vagabond bike trip.
5.) Get on your bike and ride! - Of course, the best way to celebrate National Bike Month is to get in the saddle and start pedaling. A lazy Saturday afternoon ride is my favorite pastime of late. You may not be up to the challenge of a long commute to work, but you can definitely enjoy the rewards of a tour on our beautiful greenways and bike paths.
Something I missed on this list? How do you plan to celebrate National Bike Month!
Blooming flowers, rain showers and bicycles abound during the first few weeks of spring. In addition to a daily commute, I've returned to touring mode. I actually feel I've maintained a good amount of endurance through the winter; enough to accomplish a 23 mile ride on my first long outing. Truthfully, I felt very sore the next day, but that didn't stop me from hopping back on the saddle on my way to work.
But with beautiful weather comes a different kind of danger. Instead of watching for slippery patches of snow and ice, I fend against angry drivers who are somehow less forgiving of cyclists when the weather is nice. In fact, at the beginning of that 23 mile ride, I had my first truly horrible encounter.
On the way to my favorite trail, which runs parallel to White River, I take a few busy streets. En route on Lafayette and 10th, a car full of men zoomed past me honking and hollering. One unpleasant grunt in the back seat rolled down his window shouting: "Use the sidewalk, BITCH!"
Later that week on my morning commute another man, this time in a truck, tailgated rather close to my rear as he honked his horn. At his first opportunity, he sped past me only to stop at a red light. I rolled up next to him, knocked on his window and attempted (less than gracefully) to spout my rhetoric about bicycles and cars having the same rights on the road. He rolled down his window replying, "Fuck you, Bitch!"
Again he sped to the next light, and again I rolled up beside him this time more eloquently stating my case.
"Well you need to learn how to ride," he said, "and get on the sidewalk."
"I have every right to take the lane," I said.
Aside from the fact that legally, I do have every right to be on the road, the part of these encounters that really upset me was the derogatory use of the word "bitch." Simply because I am a woman, these men felt it their right to demean me within the cowardly confines of their metal bubble.
A female friend suggested that because I was a woman operating outside the norm of their expectations of course I am a bitch. I wonder, though, would they shame a man for the same behavior?
Our society holds men and women to a different standard for many things: career, sex, success, body image, aging, and on goes the list. So, I'm curious: what, if any, slur would these men have slung at a guy on a bike?
Don't mistake my meaning. I'm sure that male cyclists have their fair share of negative interactions with cars. In fact, on the second of the above encounters, a male cyclist ahead of me heard my ranting at the car and turned back, his response ready on the tip of hisWhile I'm sure that male cyclists have their fair share of negative interactions with cars, tongue. But when he saw me...
"Oh sorry," he said, "I thought you were a car yelling at me."
So use to fighting this losing battle, we cyclists must have our responses packed away with the rest of our gear. Or be prepared to simply turn the other cheek. Ultimately, I regretted engaging the man in the truck. Neither of us changed our perspectives, and all I accomplished was to buy into his negativity and spread around a little more bad karma.
But my question remains. Are male and female cyclists treated differently by angry drivers? Tell me, cycling world, how do you handle such encounters? And what names have you been called?