Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Breaking point?

This morning I went to meet a school friend to do some work on a research project. The plan was to meet at school at 10. I woke up late and let my friend know that I would be there closer to 10:30. I headed out to catch the 9:25 bus #80 from Arlington center. Generally, the 80 bus runs on time. But of course on the morning I need it to definitely be on time, it wasn't. Not only that but at one point a bus came to the stop, dropped people off and then the driver said the bus was out of service, leaving more than a few disgruntled folks waiting still. Thankfully, there is another bus line, the 87, that also starts in Arlington Center and ends at Lechmere (my destination).

When it became obvious that the 80 was going to be a no show, I went to wait for the 9:45 87 bus. I called my friend and let her know I was going to be even later, and boarded the bus. Getting on the bus with me was a tired grandmother (I know this because she told me as much) and her three energetic grand kids, who proceeded to run up and down the length of the bus, screeching and laughing, until the driver told them to knock it off. Then, a few stops later, a camp group got on as well. And of course, traffic was horrific. It was then, as the camp group kiddos began playing and being generally silly, I began to wonder if the universe was trying to tell me something.

(Just to be clear- I love love love kids, and have worked with many kids over many years in many different venues, it's just that their presence today on an already crowded bus didn't help my mood. Also it really gets my goat when parents/guardians don't have the awareness to rein in behavior that isn't public area appropriate)

The MBTA is notorious for inconsistent service. This past Friday night James and I were at a Shabbat dinner and bonded with another couple who live near us over the adventures in taking public transport. The night before that, I ended up taking a cab home from babysitting after waiting for almost an hour for a bus shuttle (that never came) because a certain train line was not running.

I think this was the universe telling me to use my bike more for commuting. Considering that I built my bike from the frame up (with the help of a certain fiancée who at one point in his life built bikes at Wheelworks), and that I love said bike and am very proud of my bike building accomplishment, you'd think I would have come to this conclusion ages ago.

It's quite simple why I haven't, really. I am terrified of biking near cars. I'm so down with bike path biking, or rolling hill suburb quiet street biking, or P-town bike path biking. But when you bring cars into the mix with their sometimes lacking bike awareness and general unpredictability, I'd rather walk, thanks.

Part of the issue for me is that there are bike/car rules but not everyone adheres to them. So you end up with a mishmash of guidelines and everyone is doing their own thing. Sometimes the car is at fault, but then at times so is the cyclist.

While this fear does not manifest from a personal experience of an accident, I've heard enough scary cyclist vs. vehicle stories to keep my imagination running rampant on my anxiety.

Clearly, I need to get over this. Part of the solution is getting more info about safe cycling. I have a basic idea, but I think I could learn more. Sometimes when James and I are driving around, I'll point out a cyclist who I think is a good model for totally awesome biking behavior or the exact thing you don't want to do. This has been helpful. I'm thinking the next step is to do that while on my bike.

While I don't think being scared of biking with cars is totally bad because it means I am aware of the possible dangers, I do think that at this point I'm so aware of the dangers the fear is debilitating.

Also, James has a recumbent bike for me (that is his bike style of choice) and would love for me to bike with him on it. And since there is no way in hell that I'm going to get on a lower bike until I've mastered the first one I have, I best get started.

As I finished writing this out on my bus ride home in the afternoon, a baby started screaming and kept going till the end of the ride.

OK, universe, I get it. I also get that there will be a different set of challenges with biking more, but I think I am ready for a change.

The above image is the skull design on my bike frame. Needless to say, it is a badass bike. Gr.


  1. Go you! I have encountered a few driving a**holes while on my bike but have found that 95% or greater it's pretty straightforward. I have a much bigger problem with the condition of the road, though--giant potholes!

  2. Ah yes, the potholes... I'd forgotten about them. Good thing I know a bunch of nurses just in case:)

  3. The first two times I rode in traffic I was sparrow-hearted. The third time? No nervous flutters at all.

    Biking in traffic: Be afraid and do it anyway. It will get less scary all by itself.

  4. Excellent point! Usually the unknown first time is the hardest, with most activities. And, I almost called this post 'Feel the fear and do it anyway':)