Riding back to the office on my lunch break I watch a woman on a bike. She’s on the sidewalk on the opposite side of the street. At a red light I watch her veer through two lanes of cars. I cringe. She is now at least on the “correct” side of the street & heading in the “correct” direction, but she proceeds to blow through the red light.
This is not a rare thing. I see this kind of thing at least once per day. When I am of a mind to, counting cyclists invariably returns an overwhelming majority of bikes on the sidewalks & running red lights. This is just how we ride bicycles in Albany; like maniacs.
It occurs to me that, when I talk to people about riding a bike in this city, this is what they think I’m doing.
Biking around, parking is never a problem. I don’t have to fight with anyone for a parking space. I don’t have to pay for a meter, or a garage. I won’t get a ticket.
Sure, parking a bike isn’t always perfect. Sometimes you lock up to a bent fence, or a tree, or maybe the bike racks are where the cashiers hang out to smoke cigarettes.
But then there are those sunny Sundays when I ride to the park & every parking space is filled with a car or an SUV & I can just roll up to a picnic table & camp out for an hour or two. It’s a good thing.
Over the weekend I rode way out into the country. I was there, pedaling slowly through the rain, when I saw them. Two horses in field.
I stopped. There was the sound of the rain on my gear, my breathing, an occasional car hissing by. I moved my bike a little further off the road, put down the kickstand, & crossed to the other side. I pulled out my phone & took a picture, but then I just stared at them.
The rolling green hills, a hundred shades of a color that didn’t exist three months ago. Grass, curling lines of trees, the long stretch of a fence. & way out in the distance were two horses. A large brown one grazing. A smaller white one with a bright red-brown stain across its ribs. They looked back at me, then carried on.
The cars raced by, missing the moment.
When you drive a car you move so fast. Your attention is (hopefully) focused on the road in front of you, & anything in front of you is in your way. Anything off to the side doesn’t even exist.
But when you slow down you see things. Like animals.
I pedal along, watching the sine wave bounce of a squirrel. In the morning, I can race a rabbit down the street. Down by the river, I’ve passed deer. There is nothing like the joy of riding amongst a small flock of birds, even if only for a few hundred feet.
On a bike, or on foot for that matter, you see these things not as obstacles, but as living creatures who are part of the world around you.
It’s a good thing.
I’m starting a new category for ruminations on the good life as experienced on a bike.
There is a special joy that comes from hitting one green light after another. There are a few stretches of intersections where, if I time it correctly, I can pass through a handful of green lights without missing a beat.
For example, from Washington Park I turn left on Lake when the light turns green. If I resist the urge to thunder up to the intersection, the light at Lake & Madison will be green when I get there. If no cars are running their red light, I can roll through it. There are two more lights which, if I take my time, will both be green as I sail through them. Up the other side, it’s a long climb, but if I don’t rush it the light at New Scotland will turn green a few seconds before I get there. I turn right, & if I’m chill, the light at Academy will also be green. That’s five green lights.
Sometimes, in these stretches, I am passed by cars that gun it & race to the next red light. I roll up, quietly, slowly, & approach the intersection just when the light turns green. & this process repeats. For blocks.
I am not trapped in a hurry-up-&-wait scenario. I am a fluid, flowing, thing, like the wind. It’s a good thing.