I apologize first to any and all world class cycling fans out there because this has nothing to do with the astonishing 2100-meter bike race that takes place in the western hills of France. Nor does it have much to do with the incredible preparation that goes into such feats of athleticism. It does how ever pull influences from time spent on a bicycle. I wouldn’t have been inspired to write about such a concept without experiencing the emotional and almost physical backlash of motor vehicle driver verses cyclist. I will admit that I too was ignorant to the idea of cyclists sharing the road with the four-wheeled exuberant pieces of steel we commonly use to commute with on our daily endeavors. Until I was one of those leg pumping, arm indicating, “annoyances” on the road.
It’s a beautiful Thursday morning in Bristol, UK. My wife and I are spending the winter months experiencing the working class life in England. We don’t have a car and both our places of work are close to an hour walk one way. We could use public transport but that cost money and we are trying to make the most of our time here. Saving where we can and spending where it counts, one travels around Europe. That being said the bus doesn’t get you there much faster than walking anyways. So we both took on the healthy alternative of cycling and to our surprised it was the most efficient way to get around. Not only did you not have to sit in frustrating traffic jams, or pay for costly fuel, or worry about your questionable coworker asking for a ride home at the end of the day (although that did happen regardless of the fact I was sporting a bicycle). But you get a bit of exercise. You get to charge up and unwind during those stressful days at the office. You most certainly get to where you want to go before anyone sitting in a car or a bus. You’re also doing your home and yourself a service by reducing your carbon footprint and minimizing your dependence on the corporate hands that feed. Such as the oil and gas and automotive industries. You almost experience a certain paradigm shift in pace you feel you must keep in life. All of the sudden you’re okay with taking the time from your day to stop and smell the flowers.
Unfortunately this sense of independent freedom comes with a price. An unforeseen target is placed on your back as a menace on the street. A pylon in the rev limiting rat race we call rush hour. All of the sudden you have become the easy target for anxious road warriors to pass blame for not reaching the red light ahead 5 seconds sooner. I was completely taken back by the aggressive shouts from motorists passing by because they truly feel entitled to the entire surface area of the road. What is even worse is if you try and take your journey to the sidewalks those on foot treat you with a similar distaste. You have been stripped of any identity of being a human being and become the source of some ones impatient outburst.
All I can do is reflect on the situation. I’m certainly not going to be able to change every ones mind on cyclists, no matter how many particular hand signals I flash at these angry motorists as they slam their foot to floor as race by. I can how ever walk, or cycle, or even drive away with a new found perspective on just how oblivious we can be to what its like living life in another persons shoes. As cliché as it is this was such a clear example of how we can allow the conditioning of our modern society, always racing to the next destination, blurred to others around us who may live life a little differently then ourselves, to obscure the understanding that we are all in this together. Perhaps someone’s right to be a functioning human in their purest form using their god given limbs and respiratory system to go from one place to another is worth more than you speeding up to the red light ahead.
This is all metaphorical and I am sure I will one day soon hop into my car aggressively motoring down the road, late for work or in some exaggerated state of rush. Perhaps I will be in a position totally unrelated to what I just talked about and detach myself from the idea we are all human just doing our best to survive. That is very much a human thing to do, get caught up in the system and lose sight of life on the other side. But I will always use this experience to remind my self of the humbling fact that we own a car, we do not own the road.