Sunday, November 29, 2009

Riding Where They Don't

Riding a bike in Seattle makes you something of an anomaly, especially if you’re not dressed in spandex and trying to go as fast as you can. But even so, you feel like you’re part of some kind of community—even one that’s a ragtag collection of often-drunken cyclists—and you usually have a sense that although you’re in the minority of travelers on the road, you’re not some strange visitor from outer space come to steal people’s land and deflower their daughters (not that such thoughts never cross your mind, particularly when you get right-hooked by some guy in an SUV taking the high-school girls’ soccer team to the mall.)

Out here, though, in the suburbs of Minneapolis, where we’re visiting our friends on the far side of Thanksgiving, you ride a bike and it’s like you’re all alone, pedaling around on roads that haven’t seen human-powered two-wheeled transportation since the time old Ole Larson ran out of gas on his Harley and had to push it half a mile to the gas station at the mall.

That’s not enough to keep me from borrowing my host’s old Specialized mountain bike and do my usual Sunday morning cycle to a nearby coffee shop—this one, a local Starbucks knockoff in a shopping mall about three miles away—but it is sufficient to make me hyper-aware of how surprised car drivers are to see me coming up on their left as they ready themselves at intersections for the lights to change before flooring it off into traffic.

I managed not to get run over, which struck me as something of an accomplishment, although there was a point, at a four-way intersection by the mall where I pressed all the crosswalk buttons and succeeding in activating every pedestrian light, thereby holding up cars for a good ten or fifteen extra seconds, where I could tell that their drivers wouldn’t have minded rolling over me, deflowered daughters or not.


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