Today’s bike ride took me on my usual route down the hill and to the right to the bike racks next to the ER at University of Maryland Medical Center. I’ve done this ride at least a hundred times, likely more, but today felt a little different. Yesterday I learned that another cyclist was hit and killed by another car. I saw the post on one of my bicycle groups on Facebook, and commented on the link right away. How tragic, I said, because it’s always tragic. I know what it feels like to get the news that a car has taken someone you love. I know that when someone dies, they are gone forever, and you are forever different. I know this, and I also know how resilient we are in the face of grief, as long as we let ourselves feel it all–or as much of it as we can bear–and as long as we stay open to it, and talk about it. I know that a year and a half after my dad was killed by a car, I am ok. I feel joy again, not as often or easily as before, but it’s already back. And it hasn’t even been two years yet. But I’m different now, and it isn’t a difference I’d wish for anyone. It hurts, badly. So when I saw the news, I knew another group of people would now have to tread this far too well trod road, and I hate that.
It has been a long, warm winter of utility bike rides, to and from work, to and from the grocery store, to and from acupuncture and brunch and haircuts and all the rest of the regular places I have to go. I don’t have a car, hate the bus, and love my bicycle, so of course I’ve spent the unseasonably warm winter months riding my bicycle to and fro.
It’s that time of the summer when it’s just too damn hot and humid for bike riding to be all that much fun. The ladyfriend even gave me her car for Monday so I wouldn’t be huffing and puffing in dangerous 100 degree temps. Last summer I rode my bike 350 miles in the Adirondacks at temperatures like this, but it’s not the heat, it’s the humidity, or maybe I’ve just gone soft. At any rate, I left my house on Tuesday with a plan to just ride three quarters of a mile to the gym and exercise in the relative comfort of the YMCA’s air conditioning.
The sun finally came out out on Wednesday, and after a bunch of hours at home trying to catch up on email, I pulled myself out of bed–my office, when I’m lucky–and hopped on the bike to head down to War Memorial Plaza. I’d read on the internet that Nick Mosby was making an unexpected announcement at 1:00pm, and that would get me out of bed and on my bike, and then I’d be almost at that Chipotle and I still have that coupon they mailed everyone for a free burrito, so, given this tight calculus, I found myself waiting for Mosby to emerge and get all official in front of the cameras.
My dad was full of advice. If you knew him, you are smiling right now because you know how much advice he gave you. And sometimes it was really good advice, though I rarely admitted that, especially not in front of him. One of his best pieces of advice was to never start a bike ride in the rain. You’ll end plenty of them in it, he said, so why start out like that? I thought of that advice as I hopped on my bike on an early Thursday morning. It was raining, and there I was, starting a ride in the rain. If I could talk to him I’d suggest he amend that advice–never start a bike ride in the rain, unless following that advice would mean having to take the bus in Baltimore. Continue reading
We’re reading this book for one of my classes right now, Queer Phenomenology by Sara Ahmed, and in it she writes about the lines we follow, the ways certain bodies tend toward other bodies and objects, and the worlds we make together. It’s a dense book, and we’re all reading the whole thing, because it’s college, and that’s what we do. Once I leave the classroom and the close reading, though, what the book has mostly made me think about is why some of us take up the bicycle as an extension of the body, as the tool that enables new lines to be followed, new worlds to be made. What is it that makes me feel like I can ride a bike in traffic with cars, in any neighborhood in Baltimore, at virtually any time of night, and others just say nah? What imaginations are opened and closed when we ride bikes, walk, take buses, drive cars? Same thoughts I’ve been thinking for a long time, but the book offers a different language, and I like languages.
I haven’t been riding my bicycle much in the last few weeks. I don’t like to start a ride in the rain and I never ride on snow or ice, and that means weather has kept me bus-bound for awhile. I’ve been on my bike every chance I get, but sadly, the chances have been rare. I miss the ease of riding and the control I have over my time that comes with ice-free roads. My mood is better, my wait times are shorter, and I feel free in a way I just don’t when I have to depend on an undependable transit system. Continue reading