One of the cool things about bicycling through your community is that you really get to experience it in a raw and intimate way. Also, the down side is that you have to experience your community in a raw and intimate way. Randy and I have taken to biking three times a week because exercise-wise it kicks our butts even more than running and burns a ton of calories. Since we live on a hill that even sugared-loaded kids won’t hike up on Halloween for trick-or-treat, biking in our sub-division is out of the question. So we load up the bikes and drive a mile down the main road, leave the car in a park-and-ride lot, and head out on our biking adventure.
We ride on a couple of roads that loop behind the highway but somehow transport us to a different time and place, the land that time forgot, a million miles away from the city we’re so geographically close to. Its beautiful. Its rustic. We feel an energizing breeze as we zip passed a little white church, under an old stone railroad bridge, and by a goose out for an evening walk. Its charming, its relaxed.
And then its awful. We pass giant piles of garbage just sitting by the side of the road in someone’s yard, untouched for weeks. We smell pungent sewage with every gulp of air as we try to fill our lungs during challenging hills. And we get yelled at. People in cars slow down to pass us and shout angry things as us before speeding off. Sometimes they wave gestures out their windows to match their foul words, and then laugh at their perceived cleverness.
The cleverness of the dogs we meet is what really gets to us. They are the truly scary part of the ride. Last week three big dogs worked together to try and bring me down. One chased behind my back wheel, another ran beside me and barked, its mouth frighteningly close to my shoe, while the third ran ahead of me and stopped in its tracks, trying to block my path. Randy’s been chased as well. And once, three boys tried to sick their dog, Bear, on me as I rode past. “Bear! Chase her! Get her Bear!” Luckily, Bear was on the same diet as his portly cohorts and couldn’t catch up with me. Randy and I are thinking of investing in some anti-dog pepper spray sold in bike shops. Apparently our problem is not an isolated one that only afflicts people riding on twilight-zone-esque back roads. Randy read a survey of Cincinnati bikers and nearly all reported they’d been bullied by drivers – yelled at, had garbage thrown at them, or even had a car try to run them off the road.
Why would people do this? We’re loosing faith in humanity, one person at a time. I would expect the random odd person to be hateful and go out of their way to be rude or mean, but this is happening to us on a weekly basis. Its disheartening and its hard not to want to react by recoiling into our own happy and peaceful cocoon and washing our hands of a society that produces so many jerks. I just want harmony……and politeness. I’d like to wrap up this post with a lesson I’ve learned or an insight that gives me hope but I’m empty. Its something that I’ve just really been struggling with lately because of our biking encounters and several other observations in daily life. And I expect I will be struggling for a while to find my place in this situation and flesh out how I want others’ to affect me. But right now I think I’ll go curl up in my cocoon for a little while…