Sunday, May 25, 2008

las bicicletas en la noche

My unsubstantiated opinion is that 80% of the bicycle riders in this city over the age of 18 are illegal immigrants. But that's not my complaint.

These guys - they're 99% males - ride their bikes in the street at their own risk any time of day. After dark, if they think the risk is too great, & ride on the sidewalks, they put me & everyone else on foot at risk. I have to walk a lot. Sometimes I'm in an alert, observant frame of mind & paying attention to everything. Other times, like tonight, I put myself on automatic pilot & think as I walk. I write. I sketched out this as I was walking. Observant or not, I can't see bikes coming at me from behind on the sidewalk at any time, & often can't see them coming toward me at night. Maybe the rider can't see me, although I usually wear orange hats afer dark. Tonight I wasn't. Streetlights don't always help, creating deep shadows & twilight conditions. I'm not against sidewalk riding. It's a city, even the leafy suburban type side streets can be crazy. I have a very small folding bike I got for sidewalk riding. It turns & stops on a dime. Most importantly, it has a bell attached to the handle bars. On the rare occasions I take it out after dark, always on sidewalks, I attach a bright red blinking light to the front. I saw a regular bike in the street tonight with one on the rear, a thoughtful rider concerned with his own safety.

But twice tonight I was almost run down by bikes going very fast toward me on the sidewalk, pedaled by grown men who looked Hispanic. I didn't see either of them coming until they were nearly on top of me. They gave no warning of any kind. I'm a pedestrian. Sidewalks are for pedestrians so we don't have to walk in the streets & be run over. In some towns, riding a bike on the sidewalk is no more legal than driving a car on the sidewalk.

Like most humans, I have a little devil perched on one shoulder & a little angel on the other competing for my attention. The devil represents what philosopher Allan Watts called "the irreducible element of rascality" in people. I usually listen to the better angel of my nature. Some night, as a bicyclist rushes by me on the sidewalk, scaring the wits outta me, the little devil might make me give the rear wheel of that bike just enough of a kick.

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