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Old 07-04-09, 02:16 AM   #1
heypaul
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"A Bike and a Prayer"--- A Meditation on Being Vulnerable

I ran into this essay by Chip Brown from 1988 over at the Transportation Alernatives website. Forgive me if it's been brought up here before. If it has, and you can't forgive me, then the hell with you.

http://www.transalt.org/files/resour...kenprayer.html

This passage really gets to me:

"At a deeper level, city riding is a continual lesson in feminine principles, in particular the art of being vulnerable. A confrontational, macho aesthetic spells calamity. You must learn to yield, to dodge, to seek harmony. You are obliged to mind the web of interrelations, that complicated mesh of interests, conflicts, intentions: See that stockbroker signaling for a cab at the corner? Wake up, that man's arm may bring a ton of yellow metal swerving across your path. See that poet with the uncertain expression? He's forgotten his briefcase; he's about to turn around in the middle of the road. That fellow double-parked in front of Gray's Papaya — is he going to fling his door open? No, he's eating a hot dog."

He gets at the very heart of the problem of riding in the city. How do we react to other people? When there are people walking in the bike lane, it's natural to get hostile and judgmental. Hey this is my bike lane, get the hell out of my way!!! Or those parked cars in the bike lanes. Get a cop to write a ticket or if there's no cop around give the car's door a hard kick (especially if there's no one inside to beat the crap out of you).

Instead Chip Brown reminds us to yield, dodge and seek harmony. Not just for the benefit of the people impeding our way, but for our own benefit. We get to ride and be in a state of grace.
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Old 07-07-09, 07:09 AM   #2
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Nice read. Thanks for pulling it out of the history bin.
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Old 07-07-09, 08:01 AM   #3
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That was neat.

except for the subway tokens and CK Obsession, it could have been written yesterday!
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Old 07-07-09, 08:31 AM   #4
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very nice. Thanks for sharing.
I'm used to country roads. I'm afraid I wouldn't do very well in the city. The only thing I worry about are dogs, deer, and wild turkeys crossing my path.
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Old 07-07-09, 02:00 PM   #5
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Those words are precisely why, although I enjoy my ride from the GW up 9W to Nyack,
I love my ride from my house through busy Park Slope and through the city to get to the GW.
There's that challenge, not of climbing steep hills, but of staying alert and reading the "signs" of the streets.
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Old 07-10-09, 07:09 PM   #6
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Those words are precisely why, although I enjoy my ride from the GW up 9W to Nyack,
I love my ride from my house through busy Park Slope and through the city to get to the GW.
There's that challenge, not of climbing steep hills, but of staying alert and reading the "signs" of the streets.
I'm happy that several people enjoyed the essay. It is a constant challenge for me to be mindful of what's happening around me and as importantly what's going on in my head. I was riding in a bike lane in the city and some guy with a hand truck was coming toward me in the lane. He didn't seem to be an ordinary Joe. He looked like he might have been a salesman. Anyway, he was keeping to his left (my right) which would have required me to move out to my left (traffic) and that just didn't sit well with me. Like why the hell do I have to yield, when I can't see what's coming at me? So I moved over a little, but came close to him. In a way, I'm not blaming him as much as concerned as how I acted. Thinking about it now, I could have held my ground and stopped my bike and let him go around me and made the point. Even that isn't the most harmonious. It's not in my nature or in my physical presence to yell at the guy to get the hell out of my way. If anything, the fact that I'm still talking about it is a sign that I did not handle the situation well. Had I, I would have done what was appropriate and gone on my way...
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Old 07-10-09, 08:15 PM   #7
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What I loved about riding in the city was the heightened state of awareness I needed in order to navigate busy avenues and streets. In that state of awareness I was also able to appreciate all of the nuances of city life, from the quiet neighborhoods to 6th avenue and 47th in rush hour traffic. You have to embrace it all in order to ride in the city without losing your mind, otherwise it will be an exercise in frustration and stress. I live in NJ now and enjoy early morning rides up 9W which I love since the quiet mornings and being able to ride without having to stop every few feet; I still commute to work every now and then so when I'm in the mood for a taste of the rides of old I cross the GWB.
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