Tuesday, February 22, 2011


I complain a lot.

Sure, it gets cold and rainy and windy. Sure the bus arrives late or not at all. But really, complaining about it just makes it worse.

Sometimes paying for a monthly Metro pass is a pain in the posterior. Sometimes? It's a little too much to spend every month (in theory, in reality, etc.). I live somewhat close to an Orange Line station, and to be honest I should be grateful for Metro when it is punctual. So complaining about it, although at times completely justified, isn't really necessary.

Sometimes I don't feel like riding my bicycle to the grocery store because the street inclines ever so slightly and I feel every inch of road working my tired body (something often considered after a long day). Although the ride back is somewhat downhill, getting there is the worst part. But complaining about it? Really isn't necessary.

Sometimes people drive like idiots. Sometimes our inner road rage demon gets the better of us - yes, even when on a bicycle. Does it really do anything? (Does a driver revving his engine as he/she passes on the right, expressing his/her general dissatisfaction with a cyclist in the road do anything? ...The answer is no.) Reacting to someone's thoughtless decisions by encouraging your blood pressure to raise really doesn't help anything.

Also, there's that kind of headwind that you can feel, but not see. All of you who ride bicycles regularly know what I'm talking about. I know you technically can't 'see' wind, but you can see it moving street signs, leaves, or the wayward plastic bag. The most annoying headwind the universe can dish up is a wind that outwardly does nothing, but as far as you're concerned, it pushes back, pretty harshly, but in a way that only you can feel and could really use it to your advantage (two words: resistance training). So - you guessed it - complaining about it doesn't help anything.

Unless you've won the lottery recently or you really are making over $100K a year, times are pretty hard for most everyone. And even if they aren't things are annoying and obnoxious and rest on the nerves. The thing is that those things would be annoying and obnoxious and would rest on the nerves whether or not we have the chance to experience it, so if anything, a tweak in perception might, in fact, help where complaining won't. A few suggestions:

If it's cold, rainy and windy, getting on a half-hour earlier bus will allow for traffic and if it's toasty inside, all the better. (If it's an every-hour bus, I apologize. Take it up with Metro. I'm serious. Write a letter.)

Sometimes, I wonder whether or not I really need a monthly Metro pass. Sure, it can be considered a bit of insurance, since until April we're at least guaranteed some sort of precipitation that will bring May flowers. However, since I primarily ride my bicycle during the week and occasionally bus it on weekends, I have found that for the most part getting a monthly pass (at $75/mo. for cut lines and lessened local service) isn't fitting my life right now. $6 for an 'emergency' day pass? $3.00 for a pre-determined to-and-from errand? Rarely (aka never) adds up to the full amount of a monthly pass, at least not the way I've aimed to work it.

Is that the same for everyone? Not at all. The point is examining your personal situation and justifying the expenditure is all you can do. Check to see if you qualify for reduced fares. Carpool, or see if your place of work or school provides a subsidiary of some kind. But whatever you do, make sure to buy a pass of some kind. Per Metro.net, failure to do so (and when caught; I saw a guy in handcuffs for this the other night) "may result in a fine up to $250 and 48 hours community service".

And finally, whenever I don't feel like riding my bicycle at an incline or in a slight headwind that has the gumption to push back, I just count it as the aforementioned resistance training for the day. Birds, meet stone.

Our thoughts stay with us, our minds being the one place we can't and won't ever really escape, not even in sleep. If I could suggest one thing on account of this post (a reminder to myself if ever I've read one) it would be to try to fill one's head with as much positive reinforcement against as many realistic backdrops as possible. And when it comes to dealing with the relative and sometime blatant carelessness of others, it's good to at least try to get along with others in general, because everyone has their day, and for the most part, everyone wants a tomorrow...

That said - glass, half-full. Frown turned upside-down. It is, in fact, possible.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Why Driving in Such-and-Such a Way is Never a Really Good Idea

I was going to navigate this post in a similar way that I do when things are on my mind and its easiest for me to - and in general, that's in list or general rant format. The thing is that I've already done so, a number of times now, and I'm actually a bit tired of feeling the need to do so.

I understand that people are imperfect, and that there is always something that can be done better to ensure that one is providing a safe road environment for fellow drivers, bicyclists, and pedestrians. Everyone has a momentary lapse of judgement or clarity, of course. But some of us make some unsafe, often simutaneously selfish decisions that contribute to a scary domino effect that can really mess up someone's day.

To be fair on my word to point this out to those who operate cars, this is the most dangerous behavior that I've spotted recently:

-trailing behind cars making left-hand turns, making a left into an intersection that has well gone past your red light

-when making a right-hand turn onto another street, looking for cars coming from the left and not at all into a crosswalk at the right

-not allowing enough room for cyclists to be passed in a safe manner when riding in the road

-not using left and right indicators to signal a lane change or upcoming intended turn

-swinging open the car door into oncoming traffic without checking for cars/bicycles

-pulling out into oncoming traffic without checking for cars/bicycles

-making a right - or, in some cases, a left - when the arrow is, in fact, red (I've seen this at the Orange Line and have seen both a car getting hit and a car just narrowly avoiding getting hit)

-going against traffic lights in general

And in general not heeding certain signs, such as... well, ONE WAY, DO NOT ENTER, and so on. Running stop signs is another big one.

It's easy to forget operating machinery is serious business. Because I ride my bicycle in traffic I find that if I don't ride properly I will only disrupt the flow of traffic. Someone might miss me, but they may also be very annoyed with my behavior. Someone might miss me, and then they'll judge all cyclists by my lack of care. Someone might miss me, but then one day someone might hit me.

Point being is that one thing leads to another leads to another, and if we become too comfortable in the things that we know are not good habits, it will catch up to us one day. The things that we do to prepare for our drive, from the major - keys, gas, insurance - to the just as practical - buckle your seat belt, check your mirrors, stick the key in the ignition, get into reverse, then drive - will mean nothing if we don't forget that the environment in which we maneuver is much bigger than we are. Mess with the balance, and mess up someone's day. Continue to do so, and it's possible that that day will one day be yours.

I hope to never have to make another post like this again.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

A Prologue to the Next

A few weeks ago, my folks lent me their car so I could house-sit for them and still run back and forth between my house and theirs, and so on.

A while ago I admittedly had some issue with driving. It wasn't that I couldn't drive; it was more that I went a little, well, stir-crazy while doing so. I explained this to a friend the other day who also rides her bicycle enough to understand the following: that there is the potential for experiencing slight shock when going from riding one's bicycle for a long time to driving a car. Any change can cause slight waves, no matter how miniscule, this being no exception.

When riding my bicycle, I've found how easy it is to feel an incline or wind applying pressure from either side. You can feel your body pushing limits and getting stronger. You can smell such things as night-blooming jasmine, freshly cut grass and orange blossoms. You can't really experience those things when driving. (Not fully, anyway.) Going from powering a machine with my whole body to powering a machine with the touch of my foot took all the challenge out of it and did a quick number on my psyche, I'll tell you that much. But as usual, I digress.

Considering it's been about two or so years since that happened and that I have driven much more since then, I obviously didn't have that issue this time (although the difference in activity and energy level becomes apparent within a few days). Rather, the ability to drive offered me the opportunity to observe others' driving styles that end up being dangerous not only to themselves, but to others. (Also, happily, it helped me personally see that being an active member of the road - on my bicycle, at least - has made me much more assertive and cautious in general.)

In the last post, I focused on cycling and how important it is to not just consider oneself when on the road, but rather, by having the mindset that what one does can directly effect the other, the road can be a safer place to be for everyone. Along that same vein, the following post will basically make similar points towards drivers who could probably benefit from exercising more caution.