Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Good Bikey Karma

Sunday was the most glorious sunshiney unseasonably mild day. The perfect day for hundreds of smiling cyclists of all ages to make their way along Bloor Street in a cacophony of bells. A very pleasant surprise to see the bicycle cops ride with us and stop traffic at intersections. That works much better on motorist nerves than random corking. (unless you happen to be Trumpet Guy. Who can get angry at their own personal traffic serenade?)

My nerves have still been frayed in traffic lately. Yesterday I tried so hard to be calm and easygoing about motorist mistakes on my morning commute. After all, much of things that seem potentially dangerous are not aggressive-I-own-the-road types, but simply mistakes or bad judgement. (Although inattention does not help, and I wish Ontario would get around to banning talking on cellphones while driving already.) I was maybe slightly more to the Zen side of things than previously but still with much too much frayed nerves. But I was getting there.

Then I arrive at work and am riding into the parking garage and wrinkle my forehead. Huh did the wall shrink? There really does not look like room to get by the parking gate arm that I ride around every day. I better stop. Oh I'll just go around the exit side. Hey that looks smaller than a person width too. I feel like I'm having a moment like the guy in Amelie when he puts on the slippers that are too small, finds his lightbulbs slightly dimmer etc. Am I going crazy? Oh, I get it. "New gates?" I ask the parking attendant. He nods, and I grumpily get off my bike and pick it up to lift it over the curb. I think there's a conspiracy to thwart cyclists in the parking garage going on, but I'm happy to see the bicycle racks have not been removed. I really appreciate covered parking from the elements and less noticeable to vandals.

But today, today was good bikey karma day! The commute in was calm and uneventful. The sun was shining, the weather was lovely. I found the gap between the concrete curb and the parking garage wall so I could go nyah nyah I still don't have to get off my bike. Unfortunately with the angle and the downhill slope its not possible to do the same on the exit trip.

I wonder if the fact my mirror broke off my bike recently has something to do with my different perceptions of traffic around me. I pop into the bike store near work at lunch to pick up a mirror. They only have one style which is not suited to my bike. Instead however I am attracted by shiny things in my favourite colour (lime green). I am getting so frustrated by all the things that keep needing repair on my current beater. And I would fix it all up but it no longer seems to make sense. I bought the bike 9 years ago in California as a temporary bike to get around town for the summer, meaning to sell it when I went back to Toronto. Used and cheap, I couldn't be too picky, and I knew when I bought the bike it was too small for me. Somehow I ended up shipping it back, and riding on that bike I got addicted to cycling. And so I keep riding it out of sentimental attachment. But my back is now revolting at hunching over the small frame. And yeah I could get an extender for the handlebars, but you know what, I want a bike the right size for every day riding. Pretty. Green. I put enough miles on it.

Its just a basic entry level commuter bike, but I was hypnotized by the colour. Check out the Kona Dew Plus. They had a Kona Dew for $100 less which was the same bike but without disc brakes. Those seemed like overkill on pavement, but what do I know? I ride around most of the time with worn brake pads and haphazard DIY brake adjustment. I've never had a problem where I felt like my brakes let me down. But you see it wasn't green so it was not in consideration.

I happily pull out a 58 cm bike which seems like a good size for me out from the wall as nobody in the nearly empty store seems too interested in helping me out. Then someone asks if I want to take it for a ride and I'm like yup! Until I get thwarted by the fact I was not carrying my drivers license. Not really sure why a credit card is not good enough for taking a test drive, I'd happily leave an imprint for the full value of the bike. Oh well impulsive spending is never a good idea, I'm trying to save to buy a Baccheta Giro 26 for randonneuring and touring. That will really be nice to my back. But sitting on the bike in the store had me dreaming of a proper size commuting bike.

I found the perfect route to go home, and I found myself actually smiling when I got home for the first time in ages. I've been not so keen on Adelaide fearing Audi driver will try to run me over again. Though rode that way one day with a bikey buddy with a videocam on his helmet. Perfect! It feels much safer when "evidence" is being recorded. Queen - my beloved Queen - is great in off-peak times but in rush hour the jammed up traffic going nowhere is rather annoying. I resorted to trying to use the sidewalk yesterday as a passing lane, and then decided I was no good at being one of those sidewalk cyclists that tries to plough through everything because I don't expect anyone to get out of my way and instinctively dismount when I see more than 2 or 3 pedestrians.

Oh yeah back to the happy perfect route! Its up Bathurst (which has a wide enough curb lane for sharing) to Kensington Market. Then wander the market to buy fixings for dinner while at the same time feeling at home with all the other bikers around. Smile and chat to people while locking and unlocking bikes. Head along College/Gerrard with a bike lane. AKA the congestion bypass lane. I often dislike College because drivers don't know how to interact with bike lanes and the turning conflicts that occur, but all these are minor incidents that happen at slow speed and so can slow me down but are not going to be dangerous.

I'm almost about to lose my happy place when I'm confusedly riding behind two lanes of car traffic going hey didn't there used to be a bike lane here? Oh wait there still IS a bike lane here. I just can't see it because all the motorists in front of me think its a driving lane! Otherwise known as lets try to jump the queue and then push our way back into the main lane. I did grumble at bit at them as I made what probably seemed like a mad weave through various moving vehicles but felt quite safe. Low speed motorists do not seem at all threatening. And it wasn't the kind of thing that could wipe the big smile off my face.

But I'm smooth sailing again across Gerrard and as I approach Broadview it starts becoming congested and narrow. So I duck down a side street with a "Road Closed - Construction" sign, but its really not closed at all, I guess they don't want motorists using the residential street as a cut-through because of the construction on Dundas. Without the construction it would be a long wait at a stop sign to turn left again but with no traffic coming from the right its perfect. I do really like the bike lanes on Dundas, and I didn't think I would before they put them in.

As I near the end of my trip I hear a clunk clunk and look back to see my u-lock on the road. (oops should have done up the pannier better) But a nice pedestrian has picked it up to hand back to me, continuing the good bikey karma streak. And I end up at home with a big grin on my face. Because the whole ride was just... fun!

(someone makes a good point that I have too many posts tagged road rage but that's because I don't know what tags to put on the happy posts, I guess I will use bike joy)