Not many people around me commute by bike and are car-less. In this small town called Tallahassee, most of my friends own cars, even undergrads. That’s just how things are, being Americans and such. Even though I am a foreigner, grew up in a place where cars are not necessities, I feel quite the need now, because of the hills and how spread out places are.
Biking is great, of course, for its obvious physical health benefits, and the ease of parking. Yet, people with cars would seldom do it due to its many obvious risks. I, luckily, was trained to commute in New York City and Honolulu, and have developed skills and confidence that car drivers often cannot comprehend. Indeed, they are scared because one would be fully exposed on a bike, rather than protected by sheet metal. It’s fearful to be on the road, especially on major roads such as Tallahassee’s N Monroe Street and Tennessee Ave; and people are scared of accidents caused by drunk drivers. And therefore, fearful people would always have fearful excuse to hold on to their steering wheels.
As a former bike courier, I know that I am not crazy. Bike couriers know what they are doing, even with cheap bikes, while many recreational bikers have fancy clean bikes. I enjoyed hanging out with my co-worker because they understand how it’s like on the road, and have the mindset for endurance. We bike day and nights, rain or shine. Believe it or not, there’s skills in riding in rain, under strong wind and busy roads. I just wish other people feel less concern about bike commuting. “Oh be careful!” as if it would help and I don’t know what I am doing? If a driver want me die, I will die. If a drunk driver is causing me danger, would you really blame me for being on a bike, rather than that drunk driver? Shit happens; drivers die in car accidents too.
One can throw out all kind of excuse to not bike, and head to gym with their vehicle for physical health, or… weight-loss. Obviously, comparing to a car, bike is such an inconvenient vehicle. It’s slow, it does not carry large amount of cargo. Bike commuting is really inconvenient to maintain business attire, one would sweat all over before going to work, then stink for the whole day in the office. It comes with a price to look “professional”, not just the expanse of quality outfit. One cannot just go to pickup a 10-pound ham, furniture, or transport large instrument at will. Car-less bike commuters like me strive in big city like New York City, but would have hard time fitting into car based communities like Tallahassee.
But I am addicted to this inconvenient lifestyle. It’s a lifestyle, because of biking to me is not recreational – I must bike whether I like it or not, tired or not, hilly or not. It’s not about training to be physically strong, but to be physically and mentally strong with strategic to maintain myself and my bike to ride every single day unless the road condition is too dangerous even for cars (snow storm and ice.) Of course, this is a single person’s lifestyle, when I don’t have to drop people off… when going to Costco is impractical. Car people wouldn’t understand, to be able to cook my meal everyday, I must sweat and haul small amount (comparing to trunk space) of groceries by bike. I work hard for my home cook meal. Besides, after I started bike commuting, I have got in much better shape. In additional to taiko training, my legs are pretty strong. I feel less urge to eat snacks, and have no more worries with my diet.
With car, one drives from place to place without sweat, travels through hills without going out of breathe. Drivers don’t usually see the dead animals along curb sides, so they wouldn’t feel sad. Driving enables one to travel for distance, but missing many details of a place. Biking limits me to stay in a pathetically small area, but I see my surrounding in details.
Driving cars boost confident; it expands one’s perspective, as traveling long distance is not about physical exhaustion. Only the horizon is the limit. The belief that one can go anywhere at anytime is empowering, as it misleads people to think that they themselves are powerful, not their cars. Bike commuters are always in disadvantages on the road. We are certain that cars are going to pass us at certain point, and when they harass us (by passing very closely, yelling BS or honking,) they can get away easily. Bikes can never compete with cars, therefore bike commuters must accept their natural weakness and vulnerability. It is ok to be weak and vulnerable on the road, as long as one protect oneself by following the rules, using bright lights and giving predictable signals.
Being in a foreign country for so many years, I have faced many failure in life, mainly due to my alien status. Bike commuting taught me that – I am destined to be weak and it is ok, but it is crucial that I’d always pursue the best out of my very limited power. This is why it’s a lifestyle.