Adventures in bike commuting

Jason Ogg, the blacksmith in the Discworld country of Lancre, has the gift of being able to shoe any animal that is brought to him to shoe. The price of this gift is that he has to shoe any animal that is brought to him to shoe, including for instance an ant, and Death’s horse Binky.

Similarly, when you have all the bike gear necessary to ride in any kind of weather, however cold and wet, you feel sort of obligated to ride in any kind of weather, however cold and wet. This morning it was about 45 degrees when I left the house at 6 AM, with a moderate rain that had been falling all night long. On the plus side, I had a 15 mph tailwind, so I didn’t have to work that hard. I wore tights and a fleece pullover, with rain pants and GoreTex jacket over them, and the long-fingered gloves. I don’t have the neoprene booties yet, so my feet did get wet. Still, I was okay.

It’s sort of ironic that school buses can be relied on always to pass me unsafely on my bike. This morning it was pitch dark and wet, but I was very visible — I have a headlight, a flashing front light, a flashing red tail light, and flashing mini lights on my helmet, red in back and white in front, as well as reflective stuff on the panniers, my ankle straps, etc.* I was laboring up one of the steepest hills on route W, next to the Morning Star development, and a school bus overtook me. And of course, passed me going up the hill, with a car coming the other way in the opposite lane, leaving me about 6 inches of clearance. I was momentarily trying to decide how bad the shoulder was and whether I should just bail out, but I managed to hold my line while it went by.

That’s the kind of thing I’m normally looking out for, though. Some people always pass in inappropriate spots, and I’m constantly checking my helmet mirror to see what’s coming, and watching the shoulder for likely places to go off the road if necessary. What I was not looking for, a couple of miles further down, was the kid crossing the road to get to the bus stop.

I heard the clopping of shoes on the pavement, and then saw a couple of reflective stripes on the kid’s dark-colored raincoat right in front of me. I hit the brakes hard, and the kid continued blithely over to the driveway where the others were waiting for the bus. From the height, I’d guess this kid was maybe 10 or so. Old enough to know better than to run in front of me, I’d think. I nearly had a heart attack.

Such is the sorry state of our nation’s moral fiber that I doubt that the kid’s vocabulary was expanded at all by what I yelled immediately following this event.

*One of my co-workers told me the other day that she’d seen me on the road when she was driving in, and I really cheered her up because it made her think of Christmas.

One Response to “Adventures in bike commuting”

  1. K says:

    I had a similar near-collision with a girl (I’d guess an undergraduate student) a few weeks ago, who stepped off a kerb in front of me while looking the other way. Though I think I only yelped incoherently at her as I screeched to a halt.

    These things do shake one up. At the next traffic lights I was still muttering about how she was reinforcing stereotypes about the intelligence-level of blondes.

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