So far, so good. Spring has finally arrived on the Palouse, with summer close behind. Most of the students have left; some for the season, some for good. Seemingly overnight, the leaves emerged on the trees and the green grass returned to the river. The Swainson’s hawks have returned, as have the bicyclists, and they are both a sight for sore eyes. My own hope is to see the cyclists working together as well as the hawks do. To that end, here is some wisdom and encouragement for those of you who may be tired of traffic, parking, and just not moving enough; and would like to see the world from a finer point of view.
Give it a shot. Dust off that old ten-speed, mountain bike, or cruiser in the basement or garage. Oil the chain, fill the tires, and go somewhere. The hardest part of any journey is often leaving home.
Be prepared. Think of a bike ride as a “hike on wheels.” Water, snacks, a few tools, and the right clothing can make a world of difference.
Gear up. All my bikes get four standard upgrades: fenders, a rack, lights, and a signal bell. The increase in utility is astounding. Your local downtown bike shop has everything you need, and then some, and will be happy to help you get your ride in top shape. A word or two on the bell: use it. Signaling your approach to those ahead of you is not only common etiquette, it’s an excellent safety practice too.
Create a demand. The more regular folks out riding to work, school, the grocery store, or the coffee shop, the more normal bicycling becomes. Drivers learn to see bikes, and municipalities and businesses learn that their citizens and customers want a usable bike infrastructure. Safeway and Dissmore’s, for instance, have covered bike parking close to the main entrance.
Be “That Guy.” You know who I mean. The one who runs red lights, darts in and out of traffic, and zips past the slowpokes on the bike path with nary a sound or signal to precede him. The one with no headlight, going the wrong way in a dark jacket at night. The one who leads others to believe that cyclists are jerks. Road masters, I respect both your wattage and your grit. But the full-on, low-clearance pass with not a speck of noise is both disrespectful and dangerous. Not all of us can hold a perfectly steady line on a bike, and I hate to think of what would happen if there were an accidental swerve. Bells are both cheap and light, and is there a sweeter sound on a summer’s day? I think not.
Tune Out. Music is a wonderful accompaniment to life and a great companion for exercise, but negotiating a wheeled contrivance takes a certain degree of attentiveness. The envelope of earbud-delivered sonic bliss tends to inhibit such a state, judging from my own experience on both sides of the wall of sound. So, do everyone a favor and keep the music to background level. Unless you’re playing “Bohemian Rhapsody,” in which case you’d better be singing all the parts out loud. In which case I’ll join you. And air guitar? Not a good idea.
Knock it… until you’ve tried it. I know, the hills and the weather are daunting challenges, but whither the pioneer spirit? I realize, too, that there are many who simply can’t manage it due to illness or infirmity. It is not them to whom I speak. It is the able-bodied, single-occupant drivers, who line Grand Avenue every day; and to them I say, as Freddie Mercury put it so well: “Get on your bikes and ride!”