Yesterday afternoon a couple of the work lads and I decided to hop on our bikes and go to Kramarczuk’s, an awesome Ukrainian deli in Minneapolis, for lunch. Our beautiful sunny ride was rudely interrupted by a self-righteous hippie (also on a bike) who proceeded to scold me for riding on the sidewalk of the Hennepin Avenue bridge (where there are no bike lanes whatsoever and heavy trafcic) and accused me of not knowing the law. It’s a common misconception but biking on sidewalks is in fact not illegal in Minnesota except in business districts. I attempted to reason with him, telling him that in fact it was he who did not know the law. He then digressed into some incomprehensible dribble about how internally I was flawed and that I needed to look within to fix my miscomprehensions…blah blah blah. In a very uncivil fashion I told him to go f*ck himself along with some other colorful expletives. Yelling at him, I figured, was still better than beating him up and throwing his bike into the Mississippi. I’m not proud of the fact that I yelled at a stranger in public, and the whole altercation has me thinking about my relationship with bikes and bicycle advocacy.
It’s no secret that I wish America would follow a Northern European model of bike infrastructure. Helmets, fixies, and bike trailers all offend my core belief that biking is safe and should be encouraged amongst the masses. Since I restarted bike commuting daily back in October, my zeal and passion for such topics has grown into a somewhat unhealthy obsession. Not a day goes by that I don’t rail on America’s infantile and misguided bike culture.
Uh oh. I’ve become just like that hippie I yelled at on the bridge…trying to jam my beliefs down everybody’s throats. Furthermore I’m in denial. I don’t live in Holland, Germany, or Denmark. I live in the USA where lycra, Hummers, and funny Styrofoam hats are the norm. If I really want to embody the Dutch or Danish riding tradition, I need to lower my blood pressure, chill out, and simply do my own thing. My outspoken opinions on biking and this blog are shining example of my hypocrisy.
I was ready to give up the blog and sign off for the last time.
As I was locking my bike and taking Marek out of his seat for drop off at daycare another parent getting out of her car proclaimed “oh I haven’t seen one of those in such a long time! A Dutch bike with a seat on the back! I love it, they are so comfortable!” She had a Germanic accent and it turns out that she was from Eindhoven. For one fleeting moment I was speaking with somebody who understood where I was coming from.
Redemption comes in many forms. What the past two days have taught me is that I can’t change my country. I need not convince the masses about the superiority of “my way.” I should simply be thankful that I’m free to live my life the way I see fit. That, after all, is the most important liberty of all.
Life is too short to obsess about bike helmets and infrastructure. I’m through with advocacy and just want to ride for as many years as I can with my beautiful little boy. That’s what it’s really all about.