Bike Fall...

No, not falling on my bike, but biking in autumn. Today marks the coldest post-Sadie commute that I have had. This is nothing significant temperature-wise, because it had dipped down around 30F before the race, but it does signify the beginning of a new challenge I've put forward for myself. Last year I set the goal that I would commute by bike every day to work and classes, rain or shine, and I accomplished that; however, after my summer internship ended and Dan and I were married, I had a break before my next position, so biking fell off when I resumed work in the early Fall of 2006. This winter, I would like to commit to carrying on my commute.
This new challenge stems from a couple things: the weight I gained last winter wasn't appreciated, I love that I am not contributing to air and noise pollution in my city, and the extra pocket cash I save from not filling any tank other than my stomach is very welcome when it comes time to pay the bills. Those are the more material reasons, but there are others. Plain and simple, I would miss my ride in the morning. Sure, there are days when I hit the snooze a few too many times, and I just don't want to hop out of bed and exert myself, but once I get on my bike and start to move through the streets, that all drops away.
This morning ('30F, feels like 28F, according to weather.com) I noticed something different about my ride. Now that we are getting close to the winter months, there is a different crop of cyclists on the street; the herd has thinned. Riders that I encountered on my route all gave me the nod, or even said hello in passing when I had reached the bike trail portion of my ride, right by the museum. This sense of warmth in the early morning chill wasn't only extended to me by cyclists - more surprising to me was the reaction I got from a couple motorists. One man, getting out of his car, actually saw me coming (for once), and stepped back against his car so I didn't have to swerve further into the street to give him room; this in itself is a politeness that I rarely encounter, but the more amazing thing to me is that he smiled and said 'good morning.' Another car, while stopped at a light, beeped at me; I turned expecting someone to be edging up behind me to make an illegal right turn on red, but instead the driver smiled and waved.
Perhaps all these people, at this early juncture, are amused by the sight of someone who chose to throw on some extra layers and bike, while they chose to throw on some extra layers, crank the heat in their car, and drive. All of this cold weather street culture is a bit new to me, so I'm not sure whether or not this was one unique morning of city-wide good with towards cyclists (a rare thing), or an attitude that will prevail throughout the long weeks, and short days, of winter. The cynic in me wants to think that as the weather worsens, as it inevitably will in Chicago, so will peoples' moods and attitudes towards anything that could be considered a road inconvenience; hopefully this won't be the case. I'd like to think that there is something out there in the Chicago winter, through the slush, snow, and crappy traffic - the dark days and darker nights - that binds everyone on the streets together. I'll call this sense of unity the 'Hey, it sucks out, and we're all trudging through it to get to work and back, so you're not nearly as bad as I thought you were in August' principle.


julie said...

i think winter cyclist unity is caused by a drug that seeps into your bloodstream from your Under Armor.

yeahdog said...

Ooooh, that would explain why my legs are becoming mildly-reflective; I just thought it was my pasty Eastern Euro heritage combined with a lack of natural sunlight!