Bicycling

I have a vague but substantial recollection of two, older neighborhood boys helping me to learn how to ride a bike, way back in the 1970s in Spring Branch, Houston, Texas, USA. I was about seven years-old. I think before they arrived, i was trying to teach myself how to do it.

The first amazing thing about riding a bicycle is that the gyroscopic force that makes it stable doesn't take effect until you are moving at what seems to be an alarming speed, which makes it a difficult leap to take on your own that first time.

This story was the same as with most people who have learned -- those who were teaching were running along, pushing and stabilizing, and then, when i looked back, they were standing and smiling, and it was (shockingly, amazingly) just me - and the bike. It's tempting to say here, "...and i never looked back," but that's cheesy, and would not be true.

In Austin, i have mirrors on my bikes to look behind me for the speeding automobiles that would run me down.

In London, i had no mirrors (they got smashed when i rode down the narrow spaces between the lanes of automobile traffic), but i sometimes looked over my shoulder to see if i could change lanes without crashing into another cyclist. I don't always need to look for automobiles, because i use my ears to hear them, and i think my brain habitually maintains a "map" of where they are around me, as weird as that might sound.

Most people talking about cycling in London describe how dangerous it is (for cyclists). Which is probably true, but also (to me) ironic. Coming from the States, the wonderful thing is that the automobile traffic and congestion in central London usually keep cars traveling at about the same speed as me. In the States, the speed differential is the undeniable threat. I would have nearly no time to react to some drunk idiot flying down an Austin street at two times the speed limit and he who would run me down and not even notice (much less stop). In central London, such insanity is inconceivable, primarily because it's would be immediately self-destructive. But also in the UK, people generally seem to be better drivers.

The part of my mind that loves to race along as fast as my one-speed bikes will carry me (a whopping 25 KPH or 16 MPH) thrills in not only keeping pace with the herds of boxy monsters that could easily crush me, but in passing them, every chance i get -- which in London is Often.

I smile as a squeeze between the cars, buses, and even trucks, trapped by their own useless volume (and volumes). I don't mind contorting my shoulders to pass between their mirrors, or even better, borrow a bit of freedom from the other side of road. No one goes (consistently) faster than me but the motorcycles.

When i'm zipping through the cars, a joyously mutated Genghis Kahn-ish quote manifests in my mind, having been abused by Arnold Schwartznegger in _Conan the Barbarian_ even before my mind got ahold of it:

The greatest thing in life is to pass the automobiles on the road, trapped in their own traffic, and to hear the lamentations of their drivers.

(Of course in that cheesy Arnold-accent.)

When thinking about (my understanding of) the theory of evolution and its implications, it has occurred to me that a single organism that is not being challenged and tested no longer has any value to the system. If it is comfy, safe, and unchallenged, it is simply a useless drain upon an environment's resources. I rationalise that these days, this is why disease takes so many of us, and i console myself that as long as i can survive an arbitrary and irrational set of near-daily challenges presented when wending my way through automobile traffic, then evolution will allow me to come home, kiss my sweetie, bathe my aching muscles in warm water, and have a hoppy beer.

What could be better?