Wednesday, July 20, 2011

I Celebrate These Phoenix Summer Streets by Riding My Bicycle

Party decorations

The heat and humidity are rising. During drive time, the winds pick up, and dust fills the sky, while rippling waves of stored sunshine shimmer off the asphalt. I'm tired from work. Yet I tell you: traffic is my party, the streets move and flow about me and I am joined with them, I celebrate the motorists gridlocked at the light and waiting to enter the non-moving arterial as I weave around, through and across their motionless metal boil on my lithe two-wheeled machine. I make eye contact, I indicate my intent, I go in an expected and logical direction, and it all works. I point between two stopped vehicles stuck in the clot, look at the driver, he waves me through. I don't presume anything. I stay flexible and react defensively, head on a swivel, my machine turning and going where I tell it as I pick a route, test it, and alter it as needed to move safe and sure.

Desert signage

I hear other cyclists say they are mad at motorists: I cannot concur. I welcome the automobilists in our public spaces, I appreciate sharing the road with them. I read other cyclists write that they are tired of traffic, but I disagree: I flow with it sensibly and smoothly, my motion predictable and confident, my hand signals clear, my manner unhurried and polite. For I find that in my patient and friendly stance, I am met with patience and friendly and unwarranted gestures: as if cars reflect my positives back at me, their greater mass and power amplifying it, and enhancing my confidence that the right path is the right path. It's emotion magic, communication power, non-verbal telegraphic communication and practiced technique in action, the road ballet which lessens severe injuries and death which would surely be higher if we didn't know what we were doing. We do. We do it. We mostly do not run into each other.

Bike lane visibility enhancement, paid for and installed by homeowner

Angry at lack of consideration for cyclists? Look at what this neighbor had done, installed a wide angle mirror at the end of a driveway partially hidden by tall oleanders, to see cyclists, and to be seen by us, during the exiting transition which has proven to be one of the more significant conflict situations between cars and cyclists. Cause for celebration!

Saguaro stop!

These streets are rich to overflowing with sensations, data, input, information, signs, symbols, signals, indications, hints and directions, all to be absorbed, appreciated, employed, used, digested, and stored in the internal map of this specific locality, and I am open to it, soak it in, aware and tuned in to what is the same, what is different, what is new and interesting, what's fast-moving and heavy, what under control, what isn't.

Does humid air intensify scent? Diesel vehicles obviously have their own scent, but do cars? City buses? Sight and hearing are the obvious important senses for a cyclists on the street, but what about smell, and touch? You'll laugh when I add taste in their, too, but think of it: the taste of a fresh-picked orange, or of a hot coffee from the favorite cafe along the route, and it too plays a role in the navigation, the experience, the celebration. I'm spinning a good cadence against a headwind and not breathing heavy. It's humid, and I smell them, the metal tang, the petrol VOC fumes, the leaking unchanged oil burning and the squirting power steering fluid from the screaming pump, the smell of hot brakes and soft rubber tires melding into the scalding asphalt. There's paint and chemicals, but also green, fresh mowed grass, the leaves of a thousand trees and desert plants looking for pollinators and savage storms. It's a summer street party in Phoenix. I celebrate it on two wheels. Get up. Go ride.

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