Rational Fears when Biking

I have been commuting for years, approximately seven. As time has passed, my comfort and proficiency with road biking has grown, naturally. Yet I still have many fears when commuting. The days I get up early to cycle to work are often wrought with fear. And there are varying levels of fear that change depending on my environment, such as the types of road I am traversing, the speed limit of the road, or even the neighborhood.

There are four major fears that I continuously have when commuting. I do not write this to deter you from commuting via bicycle, but to inform you that we all have fears.

The first and main fear is the possibility of being hit by a car. I worry about it constantly. Motorized vehicles like to go fast. And why not?  That is the allure of driving after all. Yet being on a road where cars and trucks whiz by at greater than 45 MPH, I often wonder when will I experience a collision. I mean, how awake are the drivers at 6:30 in the morning? Are they looking at their phone? Are they texting? Are they paying attention to the road? I know the driver is angry that I am in their ‘driving lane’, would they hit me out of spite?

cars

Furthermore, a car travelling at 45 MPH that experiences a collision with a cyclist, will likely have one mortality, me, the bike rider. If not, I will definitely be the more injured one. I do not have a protective two ton frame surrounding me. I have nothing, except for my helmet. Will that save me? I think not.

Second, I fear slipping and/or falling. I am constantly looking for debris in the street that could cause any danger. Just a small rock could throw my tire. Puddles of water or other unknown liquids can also cause slips or instabilities. This is amplified in the street where if I slipped or fell I could risk hitting a car or vice versa.

My first time falling, ever.
The road was wet with rain but the fall could be attributed to the beer I drank. Luckily it was Cyclouvia and there were zero cars on the road.

 

Third, I fear that my baggage will fall off my bike. Bikes are so great in the fact that they can carry such weight in stuff and things. But not all baggage and tie down equipment is created equal. I have had computers fall off, backpacks, and even lunches that were lost forever.

 

Finally, my biggest fear of all, is that my bike will be STOLEN. It happens all the time. It has happened to many friends of mine. Everyday I leave work, I search for my bike in fear, wondering if today will be the day that it is stolen. I am meticulous about how I lock my bike; frame and front tire. I remove all my fancy lights (they are expensive), as well as any other attachment. I often double check the lock, and pull on it a few times. I lock it to a place that is heavily trafficked by the public so that it will look unusual to passersby if someone tries to steal it. Or I’ll bring it up to the workplace if it seems necessary.

wekilltee1Buy this tee here!!

 

So why do I continue to cycle?  And the answer is that I love it. I love the adrenaline that is coupled with the fear; the relief of making it through a dangerous area on my bike. I love the wonderful things I am able to see when I am not rushing through life in a car and the enjoyment of being outdoors. My anxieties and fears won’t stop me. I won’t let them.

Don’t let your fears keep you from the experience of cycling!

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Bikes in Dreamland

Last night, I had a dream about my bicycle. A beautiful black miyata, vintage. I was laying in the grass, as I often do after a ride, next to my bicycle. The grass was crowded in my dream.

There was a man and his friend sitting somewhat close to me. He made an offer to me, to purchase my bike. He offered me $850.

I paid $500 dollars for my bike.

I remember considering this in my dream, considering 850 dollars.

I said no.

And I rode away.

Happy.

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Connecting Louisville Metro

I’ve recently moved.

 

While this was a happy occasion with many perks, a downside was the increase in travel time to work, from five miles to ten miles. This may seem like nothing to you motor vehicle users, but to me, a cyclist, it means a world of difference. Not only am I located five miles more away from my workplace, I am located outside of the Watterson Expressway.

 

Louisville has five major roadways, 64, 71, 264, 265 and 65. Interstate 64 travels east and west through the middle of the city, and 264, the Henry Watterson Expressway ie ‘the Watterson’, travels in a loop around the city.

Louisville Interstates

My colleague says you never want to live outside of the Watterson. For urbanites this is true. For cyclists, I now understand, it holds even more truth.

For a cyclist, living outside of the Watterson means travelling underneath it. Travelling underneath it means cycling down a high speed roadway that motor vehicles exit and enter at high speeds as well. It is dark and musty under there. Gone are the bike lanes, or even sidewalks. It is no ped land. It exists solely for motorized vehicles.

Yet, this morning, I finally took the plunge. I spent many hours considering and calculating my route. I also used Google maps and its trusty bike route tool that gave me three options and times to reach my destination (approximately one hour). So I woke at 5:30, in order to leave by 6:30, and to reach my workplace by 7:30. The first ten minutes were easy neighborhood streets, plus the fact that it was 6:30 in the morning and not many were on the road at this time. But when I reached the dreaded overpass on the high volume roadway, I was nervous. My heart was pounding. It did not matter that there were not many cars. Was I visible?!

I clung to the edge, the white line. I switched to the shoulder with the debris, feeling slightly more protected there. Thank goodness I had lights because it was dark under there. Would drivers see me? Would I be hit?

I finally made it out. But that wasn’t the end. I was right next to a merging lane that exited the interstate onto my busy roadway. What would I do? Stay in the right lane? Switch to the merge lane? Where will people see me best? And they were all driving way too fast.

 

Finally, there was a sidewalk. I immediately switched to it. I had absolutely no desire to be on the busy roadway.

 

Ahead, a shining bike lane appeared, a cordoned bike lane for that matter. I was ecstatic. I had never wished more for a designated bike lane. It offered Protection, Safety. There was a sewer running along side it. Who cares?! Life was carefree again.

 

And then, I was within the Watterson Expressway loop again. I was near the city center. Drivers were real, respectful human beings again, driving at lower speeds. Within the loop there were designated bike lanes.

 

Cycling underneath an overpass (or over an overpass) is the least safe thing you could do on a bike. In Louisville, no bike lanes exist anywhere near these heavy volume, high speed areas. I don’t really understand why because it seems the place where they are needed the most.

 

A happy solution to this specific lack in bike lanes would be to add some, or even better, to narrow or reduce the motor vehicle lanes and simultaneously add a bike lane. This has been done in the Netherlands.
However, that is not to say that Louisville, KY does not have a burgeoning cycling scene. Our local government has spent much time and money developing bike lanes throughout the city, including the Louisville Loop, a 100-mile bike lane that travels around the city, much like a couple of our interstates. In fact, we recently reached silver status as a bicycle friendly community by the League of American Cyclists. Yet we have more work to do in order to expand our urban bike lanes and connect more riders to accessible and safe routes throughout the city, within or outside of the Henry Watterson Loop.

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Babes in Bikeland

I am going to pause and not talk about bikes for a moment, instead I will talk about babes. Not hot babes (unfortunately), but babes as in babies. Babies that are yours from the time they come out of you until they reach college. Well, they are yours forever, I suppose, not just eighteen years.

 

Recently, I had a break down. Last year, to be exact. It was a pivotal moment, I was considering doctoral-ism. All of a sudden, a time table flashed before my eyes. I am(was) 28, a PhD is going to take approximately five years. Then, a deep voice said to me, ‘but when are you going to have a baby?’ I immediately wept. It was too much pressure. Why was I required to think about this, about procreating? Why is it my decision? Why do I have to think about it at all until I am absolutely and really ready? Why must I be the procreator? Can’t someone else be the procreator?

 

This was all part of my break down. On a normal day, I don’t think about having children. In fact, it rarely crosses my mind.

 

Except…..

 

When I see someone on their bike with a little trailer on the back. The windows are screened. And it is covered in reflectors.
Then, I think to myself, ‘if I have a baby that is what we will do.’

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The Bungee Strikes Back

At the beginning of each bike ride, I attempt to bring along as little as possible. When going to classes, this is never easy. However, when going to work it’s pretty simple. I have a small across the chest bag (A Kavu which I love) and a lunch box/bag. I normally try to stuff the lunch box into my Kavu bag along with the book I am reading at the time, my work shirt so I don’t sweat it up on the ride in, my large wallet that needs to be replaced, and other miscellaneous items that are safe to say, probably unnecessary.

Two weeks ago, I had a great idea to bungee the lunchbox onto my bike rack in the back. It would be less weight carried on my back. Although the lunch is small, it can make a difference believe it or not. Plus, I have had a number of instances where Tupperware has leaked, been tossed around and mushed together, or my fruit was majorly bruised.( You’d think I was doing some type of extreme cyclocross!) On the rack, it would be stable, upright.

I prepared for the ride. I secured my lunch box with my final yellow bungee cord onto the rack. ( I have yet to purchase new ones.) I noted how cute it looked, wondered what you might call a trunk on a bicycle, and happily and satisfactorily mounted my ride.

I took the usual ride to work. Partway down Frankfort, someone honked. I thought to myself, you have plenty of room to pass, just pass. But other than that, I didn’t think much of it. On Story Avenue, (one of my least favorite streets to ride on) I received another horn honk. I wasn’t sure what was wrong. I don’t normally get this many complaints early in the morning. However on Story, people like to speed and there are only two lanes. I’m sure I was inconveniencing someone as usual, shmeh.

Anyways, I continued on to work. I pulled up to my bike rack at work with a smile on my face, full of endorphins, and the bass beating in my ears. I locked it up and proceeded to remove my lunch box.

But it was gone.

Only my single yellow bungee cord remained.

My delicious homemade spaghetti with sausage and crusty Italian bread, gone! Oooh nooo! Did I even have money for lunch???

I had half a mind to go search for it. My lunchbox. Filled with food. My Tupperware. Filled with food. My CRUSTY ITALIAN BREAD FROM THE BAKERY!

There was no way to return. There was no time to go back and search for it. I had to let it go. Let. It. Go.

I thought to myself, it’s just a lunchbox Katlyn, it’s not the end of the world. Maybe some homeless person is really enjoying your meal.

Well, recipient of my homemade lunch, I hope it was good. I hope you enjoyed the decadence of bakery made Italian bread, of homemade spaghetti sauce with lemon zest and sausage, of long, al dente spaghetti noodles. I hope it gave you the strength of the gods! I hope you were rejuvenated for days! That you didn’t feel hunger at least for twelve hours!

But I’ll still search for you, lunch box. Every day, on my way to work, I’ll look for your discarded self. I won’t care that you’re no longer filled with food or crusty Italian bread. I won’t care that you’re covered in dirt and filth.

I’ll welcome you back with open arms. And I will reuse you, again.

Lunchbag

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All Cyclists Welcome

CyclingClipArt

Oh Louisville, oh Louisville. I love you and I hate you. But, you do have a biking community, and that makes me happy. When I became more involved in cycling, I craved for organizations and communities for which to feel like I belonged. I signed up for it all: Falls City, Broke Down Bike Club, Bicycling for Louisville, Louisville Cycling Club. There are many.

 

I guess I kind of feel like I am part of a community. I like bikes. You like bikes. We like bikes. We have a common interest, right? I try to go to community rides but that doesn’t always work for me. Commuting to and from my place of employment works for me, which is not always so communal. You know, 7:00 in the morning, Frankfort Avenue, not that much traffic, in the dark.

 

Yep.

 

I’m alone.

 

But that is neither here nor there. It will never stop me from enjoying my ride.

 

The reason I bring this up is that there was a post on Facebook in a cycling group feed from a fellow cyclist. He was called a hipster while cycling, by another cyclist. Can you believe it? I, myself was appalled. Don’t we all have a common goal and interest? Don’t we all love cycling, no matter what it is? Spandex or mustaches? (I’m still not sure what a hipster is. I know I have been called one. I don’t think I am one. Frankly, I don’t care.) I’m just here to enjoy the road, on my bike. Aren’t you? Doesn’t matter your kit, your threads, your pedals…

 

I can’t help but think that if there is hostility within our biking community, is there an underlying problem? Will there always be hostility? Even if you are part of the same group, working for the same thing? An equal opportunity to use the road no matter the reason. Will that tension always exist? Must we belong to a category within a category? Is this an opposition to the opposition? How will we ever manage to get something done?

 

For me, cycling is about…

cycling is about…

cycling is about…

 

Cycling is about being on the road, on a non-motorized vehicle, no windows, wind zipping through my shirt, the glorious sun warming me, no emissions, not dependent on oil, not dependent on a corporation, not dependent on money (could be though), endorphins, exercise, sweat, hills going up and down, scenery slowly moving by, people, community, smiling and more, more, more.

What is cycling about for you?

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Story of a Cheap Commuter

As a biker, I slowly made adjustments to my ride. Of course, many of these began once I was riding more frequently; as well as once I could afford them.

Last year, during a whole year of avid commuting in which I switched out the gym for rides to and from work, I had a rack put on my bike.

I am a perpetual student eventually reaching for doctoral-ism. Everyday I carry around heavy backpack with my old outdated laptop which makes the pack even heavier. I purchased the rack to hold my fifteen pounds of backpack. I greatly considered purchasing panniers although once I saw the price, I decided some bungee cords would do. (Buy them at your local hardware store for a couple bucks.) In fact, before I had money for cords, I used recycled bike tube, which I still have not removed from the rack. This somehow seems reminiscent to the unwashed mold on my car from two years ago…

Which is neither here nor there.

Bungee cords will do.

Until, of course, your bungee cord unhooks and gets caught in the spokes of your wheels and you are driven off the road, thankfully, not at rush hour.

Last Thursday, during my daily commute home from work I heard a repetitive sound. After a minute or so of clanking, I pulled off the road onto the sidewalk. I rolled the bike back and forth, no clank. I proceeded to ride on. The clanking continued. I pulled onto the sidewalk again. After careful inspection, lo and behold is my beloved blue bungee cord wrapped several times in the spoke of my wheel. I am finally able to retrieve the twisted cord from the spoke after breakage of course. I am left with one lonely yellow bungee cord and a huge backpack. Because why would someone have a backup bungee cord anyways? Not this girl. She can’t  afford backups, much less pretty panniers.

So I proceed to tie up heavy backpack with lonely yellow bungee cord as tightly as possible. I mount and ready myself for the large hill hoping, at the highest point my pack will not fall off.

And lo and behold, it didn’t!

At least not then.

Give it a few more minutes and outdated laptop and backpack are skidding the ground and I am pushed off the road again!

Oh no, al fresco diners, don’t worry about me, I’m just a silly cyclist that doesn’t know how to cart her shit. I’m sure they were all wondering why I didn’t just use my car.  [But they don’t know I have a car, remember that! They just think I’m a lowly cyclist.]


Finally, (yes it took this many times) I put the pack on my back and finish the last mile home, safely.

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