I think it’s a common mistake of perception to assume the changes going on in your head are actually changes happening in the world. Here’s an example. I don’t perceive a running conflict between cyclists and drivers in Boston. To me it seems we’ve come a long way in our efforts to coexist, but much of the evidence points in the opposite direction. The Boston Globe ran a front-page story this week about cyclists dying on the streets of the city, with a map to various incidents, almost all of which included trucks turning right across the cyclist’s lane. My friends who ride the major thoroughfares complain a lot about drivers and their habits.
Things are still tense. Riding in the city is still dangerous.
My sense of calm is born from my own changed habits. I don’t ride the main routes anymore, almost ever. Without blaming the cyclists who have been killed doing nothing more than trying to get home or to work, as I look at the map in the paper, I can’t help but think, ‘But why were you there, at that intersection, at rush hour?’
Most of my riding buddies are on the road less than they used to be. It’s as if the background stress of dealing with car traffic finally broke through and overshadowed the fun of piling up the miles. They’re either doing less distance at odd hours or, in some cases, just riding trail bikes instead. It is, maybe, an unintentional retreat for a group who I might otherwise describe as tough, independent and fearless, as if we have collectively accepted that what should be safe isn’t, and that the risks implicit aren’t worth the stresses they engender.
In my mind, this is where we all are. We’ve been at this a while. We know better. Except we don’t. If the tide has shifted, there is still an undercurrent of constant conflict, of recklessness and danger, of self-righteousness on both sides. I find I don’t have the stomach for any of it. I no more want to talk about the need for more bike lanes than I do the rule-breaking habits of bicycle commuters. I just want to ride my bike, to leave and be left alone. That’s probably selfish, and I’m probably ok with that.
This week’s Group Ride asks, where are you in this? Do you feel the stress and conflict? Or, have you changed the way you ride? Are you riding your road bike less? Are you taking different routes? Or are you fighting the (good) fight?