Sunday, September 11, 2005

Stephanie's New Bike

Stephanie just picked up her new bike, and she's HAPPY. She's laughing, asking good questions. She's delighted, eager to get out onto the road.

We've told her about shifting, braking, how to operate the quick release wheels. We've set up her riding position, told her about how she might feel, getting used to the bike.

She's really happy. Did I mention that?

We haven't mentioned hostile bastards who may try to run her off the road, like the prick in a pickup truck who played chicken with Laurie and me just a couple of miles from home the other day. Unlike most such cowards, he actually stopped when we waved our arms and yelled, but he said it was because he thought he knew me. This is how he treats his friends? He seemed contemptuously amused by my concern.

When a child learns to ride a two-wheeler, it's a moment of liberation. A wider world opens up. It's a less common ritual nowadays, since we've turned most roads in to race tracks. No parent wants to encourage the young explorer on two wheels to venture into curb-lined canyons full of impatient drivers.

Children of my generation rode their bikes to school, the library, friends' houses, sports practice. A child who rode a bike took pressure off of parents to provide transportation everywhere. Now the parents have to drive the taxi until the child is old enough to get a driver's license.

Adults who continue to ride have to make a very sober choice to expose themselves to the unjust persecution of a very few dangerous individuals who try to discourage road cycling by intimidation and assault. It's the last thing anyone wants to talk about on the sales floor of a bike shop, but it's the big elephant in the room. It's not a bicycling problem. It's a social problem. It's a fundamental philosophical issue with the abuse of power, in this case horsepower and the mass and hardness of a vehicle set against the inoffensive enjoyment of a healthy and economical activity by a brave individual.

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