Saturday, June 27, 2009

Idle Thoughts While Idly Bike Touring: Cycling In ABQ

You're on a bicycle for 6-8 hours a day, five or six days at a stretch. What do you think about? For me, it went like this (in order of frequency):
  1. Get song "Poker Face" by Lady GaGa out of my head. Unfortunately, this took much of my time, as the song was everywhere. Local radio station blaring during Youth Hostel breakfast: "Poker Face". Stop for sugar/butter-infused breakfast stop at backerai: "Poker Face". Watching MTV to see how U.S. culture is portrayed overseas: You got it. A few years back I spent some time in Oaxaca. That was the summer of "Dame Mas Gasolina" by Daddy Yankee. It was everywhere, loud and repetitive, and I mean everywhere. Well, "Poker Face" was this summer's "Dame Mas Gasolina". So a goodly portion of every riding day was spent trying to replace the disturbing "Poker Face" with other tunes. To this end I tried everything from Badfinger to Frank Zappa to "Dame Mas Gasolina". I was only partially successful.
  2. Getting lost, finding out how lost I was, scheming ways to get unlost, trying these ways, shampoo, rinse, repeat. Having either inadequate maps or no map at all, I spent an almost "Poker Face" level of time looking for route signs. This included many, many times in which I (and sometimes other tourers) would stare at signs and little arrows before multitudinous road/bike lane choices and go in circles contemplating the intention of the route/sign designers. It was interesting to get into the heads of those making the route, and I noticed that some routes seemed more logical than others. Kinda like figuring out the mojo of someone designing a multiple choice test.
  3. What form of pastry will Scot eat when he stops next? This was, by far, the most fun contemplation I had.
  4. "Has something fallen off the back (panniers, bags, lock, etc.)?"
  5. "Are my tires going flat? Have they gone flat? Was that glass I just ran over?"
  6. How Scot will change the world. This may just be me, but spending 8 hours a day on a bicycle can be a pretty self-centered, megalomanic experience. I'd see one of the millions of wind energy turbines in Germany and that would invariably lead to an hour of postulation about how to solve all world energy problems. Riding by a school (they were still in-session) meant thirty minutes of either "Poker Face" or an internal debate about No Child Left Behind.
The good thing was that I had too much time to mentally tackle "Poker Face" and pastries to get really bogged down in grand unification plans to solve all the world's problems. Still, since I was on a bicycle and all, I did quite a bit of thinking about bikes and Burque, and how we could make the ABQ riding experience more like the German one. Or at least 1% more like the German experience.

Here's a couple of the the bike ideas that ran around my head:
  • The Silver Bike Boulevard idea was a mistake. I'm all for Bike ABQ and bicycle advocacy in general. But I tend to think of the cycling community as similar to other "minorities" such as the Gay/Lesbian/B/T set. Creating a bike-centered street at Silver seems to me kinda like manufacturing a part of town for gay people to live on. Instead of focusing major money/effort on turning one street into an uber-bike friendly one, I'd like to see more effort put on making EVERY street/road/highway more bike-friendly. Besides, the Silver Bike Boulevard creates a galvanizing symbol for all "cagers" to foment their rage and hatred of cyclists. Not to mention the simple fact that the 18 mph speed limit ain't gonna work (as evidenced by the guy in a Lexus who zoom In sum, I've come (with some bike touring reverie help) to the position that we cyclists need to follow the GLBT maxim of "We're Here, We're Queer, Deal With It". For instance, I'm taking the lined bike lanes on Lead and Coal instead of the ill-conceived "bike heaven" of Silver from now on. I want, as safely as possible, to be in the traffic, to be part of the normal transportation stream, instead of parading through an isolated, one-shot attempt at a cycling Disneyland.
  • We should really change the annual "Take Your Bike To Work Day" to "Take Your Bike To Work Once Per Week". Having a once-a-year "event" is as emptily symbolic as "Black History Month". Knowing more about the African-American experience shouldn't be shunted into a "month", and the idea of bike commuting shouldn't wait for a special day. Turning the emphasis from a Bike Commuting Christmas to a "Casual Friday" will mean fewer participants, but the depth of understanding created by getting some more folks to ride just one day per week as often as possible would do far more to promote the idea of bike commuting and the advantages/needs of this activity.
Almost certainly the world would be better helped if I had merely spent more time trying to get "Poker Face" out of my mind instead of rolling around ideas such as those above. Nevertheless, they and others spun out as I spun along, and they stick with me in these days following the end of the tour.

It will be interesting to see how many more days will go by before I forget all this "change the world" stuff and subside into the typical summer languor we teachers for which we teachers are so notable. Chances are it won't be long.


Anonymous said...

"I'm Scot, I'm Back, Deal With It."

Anonymous said...

They say you never see something until it hits close to home. A dear friend was killed last week in a bike/impaired driver accident and I'm learning about the complexities of biking in ABQ. So much can be improved and I completely agree, slapping up some purple signs without pushing public awareness and acceptance is nothing more than lip service.

steve said...

We're here. Fixed and shift gear--Get used to it.
From Tramway Road, to Rio Grande. From Rio Bravo to Paseo-o. Down Lomas, Central and Juan Tabo. These roads were made for you and me.
Right on Scot. Be sure to wave, or say "hello" whenever you see someone commuting by bike.

Finally, American History is for all Americans--you can't segregate it.

Lambie said...

Dammit....Why did you have to say "Pokerface"?