A First Class Citizen on a Bicycle in a City

I’ve been riding a bicycle since my youth, first for fun, then for transportation, then for aerobic fitness. In urban environments, conflict often occurs when automobiles and bicycles share the road. Bikes and cars are like Republicans and Democrats…so few of them get along. The rules of order are typically unwritten. Bicyclists are often subordinated to second class citizens. As a result, I search for dedicated bike paths and enjoy rides on those paths where there are no cars whenever possible.

I’ve been in Madison, Wisconsin for the past three days. Its proudly pronounces itself the “bike capital of the Midwest.” Madison offers over 200 miles of bicycling trails. In 2015, Madison became one of only five cities awarded platinum level status by The League of American Bicyclists. Madison boasts a greater quantity of bicycles than cars.

While riding today I felt appreciated because automobile drivers showed me respect. Most of them stopped when I was waiting at the side of the road at a trail crossing. Instead of hastily rushing to reach their destinations, the drivers knew that waiting was the right and safe thing to do. I was treated like a first class citizen even though my mode of manual transportation was on two wheels. Four wheelers were riding in the coach section. Drivers weren’t irritated by having to share transportation paths with bicyclists. Instead, they slowed down, conveying good will, knowing that they would still satisfactorily reach their landing place.

Stress can play a role in hurried driving behavior. Ironically, one of the ways to cope with life’s difficulties is to get on a bicycle. It is freeing. Those who are criticized for “driving like my grandmother” should instead be given a medal for driving at a less dangerous pace. Drivers in so many places tailgate, weave in and out of lanes, pass cars from the right lane, and travel at alarmingly high rates of speed. Driving behavior in Madison proves that those behind the wheel can make the roads safer for those of us on bicycles.

Excessive time urgency is a Type-A behavior. It isn’t conducive to management of stress. Children’s book author Lewis Carroll said, “The hurrier I go, the behinder I get.” When your mind isn’t where you want it to be, I implore you to use your body to reach your mind. My mind rides high when I’m on my bicycle here.

When choosing between driving and cycling, consider the ways that cycling helps society. Our roads suffer less wear and tear. Bikes don’t pollute. Automotive congestion is lessened. Parking is less competitive. Neighborhoods are less noisy.

Cars and bikes must co-exist. If you are interested in experiencing compatibility between the two, visit Madison, Wisconsin. Bring your bike or rent one when you get here. You might be surprised at how well the automobile drivers behave and what a joy it is to be on two wheels where cyclists ride in the first class section of the plane.


Published by jmlewisjr

Hello. This is Jimmy Lewis. I'm in Memphis, Tennessee. My golden doodle, Lola and I are leaving on a North American tour in May, 2021. We'll be traveling in a 2021 Jayco Melbourne 24L motorhome. We have neither time constraints nor exact destination specifications. We'll spend May in Virginia, North and South Carolina, and then head north through New York, Maryland, Massachusetts and Vermont. If Canadians resume the practice of putting out a welcome mat for Americans, then we'll cross the border.  The seed for this journey began after my wife, Sarla passed away in May, 2020. Sarla was a yogi. An early yoga teacher of hers implored her to "Have what you need, and use what you have." As I prepare to close on the sale of our home on April 30, 2021, I'm deciding what I need based on the likelihood of using what I have. I give some things away without a flicker of feeling. When more meaningful items like the piano I inherited from my parents leave the premises, I feel like I'm saying goodbye to an old friend for the last time. Sarla's death lessened my attachment to the home we had enjoyed for 15 years and life as I knew it. I didn't need and couldn't possibly use a house that could satisfy the needs of a family with four children. I'll no longer experience residence, a concept identified with staying in a specified place, as I've heretofore known it. Life will never be the same, nor do I want to attempt to shape my future into a likeness of what I once knew.   I've set my sights on adventure. I want to be challenged by not knowing who or what I'll meet on the road. The outdoors is one of my default antidotes for stress. Other than my rig, I won't have an indoors base. Whereas others might opt to downsize so that they have the stability of a landing spot, I won't be able to go "home" as I've known it. I'm jazzed about the prospect of being at the whim of the muse, to go where my finger lands on turning pages of the Rand McNally atlas. My dog, Lola is indifferent even though I've been talking to her about the journey every day. She looks quizzically at me when I enthusiastically say we're hitting the road together. I'm confident that she'll do well. We've previously driven together to and from a destination 12 hours from home. She curiously gazed out the window and occasionally snoozed in the passenger seat. She didn't express displeasure about the podcasts and music selection that I chose to entertain and inform me while driving. This trip isn't driven by personal goals. Will I learn more about myself? Will I take advantage of the opportunity to reflect? Will I be lonely? Will I be uneasy? I'm motivated by a curiosity to follow the questions.

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