Lately I have begun to feel that my role as a bicyclist is also that of a diplomat: I ride my bike to demonstrate to others that it is accessible. I also represent the bicycling community to motorists on the road – more and more, I view it as my responsibility to represent that bicyclists deserve a space on the road.
I was riding my bike home from work, and reflecting on an incident that had happened on my morning commute. Seven hours later, I replay the events in my mind like so: My water bottle had been ejected from my bike when I rode over a sudden bump while traveling on Evans over Santa Fe. The water bottle tumbled onto the street in front of a car waiting anxiously for the light to change. I dashed off my bike to retrieve the bottle when the light changed. I’d become an obstacle in the road during the morning rush to work, and as I made eye contact with the woman in the anxious car she threw her hands off the wheel into the air, flailing with exasperation and sighing her frustration. She honked her horn, and … and I notice that I’ve ceased to replay the event. I’ve begun, instead, to recreate and author the event in preparation of sharing my outrage with my roommate, boyfriend, and fellow bike-commuter, Michael. So, in observance of satya, I pause in my storytelling to consider what might actually be going on.
The incident of my water bottle falling on the street confronts me as I communicate – though intention or action – with the people with whom I share the road. I often expect that drivers will be annoyed by my presence on a bike, and while this can help keep me safe, it also creates a sense of competition (that exists maybe only in my mind) between motorists and myself. This attitude also casts me as a victim: it says, how difficult it is to be a cyclist! I frequently receive surprise and praise for my (seeming) dedication to commuting by bicycle. This reminds me that the concept and the action of riding a bicycle are difficult for some people. Although most days I am happy to ride my bike, I sometimes feel that it is difficult for me too. By amplifying my interactions with motorists, I victimize myself and validate other’s suspicion that bicycling is a difficult choice of transportation – neither of which I believe! This sort of exaggeration also contradicts my desire to demonstrate that bicycling is accessible and, maybe, not as tough as it might seem. It is possible, furthermore, that if I anticipate that motorists will treat me with respect, and confront them and their steely vehicles as such, I will be treated in kind.