Today I took my bike up the Minuteman Rail Trail to Lexington and then rode a loop connecting Lexington with Carlisle and Concord. It was a pleasant ride through the cradle of the American Revolution (Philadelphia’s claims on the title be damned). The rail trail took me past the worst of the commuter traffic in the more urban towns closer to Boston, while most of the loop was on relatively quiet roads through leafy suburbs.
The best part of today’s ride was the almost complete lack of terror. I wrote earlier about how bike riding is a less efficient way to exercise than running, but the biggest problem with riding is all the cellphone-toting homicidal maniacs in their cars.
Running, most the time, is a great way to work out stress, even when it’s tiring and painful. When I’m biking, I always have to be on the lookout for the next attempt on my life. I get plenty of exercise; I don’t need the constant fear of death to keep my heart rate elevated.
Everything happens faster on the bicycle, but my ability to do anything about it is significantly reduced. If I’m running and I see that some idiot is about to whack me, I can dodge or dive off the side of the road. If there’s a situation where I’m the idiot, I can come to a quick stop within a step or two.
On a bike, my options for avoiding trouble are limited. Cars aren’t influenced by ping of the little bell on my handlebars. If they’re close enough to scream at, it might already be too late – especially since it’s summer, so windows are rolled up and the A/C’s cranking.
My bike doesn’t stop when I apply the brakes, it slides. If I dodge instead, dodging into a pothole, storm drain, curb, or tree might mess me up just as much as whatever I was dodging in the first place.
Sometimes I ride in a pack with other bikes. That can be safer, because cars are more likely to notice large groups of bikers riding together. But group riding has its own set of issues. When I go out for a run with my friends, I don’t have to worry about ending up in a twisted pile of elbows and singlets. Still, if something happens on a group ride, at least there’s almost always someone outside of the pileup who can call for help.
Bike helmets were unknown when I was growing up, but I’ve caved in and started wearing one. I’ve been lucky so far, but on almost every ride there’s at least one moment where I’m only a second or so away from testing my helmet.
I have to hope biking is worth the trouble. My body does get less pounding on the bike, but if I’m smacked by a car or end up in a pileup, all bets are off.
(31.8 mi. bike; 149#)