I learned a new word the other day. The word is “knob” and it appears to be Canadian slang for idiot or moron. I know this because Alex Pierson, some woman who is apparently a media personality in Ottawa (or maybe it was Toronto or Regina…), was out driving and snapped a picture of a cyclist and posted it to Twitter.
There are at least two ways to look at the picture Ms. Pierson tweeted. If you’re a self absorbed motorist, you might look at it and think “She’s right. I wish knobs like this guy would get out of my way, too.” If, on the other hand, you’re a cyclist or perhaps know a cyclist, you look at it and think that maybe, just maybe, Ms. Pierson is the real knob here. I mean, the street is icy and she’s snapping pictures while driving instead of looking over her shoulder and merging left so that she can safely pass? Even the Ottawa police weighed in.
I’ve found myself thinking about this tweet since it was posted a few days ago, mostly because Ms. Pierson’s mindset is so prevalent across North America. I thought of it again as I was heading out on my bike this morning. It was negative two degrees here in Jefferson and the power was out. Instead of sitting around stressing about how long it would be until our water pipes burst, I decided to get on the bike and ride around to see if anyone else had power. Nobody did. The law enforcement center and Aureon’s offices just north of the square had their big Kohler generators rumbling. Everything else was dark, even City Hall. This was good. This made restoring power a much higher priority than it would have been if it was just our house that was dark. Once again, being on the bike cleared my mind and made me feel a little better, just like it always does.
Even so, I know that lots of people think I’m nuts (or a knob) for cycling when the temperature is south of zero. Here’s the thing, though. Most of these people think I’m nuts period. It has nothing to do with the weather. I rode 20 miles today and had a lot of fun. I was also getting some exercise while Ms. Pierson’s arteries were hardening. I’ve been riding my Surly Wednesday fat bike since snow showed up in Iowa about a week ago. It’s a bit of work propelling this beast forward, but it’s also more than a bit of fun. It’s certainly a lot more fun than tweeting while I’m supposed to be driving.
When I started 2017, I got it in my head that it would be sort of neat to ride five miles or more every single day for a whole year. I’m not getting any younger, so this is the year. There are only five days left and I’m not of a mind to let a little sub-zero weather stop me now. That said, I don’t want to make this sound bigger than it actually is. That’s not false modesty. It just isn’t. Consider this. Cal Ripken found a way to play 2,632 professional baseball games over sixteen seasons without a miss. Now THAT’S a streak. That puts things in perspective. Anyone who wants to ride a bike every day for a year can do so. It’s not some Superman or Wonder Woman thing. All it requires is that we look at things a little differently. Maybe you’ll choose to do it in 2018. That would be very cool…
Speaking of 2018, I have been thinking about the upcoming year a lot lately. When I was a kid growing up in the 1960s and 1970s, 2018 was too far off to even consider. I never planned to live this long yet here I am. I might as well make something of it. Here’s my plan.
First, I am going to recruit bike friendly people to positions of power in myriad companies across North America. I already recruit and I’m pretty good at it, so why not? If we can successfully move bike friendly people into leadership positions at big companies, perspectives will change very quickly. This may be the ONLY way we get things to change.
Second, I’m heading to Seattle to ride the Cascade Bicycle Club’s Seattle to Portland Bicycle Classic with my good friend Jason Jepson in July. It’s 203 miles and we’re going to do it in one day. It will give me a chance to cycle through some new country, renew an old friendship and ride further than I ever have in a single day.
Lastly, I want to raise awareness of safety…particularly when it comes to children on bikes. I know that there are already a lot of people a lot more qualified than I am doing this, but the message doesn’t seem to be getting out quickly enough. There’s still this prevalent mindset across North America that when a child is harmed by a motorist that it’s the child’s fault. Nobody comes right out and says it like that, but if you listen carefully you’ll almost always hear things like the child “darted” between parked cars or he or she was wearing clothing that made it “impossible” for the motorist to react in time. This sort of victim blaming needs to stop. It’s the biggest reason that children continue to die at the hands of reckless motorists and it is almost completely avoidable. I know this because it has already been proven.
So all in all, I’m totally stoked for 2018. It’s going to be a great year. For you too, I hope.