Confession

I kind of hate to see the word “confession” in a blog post because it’s never really a confession. It’s always this check-out-how-quirky-I-am thing. It’s not something you’re actually going to find horrifying, it’s usually something meant to be adorable. I mean, you see “confessions” about being obsessed with mason jars or not getting the hype around a tv show or listening to dorky music when you work out. You don’t see confessions about not having ever cleaned your refrigerator or peeking at your friends phone while they went to the bathroom. (Neither of those are true about me.) 

So, here’s something possibly quirky and adorable about me that I think is actually a really bad habit that might get me killed one day. I yell at people while I’m riding my bike.

I did it three times this morning, which is what got me thinking that I may have a problem.

Yell number one:  I was waiting behind a car at a red light and watching him play with his phone. The light changed, still on his phone. “GET OFF YOUR PHONE, DUDE!” I yelled.

Yell number two: Not really a yell, but I was behind a Jaguar in traffic, and one of his brake lights was out. At the next stop light he was going straight, and I was turning right, so when I pulled up next to him in the turn lane, I motioned for him to roll his window down and politely told him he has a brake light out. He said thanks but looked kind of weirded out. Which I get. People talking to you in traffic is weird.

Yell number three: I stopped at a red light in the bike lane. Directly across the intersection, two cyclists looked back at me. What’s wrong with this picture?  Stupid bike salmon. I gave them a head tilted quizzical look across the intersection, and as we passed each other I yelled. “GUYS, THIS IS A ONE WAY STREET.” Well, they were pretty close to me so I didn’t have to yell very loud.

And then yesterday, this is a bad one, I watched a girl on a B-cycle nearly get flattened when she snuck up past a line of cars at a stop light, passing on the right.The light changed, we all went forward, and she was nearly hit as both of the first two cars in line were trying to turn right. And I yelled “THAT’S A GREAT WAY TO GET HIT BY A CAR.” Because I am horrible and rude and unbelievably snotty about bike safety,

I generally value decorum, but I can’t stop yelling at people when I’m on my bike.

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That was awful

I just came so close to getting hit by a car that I’m considering giving up bicycle commuting.

I am one of the safest cyclists I know. I wear bright colors. I ride with traffic. I signal. I always have my lights on. I wear a helmet. I respect traffic lights and signs. Even my commute is pretty safe, residential and then downtown. Lots of stop signs and stop lights, no stretches where anyone can really pick up much speed.

On my way home, just now, just 15 minutes ago, I approached an intersection with a two way stop. I had a stop sign, the driver across from me had a stop sign, and cross traffic didn’t have to stop. I checked for oncoming traffic from either direction, then proceeded to cross.

The driver, in a silver honda, looked left, looked right, and pulled out a little into the intersection. I stared into the windshield trying to make eye contact to make sure I was seen.

I watched the driver look left and right and left again, inching out the way you do in these residential neighborhoods when it’s a little hard to see past parked cars. But while looking right and left, the driver never looked straight ahead to see me, not fifteen feet from the front bumper.

I saw that moment of decision, that instance when you go from creeping out into the intersection to when you decide you’re clear to go, and I watched the bumper get closer to me, wondering in that instant if I’d be completely broadsided or if the car would just hit my back wheel. Calculating our speed, I thought to myself this is probably going to hurt a lot, but it’s very unlikely you will actually die.

My finger fumbled for my bell–it’s pretty loud–and in the meantime I let out the shrillest, loudest, longest scream of my life. I shrieked with every effort, I screeched like I was in a horror movie, hoping the driver would hear me and it would trigger a reflex to hit the brakes.

I veered to the right, and finally made eye contact with the driver, who seemed a little startled, and looked quizzically at me, but, having missed hitting me by just a few feet, continued down the road.

I vibrated with adrenaline and my legs felt noodley. I considered walking the few blocks home, but even though my legs were shaky, they still seemed to be able to pedal.

I got home and promptly poured myself a whiskey. Chris isn’t home to tell my story to, so I’m writing a blog post. My throat still hurts from screaming.

That was awful.

Bike Safety

I live about a mile and a half from where I work. I used to walk to work, and now I ride my bike, almost exclusively. (There are about two weeks in the winter when I will walk or take the bus.)

There are a lot of advantages to riding my bike. It’s faster, it’s more fun (wheeee!), and I also think it’s safer. I mean, obviously riding safely on the roads is a whole ‘nother blog post, but in the not getting mugged/murdered/raped/generally harassed sense, I feel a lot better on my bike.

I have long listed this as a great reason for me to ride my bike, to work or around the neighborhood, but this weekend I really, really felt safer on two wheels. Chris and I were riding home from City Park. We came to a stoplight and were spaced out so that while he went through just fine, I felt like I should stop. I sat at the light, it was raining a little. There was a group of men standing on the corner. I was wearing a bright fuschia dress and a bike helmet.

One of the men looked at me and said “Hey, girl!”

I gave a tight smile and looked back at my light.

“Heeeey girllll!”

“Um, hey.”

The man opened his arms wide and started walking toward me. He said something, but I didn’t understand it. My impression was he was coming in for…a hug? I was almost as worried about a strange man coming towards me as I was that, if the light changed, we’d suddenly be blocking traffic.

I stammered, “I…uh…NO!”

And took off on my bike. I am a rule follower, so I didn’t run the red light, but I did make a completely safe and legal right on red.

I felt so happy I was on my bike, not trying to outrun someone.

Later, in typical girl fashion, I worried I’d overreacted or even been rude.

But then the Awesome Mel inside of me was like, “Listen, Meek Mel. People can’t just start yelling at you and walk up to you in the road and not expect you to get the eff out of there. You are allowed to be rude to people who are making you feel unsafe.”

I don’t know how to end this story. That’s how it ended. I probably would have been fine if I stayed put until the light turned green. But I’m glad I could, and did, ride away.

Commute Regulars

So, I think this is a thing that mostly happens to people who take the bus or walk or ride their bikes to work, but there’s a group of people I see every morning, or almost every morning. Because most of us are on a pretty steady schedule in the morning. When I take the bus to work, I walk out my door at 6:28. Occassionally 6:29, but never 6:25 and never 6:30. If I Walk to work, it’s 6:25. If I ride my bike I leave by 6:42.

So, as a consequence I see the other people who leave their homes at 6:37 or what have you, and end up at the same intersection every day at the same time I’m there. There’s the guy with good bike lights I see riding up my hill as I coast down. If I walk, I see a man who is a little person and a lady who has spikey hair cut to one inch. On the bus I see the lady with the Crazy Eyes get on at the stop after mine.

So, I wonder if they have ever been like, there’s the lady walking in the light blue coat! Or…there’s the lady riding her bike in a dress! But I don’t know. Because I mostly recognize the people who look a little odd. I remember a lady I always see in a calf-length, Barbie-pink puffy coat. I’m never like…hey, there’s that brown haired girl with a black bag.

Yesterday Chris pulled a coat off a rack at Target and asked me to try it on. Because he said he liked the way it looked and thought it seemed, “So Mel.” (I’ve been known to turn a corner and exclaim, “Ooh, YELLOW!” at a rack of sweaters.)

I was ultimately sold by the fact that it was probably just a good safety investment as a bicycle commuter.

Anyways. I just think that someone, somewhere, someone is going to refer to me as “Yellow Coat Girl.”