An Urban Cyclist’s Lament

The urban cyclist, who uses a bicycle as his chosen way of transportation, is in constant struggle. With the sole wish of getting from one point to another within the city, he gets on his pair, but is immediately faced with a perplexing dilemma. Should he take the fast-but-overpopulated and exhaust-plume-filled road, or should he stick to the seemingly inviting pedestrian luxuries of the sidewalk?

Inexperienced cyclists may say, “ah, but, what’s all this business about? It’s a simple answer, really, take the road! A bicycle is legally a normal vehicle as all others.” And that is their first lethal mistake. For, once upon the road, you are as exposed and vulnerable as a fresh slug on the first day of rain is to cruel seven year olds. Oh, the smooth asphalt “runways” do seem so convenient, and at first the bike slides smoothly along, and you think to yourself, “there’s nothing easier than this!” Then suddenly, out of nowhere, a vast armada of cars, trucks, buses, horse-driven carts and grannies on motorcycles leap out and fill the road to burst. There is nowhere to move, and traffic proceeds at speeds that double your current velocity. You try your best to catch up, but, being the Facebook addict that you are, it is needless to say that you are horribly out of shape. Wheezing, you immediately regret having refused to give in to the pleasure of smoking for your entire life, for the sheer amount of carbon monoxide and gasoline vapors you inhale more than makes up for a lifetime of self induced cancer. You barely reach the junction, but luckily for you, it’s a red light, and you can pause and catch your breath for a second. Wait, the seconds over, and now a dozen angry drivers are blowing their horns in an outrageous cacophony, yelling “get off the road, you immobile bastard!” and “my grandmother (may she rest in peace) pedals faster than you!”. The latter is quite derogatory if it’s true.

So in short, no, if you want to reach your destination in one piece, or plan to to be truthfully defined by the biological term “living organism” somewhere in the near future, you had best avoid the road when cycling. Upon realizing this, you are left with the obvious conclusion that until better infrastructure is laid down, you had best resort to keeping to the sidewalks. But not all is well on the pedestrian side of the street.

It’s rather amazing, when you stop and ponder on the matter. You never did believe in spontaneous generation or the creation of matter from nothing, but there is no other explanation as to the sheer number of people on the sidewalk. Where did they come from? How come there are so many of them? But even more confounding, how is it that they are all walking on your side of the street, and why do they all walk so slowly?

For it is a truly wondrous thing, how the other side of the street is clean, spacious, and allows for fluid motion, yet yours is cluttered with wanton benches, mischievous trash bins, and a horde of bypassers. If these were marathon runners, you would have actually fared well, but as it is, the city’s population, so it seems, consists mainly of elderly couples who insist on walking in the middle of the sidewalk. Heavens no, it is dangerous to walk too close to the street, and sinful to tread near those awful base shops. A pious fellow should always walk squarely in the center, away from all dangers and misdeeds, and also, incidentally, in such a manner as to precisely sever any chance of a cyclist overtaking him.

Of course, while senior citizens are as abundant as mushrooms after the first shower, there are other types of people flowing about. The second most popular type happens to be very fertile women, or so one would gather from the traumatizing number of toddlers they carry with them. It’s as if every female in the street pushes a baby-carriage carrying twins, while being encircled by a fleet of rascals yelling and shouting at the top of their voices. The little weasels, it not even need be said, are as carefree and oblivious to their safety as an emerging butterfly, and pay little heed to the fact that their head is located at exactly the height of your raised pedal. On the contrary, they seem magnetized to your bike, and will often spontaneously cut off from their route and sprint right in front of you without any notice.

When you finally do get to your destination, your brakes are white-hot and sizzling, your arms are tired due to clenching the levers, and you are lucky if you hadn’t crashed, stumbled or flipped when trying to avoid colliding with a 3-year old who stopped right in your path. It is considered miraculous fortune to complete a journey without a lawsuit against you for bumping into someone who decided to step sideways just as you were overtaking him.

It is sad that this is the life of the dedicated biker. Such a convenient method of transportation, which can quickly traverse flatlands and downward hills, held back due to lack of proper infrastructure. It is not easy being an urban cyclist. Oh well, at least it’s better than the Jerusalem light rail.

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