Shortly before Christmas 1944, I received the most disappointing card in the mail from my two uncles. It was of the season and said, “When it was available, I would receive a BICYCLE!” World War II was blazing, and metal had not been available for years and I figured it would be years before it might happen.
But surely one day in February, the mailman delivered a great box and my father put together my first bicycle. I added that bicycle to the horse and tire swing under my use.
My only accident of that time: I had let a neighborhood boy ride my bike, and I was riding on the handlebars. I got caught in the spokes and tore up my shoe and foot. The biggest problem was the ration stamps required for shoes. I seemed to use most of the ones our family received.
Time flew by, and my love of the bicycle continued and grew.
I spent several years in Germany and learned how to ride the old secondhand bike we pulled out of the chapel trash and got rolling. You didn’t “dress” for riding there, and I managed that, too.
Just try riding in heavy city traffic, in a foreign country, in the wrong clothing and a very old, prewar bike. I obtained a “kinder seat” for my youngest, and old bikes of some sort for the older boys. I did have nerves of steel. Now I was managing to get the Cub Scouts through the zoo.
This month, there was a complete, long article on safe bike riding in our city. I did not see statistics on bike-caused injuries or damage. But the piece stirred my interest in riding a bicycle around a small town in Texas, where I had recently moved.
I noted there was a sidewalk along the street in front of my apartment. There were also paint marks along the roadway with large bicycle images painted on the roadway also.
The first trial was the sidewalk. My grandson rode to my house, more than a mile. I should be able to do so.
I made sure the tires were pumped up and everything else was attached and headed off to the sidewalk. As I bumped along, I noted the sidewalk was pocked with broken-up cement and was very unsafe. I didn’t get far, turned around and went home to check out the street in front.
It is about a yard wide and painted with four-inch white tracks. I set out. The cars whizzed by me a whole lot faster than I was going, and much closer than was comfortable. I turned right on Audra Street, which seemed a bit narrower than McKinney Street. As I pedaled along, the cars seemed so close to the “bicycle path,” which seemed dangerous to me.
I looked around the neighborhood to find the best way to turn in and get back to my own apartment. It was not safe.
I came from Florida, where there were truly good accommodations for bicycles. For good health, I rode five miles a day, not encountering any car that was in dangerous space. There was, along the ocean, a “county line to county line” biking trail, and beside the road.
They had also developed a “rails to trails” bike and walking path across the county, which removed the train track, no longer used, paved it and used it for biking and strolling.
Were you aware that the four-inch white line these paths are painted with have a “right side and left side”? Scare you to think of it? It did me, but I learned to ride on the left side or the right side of that line.
My family told me there was a park not far away, with a two-mile bike path. That was not very long when I was thinking in terms of a five-mile minimum. Then, I realized I would need to open the trunk of the car, lift the bike in, secure it and reverse that again when I reached that park. I had done that to take the bike to be repaired, so I knew I could. But not every day.
Driving “downtown” has been hazardous dodging what I perceive are college students, who everyone knows seem far from any accident or such. I fear for them.
I have gone on two bicycle trips in groups, 50 miles a day, for a week trip each. Many cars on the road do not want to share any space with cyclers. One experience was from a fellow with a VW car and he called out every expletive he could think of at our groups of five or six. He had more than half the road, and we were no threat to him.
Usually in large groups, they form into five or six to a “pod” riding together. watching for any danger and keeping out of traffic.
If there is an “incident,” the involved persons usually must appear in court in a few days. If you are on a “trip,” that is impossible, and whichever have violated the law, the bikers usually cannot remain and appear in court.
Reading the recent piece in our local paper, I saw no resolution that was ongoing now that could resolve the few things I have written here. We need a committee with great wisdom.