Thoughts While Cycling

Way back in my youth, when Boston had at least five daily papers (The Morning Herald, The Evening Traveler, The Globe, The Post (hey, tabloids are newspapers too), and The Christian Science Monitor), the Globe had a column called “Thoughts While Shaving.”  This column was of special interest to me, because I was at the age of imagining what it must be like to shave, and how any man could scrape sharp steel across his face without inflicting mortal damage.  And America had entered the safety razor era [Look Sharp!  Feel Sharp!  Be Sharp!  Gillette Blue Blades!], so it wasn’t even a matter of a naked straight razor, though my dad still had the leather strop he once used to keep the edge sharp.  None of that anxious ballet that W. C. Fields did in It’s a Gift.  How could one think about anything while shaving, except not cutting oneself?  What did men think about in those moments?

“Thoughts While Shaving,” by sports columnist Ernie Roberts, expressed those random, brief, reflections and observations that drift through your mind when you’re doing a simple, repetitive task.  In that spirit I offer the following, gleaned from my musings over my last few rides.  In no particular order:

  • In the underpass beneath Wilson Boulevard a woman was pushing a baby carriage on the left-hand side of the trail going westward, against the flow of bike traffic.  She was halfway through the underpass when I approached going eastward.  In the underpass there’s no place to go if you leave the trail; a cement wall is on the south and rocky Four Mile Run, unguarded by any railing, is to the north.  Going downhill toward the underpass, I had passed a westbound rider coming uphill at a good clip.  So when I passed the woman by going into the westbound lane I thought: (1) I can understand why she’s doing that.  She thinks she can see oncoming danger instead of letting it approach her, perhaps unaware, from behind.  (2)  She is a fool.  If that guy I passed on the way down comes along about ten seconds later, when I am in the underpass tunnel approaching the woman, I have nowhere to go.  I can swerve to miss her and collide with him, each of us going 20 m.p.h., or I can slam on the brakes, hit the carriage and the woman behind it, and hope for the best.  By instinct I would probably do the latter, but the baby is the most likely to get hurt in that scenario.
  • They were taking surveys at the Wiehle Avenue crossing a couple of weeks ago.  They seduced us riders with bottled water and energy bars.  The survey was about crosswalks.  The survey takers were an independent contractor hired by the Park Authority.  One question was about under what circumstances traffic has to stop for me.  The correct answer is whenever I am in the crosswalk stripes (the crosswalk at Wiehle is about 15 feet wide, by the way).  The reality is, though, that the Wiehle crosswalk is odd because it’s so near the corner of Wiehle and Sunset Hills.  It’s not a corner crosswalk, but it’s heavily influenced by the lights at the corner.  In reality, I cannot cross the crosswalk when oncoming traffic either way has a green light at the intersection.  The cars just don’t stop.  I am also subject to non-stopping traffic that’s just turned off Sunset Hills onto Wiehle from either direction.  I suggested on the survey that maybe the crosswalk needs its own traffic signals.
  • The old Trail bridge at I-66 is now entirely demolished, and they’ve almost got all the repaving and safety fences completed for the new bridge, which has been in use for about a month.
  • On a less happy note, trucks from the Beltway construction project seem to be using the downhill section of the W&OD from Virginia Avenue westward for a couple of hundred feet.  This is horrible for cyclists encountering them from either direction.  You’re either speeding downhill and have to slam on the brakes, or you’re chugging uphill and have to stop, then get started again on an upward slope.  These trucks should not be granted exceptions to use the trail.
  • There were an ambulance and a fire truck about a mile west of Vienna on the W&OD last week.  They were responding to a woman who had fallen off her bike.  To echo Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwen, “I do happen to believe that she had a problem with her collarbone.”  But from the calm way she was talking to her rescuers, she did not appear to have broken it.   Now I know it’s probably some kind of protocol, and I also know how those rescue jocks love to go out on call and drive their shiny, loud equipment, but darned if I don’t think it’s idiotic to send a fire truck along with the ambulance on a call on the W&OD.  It’s amazing how seldom a damaged bicycle leaks flammable fluids.  The bloody thing had to go past the accident (lucky it went in first) and back into the parking lot at the foot of Clark’s Crossing Road.  I hope it returned via the roads from that lot.
  • Also recently seen on the trail:  a two-point buck, antlers still fuzzy; another Kelme team jersey when I was wearing mine; another 2009 Trek 2.1 while I was riding mine.  Funny thing, the other Trek was faster than mine.
©Arnold J. Bradford, 2011.

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