Friday, July 14, 2017

Bowen on a Bicycle: Take II

Last night David and I went for a bike ride.  We were most of the way home, having just crossed the Ford Parkway bridge, heading east into Saint Paul.  The path on the St. Paul side is quite steep before it joins the roadway, goes under the bridge, where one can find a curb cut-out to get back onto the recreation trail.  I go down this hill very slowly; in addition to being steep, I have a stop sign at the bottom and there tends to be a lot of cross traffic on Mississippi River Blvd which does not have a stop sign.
As I creeped down the hill, I watched for traffic.  There were two cars coming from the south.  Not a big deal.  I was only halfway down the hill, creeping along so slowly I was at a near standstill.  I checked David’s location behind me.  The first car went ROARING by.  The second car reached the intersection a mere second later.  I was still a good 10 feet from the intersection and scarcely moving.
The car came to a complete stop.  The driver was attempting to (wrongly) yield the right of way to me.  I was farther from the intersection than this car that had stopped in the middle of it, trying to Minnesota nicely allow me to cross the road without stopping.
Except to do so, I would have to release the brakes, fully reengage my down-stroke, enter the roadway, and remain in front of this vehicle for a four-lane-plus stretch of underpass before I could re-enter the bike path on the other side.  I followed the rules of the road and obeyed my stop sign – acting exactly as I had promised to do when I signed a contract committing myself to obeying all traffic, safety, and trail laws, rules, and regulations upon the purchase of my two-wheel, leg-powered vehicle.
As I came to a complete stop, and the vehicle still refused to move, I had to dismount, not able to balance on two wheels for longer than a brief second.  I shifted my weight, put out my left foot to catch myself.  The toe of my shoe made contact with the ground and my leg collapsed beneath me as my calf muscle cramped so intensely I end up lying on the ground, shrieking in agony.  David had to dismount his own bicycle and press on the bottom of my foot to help gently stretch my calf and ease the cramp.
Another cyclist stopped to inquire if everything was okay, had I crashed, did we need assistance?  “Just a cramp,” David told him.  “Ugh!  Those are the worst!” the other cyclist said with sympathy.  “Sometimes you can’t even move!”  I know this well.  At this point I was moving again, but when the cramp first started, I was immobilized with pain.
And this is the shit about “Minnesota Nice” or “Iowa Nice” or niceness in general.  When people stop paying attention to the rules that govern their own lives and start living for the purpose of being “nice” to everyone around them – openly inviting others to violate the rules that govern their lives – the “nice” people are creating a DAMNED hazard for those of us just going about our business, taking care of our own shit.

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