Friday, October 15, 2004

Ride your bike with no hands and no helmet through traffic

LOCATION: Streets of DC TIME: First and last Friday of the month, if you want to be social about it* EQUIPMENT: Yourself, bicycle, fluid in your inner ear, cute little dress OPTIONAL (but HIGHLY RECOMMENDED): underwear

The first time I went to Amsterdam I was overwhelmed with joy, probably like when the ugly duckling met the other swans, or the friendless high school geek went to his first Star Wars convention. Finally, a city that understood my bike-riding philosophy! Bikers zoomed through sidewalks, down roads, over curbs - in fact, anywhere that gave them the straightest line to their destination. They scattered gaggles of tourists like small children running at pigeons, grandly disregarding the numerous dedicated bicycle lanes. They wore business suits and cocktail dresses and flowing skirts and silly purple scarves. They talked on their cellphones, munched apples, waved at their friends, and fixed their hair as they rode, with impeccable balance. And none of them wore bike helmets. Oh, they were such bad-asses.

*sweeping national generalization alert* It seems that people in the States have a more extremist attitude about their sports than the Dutch. For some reason - despite the fact that bicycles are cheap, efficient, non-polluting, maneuverable, and fantastic exercise - most people don't ride them. (And some people even feel the need to go and invent the Segway, regarding which any explanation I've heard for why to buy a $5,000 scooter with a complicated motor instead of an elegantly simple $100 bicycle strikes me as total codswallop.) Yet it seems that people who do get into their bicycles are more likely to really get into it, complete with the purchase of special shoes and shiny pants and water-delivery systems and pedal clips and helmets. To go with the hoary old Protestant culture rubric, the hobby is seen as another arena for you to do work, rather than as a convenient facilitator for the rest of your life. Not that I don't think it's cool to really get into your bicycle! But it's just a shame that car-driving people might be intimidated by the perceived startup cost, and never even give it a try.

Me, I like to ride my bike with no hands - it's good balance practice for yoga, plus you can do arm stretches as you ride, and generally have an extraordinarily playful time feeling the wind whip against you. But in a city like DC, it usually gets a stare, and sometimes it sends me into paroxysms of self-consciousness, like "They think I'm showing off! But I'd be doing this even if I was alone! But I do like getting glances from other cute bicyclists. Admit it, I am showing off. Oh, is that wrong? But I don't want to stop!" One night I was riding my bike no-handedly to a party in Arlington, wearing a little purple dress. Going over the Key Bridge I noticed a group of cute guys walking towards me, smiling and clapping. I glowed and stretched my arms high in the air; I was, dear reader, very definitely showing off. Then a breeze picked up out of nowhere and flipped my dress up around my shoulders.

It totally served me right. Oh well, at least I was wearing underwear.


*On the first and last Fridays of every month, bikers gather in large groups around Dupont and shut down traffic in a Critical Mass. It's fun! You should go! I haven't gone yet myself, or I would have tried to describe it more. But I hear that afterwards, everyone goes drinking, and we all know that bikers are hot.**

**Or at least, my only chance not to flee back to Australia immediately.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

This comment isn't as much about your post as it is about your profile...

There are tons of things about D.C. worth knocking. Lack of an arts scene isn't one of them.

If you really don't believe there are true artists here, I highly encourage you to visit and get involved with our little tribe... I think you will be very pleasantly surprised.

That aside, I enjoy reading your posts.


8:33 AM  
Blogger Josh said...

Ms. Zoe (mizzoe),

Longtime admirer of your blog- this posting clinched it. A week ago I had a moment of catharsis when I made a leisurely turn on the potomac bikepath to hear a middle-aged gentleman in a bright yellow skin-hugging mylar onesie and a helmet with rearview mirrors on either side shout "nice signal" in a snide and sarcastic tone. I was going to let it pass as the prostate anxiety when I noticed that his bike had little LED signallers on the back. I managed to shout back "just shut up and ride" before some rollerbladers tried to kill me.

So, if you're ever exposing yourself on the key bridge again and you see a helmetless man on his father's blue huffy, take the time to wave. And to hold your garments down.

4:32 PM  
Blogger TLA Increase Your Page Rank said...

Haben Sie je ein Deutsch hat gemacht Fahrrad befreit?

6:04 AM  
Blogger TLA Increase Your Page Rank said...

Haben Sie je ein Deutsch hat gemacht Fahrrad befreit?

11:51 PM  
Blogger TLA Increase Your Page Rank said...

Ich suche Bikes

2:57 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Help me Dude, I'm lost.

I was searching for Elvis and somehow ended up in your blog, but you know I'm sure I saw Elvis in the supermarket yesterday.

No honest really, he was right there in front of me, next to the steaks singing "Love me Tender".

He said to me (his lip was only slightly curled) "Boy, you need to get yourself a shiny, new plasmatv to go with that blue suede sofa of yours.

But Elvis said I, In the Ghetto nobody has a plasma tv .

Dude I'm All Shook Up said Elvis. I think I'll have me another cheeseburger then I'm gonna go home and ask Michael Jackson to come round and watch that waaaay cool surfing scene in Apocalypse Now on my new plasma tv .

And then he just walked out of the supermarket singing. . .

"You give me love and consolation,
You give me strength to carry on "

Strange day or what? :-)

3:59 AM  

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