Friday, November 20, 2009

Fellow Travellers

I was having a terrible ride home today. It was raining, and by the time I was climbing Bank Street it was dark. I don't know why it is that people seem to be worse drivers in the rain - maybe it's a matter of my perception, maybe not. It's true that in the rain, the cars are louder. They seem to cut closer to you, and to be more impatient. I swore out loud at someone in a black truck that passed me with about a foot of clearance, and then again when a minivan nearly made a left turn right into me. I was bitching out loud at them all, and at the unfairness of having to worry about being critically injured or killed by my goddamn commute. (Once again, the thought crossed my mind that it's very strange how people who find out I enjoy rock climbing think I'm some kind of crazy daredevil, but don't bat an eye at my biking to work every day.)

And the traffic was just awful - backed up all the way down Bank. I was dodging around the cars trying to angle in off side streets and keeping an eye out for anyone that might be cutting in through the lines and turning left, and I got stopped up behind a bus that was trying to merge back into traffic, so had left no space for me to get between it and the curb. So I stopped, waiting for the bus to budge, and then I heard, "It's awful today, isn't it?"

There was a guy behind me on a commuter bike in a yellow rainjacket - older than me; I'm fairly certain he had grey hair under the helmet. I said something like, "Yeah, and they always seem to drive worse in the rain," and he nodded.

"Well, it's all clogged up," he said. "I haven't seen it this bad in a long while."

And then the bus moved a little, so I slipped between it and the curb and pedalled on up to the intersection. The light was red, so I pulled up. The guy was still behind me.

"How long are you going to keep riding?" he asked me.

"Long as I can," I told him, and mentioned that I use the River Path, so when the snow gets deep I'll have to find a streetside route. I also told him about the rumor I'd heard from the NCC about keeping part of the western path clear this year.

"Does that help you?" he asked me, and I said no, not really. "But it's a start, right?" I said.

"Yeah, it's a start." And then the light turned green and he said, "Have a good night," and I said, "Yeah, you too."

Biking on up the hill to my place, I felt a lot better. Something about the question: "How long are you going to keep riding?" There was a companionability about that question, and a sense that we both knew anyone out there in the cold mid-November drizzle in their rain gear was probably a committed cyclist. Still riding at this time of year, and in weather like that? The question isn't whether you're going to be riding in the snow - the question is how much snow you're going to try to handle.

Sometimes a little smidgin of esprit de corps can really improve your day.

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