the view from my bike

It will be 3 years this September that I’ve lived without a car. While I know a few people who could pull off this lifestyle (yes, only a few), none of them are, and I consider my decision and my act of ditching the four-wheeler to be something close to superhuman. It is not doable with children, at least not easily; clearly not an issue for me–I’m 68 years old. It is, of course, comfortably doable because I live on a 2 x 4 mile island with everything I need within biking (or walking) distance. Also possible because this island is flat, weather is (typically) not an issue and there’s no heavy volume of vehicles. A tropical village is a whole lot easier to navigate than any city or suburb. All that considered, challenges remain. I can only carry so many groceries home, run only so many errands. If I forget my lock (which doesn’t live on my bike because of rusting) it’s a trip back home to get it. It’s rainy season. It’s hot. I deal with it. I take Lyft, my Publix (grocery) now delivers, I’ve rented a car on a couple of occasions and plan on renting more. Superhuman? Maybe a stretch, but I still think I’m a pretty big, damn deal.

A few biking observations and thoughts below, along with a little bit of advice–3 years on a bike comes with plenty of opinion. While I do still bike for exercise, my biking is primarily for transportation, and much of what I experience is the same as if I were sitting behind the wheel of that fancy M5 I used to drive.

YES, THERE IS ROAD RAGE ON A BIKE. In my travels, I share the road with idiot-out-of-towners both on bikes and in cars (not even gonna touch the scooter issues), and all the blue sky in the world cannot save me from occasionally flipping someone off. Anyone who doesn’t signal, bikers traveling 4 across, cars moving so slowly I can tap their rear fender with my front tire—same things that piss you off in your car can piss you off on your bike. The funny part is, that while you sit inside your windows-closed-air-conditioned vehicle and curse a blue streak at the fool in front of you, I’m sitting on a bike seat, and my cursing is loud and clear. I kinda like it—silly, gray-haired, old lady, yelling at a bunch of 20 somethings—very Key West.

YES, YOU CAN SPACE OUT WHILE BIKING—just like in your car. Of course, anyone who drives has experienced miles (or what seems like miles) of blankness, those times when you’re lost in thought and suddenly brought back to the road. Easy to do down here—all those palm trees waving, a straight line downtown, little congestion. Not to mention that I’m prone to spacing out regardless of setting or activity (or lack thereof). Be mindful.

NO, YOU CANNOT RIDE YOUR BIKE ON THE SIDEWALK. For anyone who doesn’t know—the rules of the road are the same for both bikes and cars. Period. You don’t drive your car on the sidewalk and your bike doesn’t belong there either. If you’re uncomfortable biking on the street, then you shouldn’t be on a bike. [I will confess to breaking one rule of the road—I travel the wrong way on a one-way street in 2 different locations. It’s just for a block in both places and a huge convenience. I told my neighbor I would have to be ticketed or hit to conform—also very Key West.] I don’t wear a helmet and leave that decision up to you, but side view mirrors are a must-have. Get decent lights for night biking. And take the ears buds out, for cryin’ out loud. How the hell are you going to hear me cursing?

7 thoughts on “the view from my bike”

  1. Love this, Pam, and I’m beside myself with envy! Brings back a lot of memories, including this:

    In the nineteenth and twentieth summers of my life, I lived at the beach and my bike was my sole means of transport. It was the peak of the 10-speed and cycling craze, Breaking Away (5 Oscar nominations!) was released in the second of these summers. I even worked in a bike shop, which, in those times, was just about the coolest job you could have at the beach other than surf shop or lifeguard. I put about 15 to 20 miles a day on my Falcon Eddie Merckx (I traded up from a Gitane, a perk of working as a bike mechanic) and competed in occasional races in the flat-lander world of the Eastern Shore.

    What I remember best about all those days covering all those miles was that I never DIDN’T want to get on that bike and, at the end of each day, I’d lift it onto my shoulder, carry it up two exterior flights of steps like a sleeping child, and strap it to the porch railing under the stars with the cable lock that gave me all the security against the world I needed in the nineteenth and twentieth summers of my life.

    And I still have my Falcon Eddie Merckx.

    • Mark – you are a delight, a tremendous fan, and a wanna be writer (a good one!), for sure (did not even attempt to read one of your latest posts – sorry). I’m so glad that I could stir up good memories and so glad you shared them. I am, however, well into 60 some summers and there are plenty of days that I wished to hell I DID NOT have to get on the bike. Not to mention heat indices that are already climbing into the 100’s. You really do have to come visit sometime. xxx p

  2. I promise, I think about it all the time, and when you write these kind of stories, I start to grab my car keys!

      • Pam ,
        As soon as I saw a 2×4 mile island I knew immediately it was a Key West . My daughter lived on The Rock for 18 months after her Fiancé was deployed to Afghanistan while serving his country . Her love for cycling was instilled in her at an early age by my wife and I . Cycling vacations , Century rides or just running to the store . I’ve spent many an hour cycling in Paradise , we actually had our older bikes there waiting for us when we would fly in on occasion . Their nicknames were “fast eddie “ and “stealth” and they are still somewhere on the island as we donated them once she moved away.

        I as Mark Conner ,a great friend of mine and one of your responders on here grew up on my bike and worked in a bicycle shop in my younger years . I’ve never lost my love for life at 12 mph with handlebars in hand . The freedom and memories it has provided to me are tough to measure .

        Thanks for your insight and words on this page are inspirational.

        Mark

        • Mark! What a beautiful note, thank you so much. Anne Arundel county was my home before KW and I biked Severna Park for years – and my “pink-tie-dyed” bike came with me. You should come back to key west for a visit – it’s still amazing. thanks for the kind words.

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