13 March 2010
escalating equipment demands.
This afternoon I find myself staring out the window, wondering if I'm really willing to bike it to my evening social commitment this evening. I have great rain gear, but it is raining so hard. Like tons-of-standing-water-on-the-road-hard, drivers-hitting-huge-puddles-that-would-leave-me-soaked-to-the-bone hard, I-can't-really-see-myself-journeying-into-unfamiliar-territory hard. It's not that I'm unwilling to ride in the rain, I tell myself. It's just that I need a poncho.
A poncho? Really? What have I become?
It hit me that my experience as a car-free adventurer has been marked by the steady acquisition of increasingly sophisticated equipment. Arriving in Philadelphia, I owned the Old Dutch Treat, a basket, and a seldom used Blinkee light. Then I bought the Dahon so I didn't break myself doing the stairs with the ODT every day. Then I realized doing so many miles probably mandated a helmet, so I bought the Nutcase. Then I got rain gear because I realized it was going to be a long wet winter. Then I found I needed a better headlight for all the night riding I wanted to do on the Dahon. After the bike-deprived onslaughts of blizzardy, I found myself plotting how I might build up a snow bike for next year (I don't know that I ever blogged that fantasy, but I sure felt it) (ha... back in Utah I thought I was so cool for riding in the snow). And the good lord knows that I would always like a road bike.
I often find myself thinking that the only thing keeping people of their bikes is having a bike, or the only thing that it takes for me to ride successfully in the rain is a little bit of waterproof mascara. It irks me a little to realize the reality of my lifestyle-- and the roadblocks that it might present to others wanting to make the change-- is that it is marked by consumerism. I'm ok with that for myself-- I have no qualms about spending some of the proceeds from my car's sale on bike paraphernalia or, to cast it in even holier terms-- supporting bike related companies that I think are doing good things for the world. I have no problem sleeping at night because I have a good raincoat or a folding bike. But when I think about making cycling accessible and appealing to everyone, how to mediate the goods issue is quite the quandary. I'm glad there are programs in Philly like Neighborhood Bike Works that help to improve bicycle access, but I'm curious as to what other solutions to that issue might look like. Sure, you can bicycle commute on a bike-shaped-object, but it probably sucks not to have fenders or to be invisible to motorists without lights.
Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go back to meditating on how I might acquire a poncho without getting soaked.