In an earlier missive, I mentioned how riding a bike gives one a new perspective on one’s surroundings. Well, I’ve been commuting to work here at WBJC from my home in Catonsville for a few weeks now, and I have to say that my perspective on several things has changed since I started.
For one thing, it’s amazing how different the city is at 3:30 am than at 11 am. Truly 2 different worlds. More and more, I think I prefer the 3:30 am world.
Another thing that has changed is that I feel that because of my cycling, I have become a better driver. This is why I think so:
When riding a bike, you have to pay very close attention to everything around you. A bump or small hole in the road you wouldn’t notice in your car can create major problems on a bike. Also, when riding in traffic, there are no “fenderbenders” on a bike (my bike doesn’t have fenders). Just about any physical encounter with a motor vehicle will result in something extraordinarily bad. While the majority of the motorists I have encountered have been courteous, careful, and respectful of the bike, there are a few who are either not paying attention, don’t care, or are openly hostile (yes, they’re out there). A little paranoia might save your life. Most bike mirrors are convex, to give a wider view, but that also distorts the appearance of distance. Cars go fast.
Then, there are those pesky pedestrians. I often wonder why someone chooses to walk in the street when there is a perfectly good sidewalk available. Yet, some do. On more than one occasion I have been forced to brake hard to avoid hitting a pedestrian who stepped right in front of me. I know I’m not as big as a car, but I’m a big guy–hard to miss. As Kati will tell you, an encounter with a pedestrian can have catastrophic results, and usually worse for the cyclist. Gotta watch out for pedestrians. I’m always ringing the bell when I see one.
Now, when I drive, I find that I pay much closer attention. I have always been a careful driver (I know–everyone says that. But in my case it’s true.), but after spending quite a bit of time on two wheels, I feel that my sense of awareness, even when using four, has been heightened. Riding a bike has made me a better driver. Maybe more people should try it out–we might have fewer accidents.