Frank Willison's Bike to Work Journal

by Frank Willison

Day 1 | Day 2 | Day 3 | Day 4 | Day 5 | Summing Up

Used my son's bike; more upright than mine. Probably a good thing to be able to see what's going on. Maybe not, though. I am wearing my helmet, a holdover from the late 70s; it looks like Little Timmy's oatmeal bowl, inverted. I have some nice bike shorts: loose and baggy on the outside, with a spandex liner. Can't have the spandex viewable; it wouldn't be fair to innocent pedestrians. Inside the spandex on these shorts is a foam pad covering the area you might call the ass-bones. Even with my, uh, generous figure, the padding is quite welcome.

The weather is fine: a slight breeze; clear skies; low humidity; cool. I remind myself: slow and steady wins the race.

Learn more about Bike-to-Work Week, May 15-19, 2000.

My route is mostly pastoral: the bike path along the Emerald Necklace, from Jamaica Pond through Brookline, Massachuset, along the Muddy River, and then on the Memorial Drive bike path along the Charles. The Memorial Drive path is less enjoyable than you would think. I share the four-foot-wide path with walkers, dogs, joggers, slow cyclists like myself, and steroid-sucking thigh-mastering pedal-pumping kamikaze cyclists. The joggers wear headphones and don't hear me when I tell them I'm behind them; the kamikazes never say when they're about to pass, disrespecting any human traveling at subsonic speed. And three feet to my right, cars whiz by on Memorial Drive proper, their drivers engaged in leveraging IPOs over cell phones while drinking Starbuck's lattes. My life is cheap here.

Still and all, in the six-mile trip, I had only one near-death experience. I was heading west on Mount Auburn Street, in one of the sections of the ride where I share the road with cars. A huge, black SUV traveling east noticed that another car was edging out of a side street. The SUV driver wanted to turn left onto that side street and was afraid that the side-street car was going to pull out enough that the SUV would have to (gasp!) yield to it. To avoid that humiliating experience, the SUV driver gunned his engine and jerked his car across my side of Mt. Auburn. He never saw me, even though, with my big head in a reflective oatmeal bowl, I'm hard to miss. His bumper was about three feet from my quivering flesh when I yelled at him, in that raspy, phlegmy voice used by professional wrestlers and the victims in Jaws. I'm not proud of what I yelled: the name of the Second Person of the Holy Trinity. (This was not a good plan; my last act on earth might have been a violation of the Third Commandment.) It had the proper effect, however; the SUV driver reluctantly brought his car to a screeching halt just short of my left thigh. As I squeezed between the bumpers of the two cars, I used my excess adrenaline to turn and scream "Dumbass!" at the SUV driver. (This was a better plan; there is no stricture in the Bible against using the names of lower species.)

It made me think; we still have this agrarian image of death as a bony guy carrying a scythe. Most people nowadays don't own or use a scythe, and almost none can spell it. Death in our suburban era is a bony guy in a black SUV, getting his next assignment over a cell phone.

I got to work in 50 minutes, door to door. Driving takes about 35 minutes, but by adding those 15 minutes, I got 50 full minutes of aerobic exercise and I got to watch my whole life pass before my eyes. Not bad multi-tasking. I can hardly wait for the return trip.