On the Bike

one of the great things about riding a bicycle is that it puts you out there in the middle of your surroundings, creating a really well-rounded travel experience. yesterday, as I rode my bicycle home before class, I cruised down the sidewalk at a pretty respectable speed (perhaps between 20 and 30 mph? it’s so hard to tell with no speedometer…). I saw a couple walking toward me ahead on the sidewalk, and with the parking meters on the left and a short brick wall on the right, I thought it best to get off onto the street so as to avoid making the pedestrians nervous. I went down the curb as I approached a parked car, which I’d have to pass on the left. there were other bicyclists riding in the same direction that I was, so I watched them as I entered the street to avoid collision. just as I made my way around the back of the parked car, I turned my attention from the riders going in my direction to the street ahead of me, just in time to see that I shared my exact path with another bicyclist, but he was moving in the opposite direction. no sooner than I’d seen him, our handlebars collided, and milliseconds later we bumped heads. we’d both gone from roughly 20mph to a dead stop in the matter of a second, the collision of our heads being the force that prevented either of us from going over the handlebars, perhaps, sliding into the street. we both stood a bit dumbfounded for a moment before checking that everything was okay. for a moment I wondered if I should give him my phone number or insurance information or something, but then it just seemed silly, and besides, I was already riding away. I went home and took some advil before lying in bed, and I fell asleep, missing all of my afternoon classes. I felt bad for having missed class, and I felt really ambiguous about the whole collision thing. what can you do?

then this morning, I was riding my bicycle to work, and I caught sight of a squirrel rushing across the street, heading toward my path. I was momentarily nervous, wondering if I should swerve or slow down or speed up, but before I had the chance to determine whether I needed to alter my course, I heard a crunch as I watched the tire of a dark blue four-door sedan, maybe a toyota camry or something, press the squirrel fatefully against the concrete. I felt sad for the squirrel as I rode on, wondering if the panic that prompted him to scurry across the street was anything akin to the terror we humans might experience in a life-threatening situation. I wondered if the whole thing had happened quickly enough that he was spared any pain, or if he had to suffer for moments or minutes before finally losing touch with his senses. I rode down the same street as I headed home later, and I didn’t see his corpse in the street where I remember the incident taking place, so it’s difficult to tell if he was carried away by subsequent cars or if he was removed from the street by some civil servant whose job it is to keep the streets corpse-free. one can never be certain. stay tuned for more stories about squirrels, though, because I have a few.

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