I love riding my bike. Not just to ride it around the neighborhood aimlessly or for exercise, but to ride it toward a particular destination, like a coffee shop or the farmer’s market down the street or even just to mail a letter.
When I ride to this one café in our neighborhood, I get to coast slightly downhill along a beautiful tree-lined street with sun filtering through, dappling light onto my path and the force of the breeze fluttering through my hair. It makes me feel gloriously, singularly carefree.
(Maybe too carefree: Last week I left the café above after lunch with a friend and realized as I hopped on my bike that I had forgotten my helmet on the patio and almost got ran over as I turned back to get it.)
I don’t ride as much as I’d like because there aren’t that many places that feel close enough, and I’m a complete chicken when it comes to riding in traffic. This is LA traffic with no bike lanes and with impatient SUVs swerving around each other and honking at the slightest provocation and I figure it only takes one driver fiddling with his cell phone to mangle me horribly.
But A and I found a new café last weekend on Fairfax that is adorable and has delicious coffee and treats. The parking situation is horrible so I had the idea to try riding there on my bike.
When I imagined the route, it was a bit daunting. First head down Fountain (on the sidewalk because drivers take Fountain way too fast, and man am I sounding more and more like a fussy grandmother with every paragraph). Then left on Fairfax where I would also take the sidewalk even though I’d have to keep slowing down to pass pedestrians. Picturing that route, I could smell the exhaust of the city buses and hear the noise of the traffic and feel my impatience at waiting at the stoplights. All of it was draining away any carefree vibe.
You should know that when I’m riding my bike I either feel really cool, in the image above where I’m coasting effortlessly with my hair and shirttails streaming behind me and my messenger bag slung across my back, or I feel like my bike is the mode of transportation I take when I’m not on the short bus.
On a busy street, I’m waiting at lights for the crosswalk and then riding along the sidewalk while wearing a helmet. (To protect me from what exactly? A rogue maltipoo?) And never is this more embarrassing than when I tool along, helmet clad, on the sidewalk, against oncoming traffic, and a real bicyclist comes my way, blaring past me in the opposite direction. Ack.
I was imagining all of this and feeling my enthusiasm for the excursion slow to a trickle when I realized I could take side streets all the way there. I could coast through the neighborhood, with a minimum of lights and a maximum of sun dappled streets!
Once I saw that possibility, it was funny to me that I hadn’t seen it before. I had been a flick of my kickstand away from biking through the horns and exhaust when this new route dawned on me. I took the pretty route, and have a bunch of times since.
Today, I rode to Blue Bottle, even further away, again through charming, narrow streets, blooming with spring flowers. It’s a sunny-and-75, Everything Is Great, Everything is Grand, Southern California style gem of a day.
Makes me wonder where else in my life I’m automatically assuming I have to take the drudgery route when I could opt for the lovely (or just okay) one…