On Bicycling for Transportation & The Tragic Death of a Bicyclist

David Byrne on bike

David Byrne

I saw David Byrne on a bicycle the other day.

Actually I saw a white-haired man with a slightly bird-shaped haircut.

“He looked like David Byrne.”

“It probably was him,” my husband said.

After he performed here in concert last summer, he blogged about riding his bicycle on the trails.

Those of you who know how strongly I feel about bicycling–it is not only fun, it is a life-style–will understand why I like David Byrne.  I loved Byrne in the Talking Heads, and he is even better as a solo artist, but it is Byrne, author of The Bicycling Diaries, who has won my musical loyalty.

In an op/ed piece for The New York Times, “This Is How We Ride” (May 26, 2012), he wrote:

I’ve used a bike to get around New York for decades. There’s an exhilaration you get from self-propelled transportation — skateboarding, in-line skating and walking as well as biking; New York has good public transportation, but you just don’t get the kind of rush I’m talking about on a bus or subway train. I got hooked on biking because it’s a pleasure, not because biking lowers my carbon footprint, improves my health or brings me into contact with different parts of the city and new adventures. But it does all these things, too — and sometimes makes us a little self-satisfied for it; still, the reward is emotional gratification, which trumps reason, as it often does.

On my first bicycle, age four.  Watch out for Super-Environmentalist!

On my bicycle at age four. Watch out for Super-Environmentalist!

It is spring and we’re biking again.  I love the breeze in my hair, seeing the trees and gardens close-up, hearing the birds, and feeling part of the scene.  I like the  effect on my blood pressure (very, very low, to my doctor’s astonishment) and general health.  (Even if you’re overweight, bicycling, an easy sport, will improve your health.)   Three seasons of the year, I bicycle for transportation.  If there’s not snow, I ride in winter.

I got my first bicycle at the age of four and have cycled ever since.

Bicycling is more energy-efficient (really, you can’t get more energy-efficient) than driving and it is cheap.  I paid $500 for a bicycle in 2003.  I have had to replace the seat and pedals, but otherwise it’s still going strong.

I ride about 1,500 miles a year. Our city has bike lanes, bike trails, and a bike-share program (a rental bike program by which you can ride very cheaply from station to station downtown).

Many cars, alas, do not like to share the road with bicyclists.  One year a mad driver, possibly drunk, stopped his car downtown and yelled at my husband and me to get off the road:  it was Sunday and we three were the only people on a four-lane street.  Once I was pelted with a Coke can and another time with apples by passengers in a car.  I could have written down the car license, but let’s just say I preferred to live.

Horrifyingly, in accidents where a driver kills a bicyclist, the sympathy is often with the driver.

cyclist memorial rememberNot always, though.  Last year, when a 58-year-old bicyclist, Gerald Williams, was killed in a tragic hit-and-run accident in Lenox, Iowa, people were outraged when the killer, 33-year-old Jessica May Brown, was not charged with manslaughter.  She claimed later, after she was caught, that she thought she’d hit a deer.

Williams’ wife, who was out of town, had reported him missing when she couldn’t contact him. Twenty-four hours later, searchers found Williams dead in a ditch.

Brown had to pay a $500 fine for failure to stop at an assured clear distance, with a statutory surcharge of $175 and court costs of $60.

It sounds like manslaughter to us.

So ride (right) on, bicyclists!  But watch out for cars.  Some drivers hate bicyclists, runners, and pedestrians.

And here are the Red Hot Chili Peppers singing “The Bicycle Song.”  As they say, “How could I forget to mention the bicycle is a good invention?”

3 thoughts on “On Bicycling for Transportation & The Tragic Death of a Bicyclist

  1. We cycle Kat, but Devon is very, very hilly. We also motorcycle. Motorcycles have a smaller footprint, environmentally and physically. We run both 1000cc and 250cc bikes, and have had similar experiences as you. Many motorcyclists are killed in the UK. The drivers always says that I didn’t see him/ her. I believe cyclists experience the same phenomena.


  2. I can’t ride a modern bike. When I was young (age 15) bikes were built so you could control the brakes with your feet. Then came these new bikes with the handbrakes. They terrify me. I can’t just slide along and become so frightened I stop after less than a minute. I have met many people like me. Modern bikes are beyond us.

  3. Clare, I’m glad to meet a fellow bicyclist online! You’re right, I think motorcyclists also encounter discrimination, like “What are they doing on the road?” I’m not wild about riding up and down hills, either, but it’s relatively flat here on the trails, though on the roads what looks like a gentle rolling often seems very hillly on a bicycle. We think (though we may be wrong) that there’s an aging population of bicyclists and motorcyclists. We see a lot of gray hair on the road. Riding a motorcycle is fun, I’m sure. I’ve only ridden on the back of one.

    Ellen, the bikes with foot brakes are back! There’s something called a “fixie” with no gears and foot brakes (at least I think that’s what it’s about). Well, I don’t want you to go biking when it’s frightening. If it’s not fun, don’t do it!

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