At Coffee Hour yesterday, I asked, "How do you do urban cycling without feeling like you're going to die?"
Tara's husband David said, "You just become jaded and cynical."
Elizabeth F. opened her response with mentioning having gotten hit by a car -- which horrified Chelsea C.
Tara suggested taking sidestreets -- like she takes Garden Street to Harvard instead of Mass Ave. That's coming from the wrong direction to be convenient/efficient for me, but Oxford Street makes sense. I decided not to try new routes this morning (given the disaster that was biking to swim class), but I got to work without incident in ~28min.
Well, "without incident" meaning I did my route as planned and didn't get honked at by anyone. A couple times starting up from a stop I sort of stumbled with the pedals, which I'm sure thrilled the traffic behind me. And coming in to Harvard Square, after I carefully rode around an taxi live parked in the bike lane, a guy on a bike came riding toward me. I glared at him and in my head said, "You're going the wrong way."
Riding on Mass. Ave., I thought, "What are the long-term effects of recurrent fear?" I really need to get a mirror, because there were times I was in a bike lane and felt like traffic was too close to me -- not that it actually was, just that my ability to construct spatial relations based solely on sound is imperfect. And now I want to read Fearless, except that my impression is that the books aren't very good (and don't actually delve deeply into the whole "fearless" aspect).
I chatted with
Having less of a time crunch coming home, I tried the Oxford Street route.
It took me about 20 minutes to get to Porter -- including walking my bike a bit coming out of Harvard (I got distracted by the BikeShopOnWheels bicyclist and took that weird piece where the bike lane loops out of traffic for one bike length, and then I decided that rather than try to merge back into rush hour traffic just to get to Cambridge Street, I would just walk my bike through campus to Oxford Street) and being stuck in traffic coming into Somerville Ave.
I stopped at Porter to purchase supplies for Bake Off (and yes I did plan that shopping trip to be a day I'd be bicycling). I forgot to time the second leg of the route until I was entering Davis. From there to home was about 10 minutes, which made sense since I bicycled to and from church yesterday morning and it was about 10 minutes each way.
I'm not biking after dark, at least not without purchasing some reflective apparel, so I think I won't be bike-commuting until Friday, given my plans for this week.
I am definitely acclimating to urban cycling. I still vastly prefer bicycling sans traffic (urban cycling is so effortful, having to be aware of so much around you -- I enjoy the experience of riding a bike but seriously, there are people who actively enjoy bicycle commuting?), but I am slowly getting to used to it (and thus growing more confident).
I'm really used to being a pedestrian. I'm used to not needing to be constantly watchful of my surroundings (and am also used to being able to just absorb my surroundings in a relaxed, enjoyable way). I'm used to not needing to look for a place to leave my conveyance while I do anything en route. I'm used to not having to be dependent on anything outside myself (yes, of course I'm dependent on lots of things outside myself, but you know what I mean in this context -- and yes, I have a lot of privilege).
Tuesday evening, I mentioned easing into urban cycling and someone commented approvingly that it's good exercise. In my head, I said, "Well I'm normally doing a combination of walking and the T, so I'm not sure I'm actually getting any more exercise." Leigh had also said (on Monday) that she always feels better when she gets in to work when she's biked than when she's driven -- I did tell her that usually I'm walking/taking the T.
I think bike riding is becoming like gymming it up -- something I don't especially enjoy while I'm doing it, but which after I'm done I'm glad I've done. ... Tuesday, on my walk to work I missed bicycling.
Friday after work I had the Wheelworks people put my "EZ-Mount" bike lock holder on my bike for me, as I hadn't been able to translate the directions that came with it into reality. (Asking for help is a thing that is difficult for me, so I was proud of myself.)
Sat. Sept. 17, 2011
Today, I bicycled to swim class (got to HBS in ~30min -- also made a left at the Mem Drive/N. Harvard intersection right into campus instead of going up and then turning into Gordon Rd. or whatever; am pleased with my growing comfort with left turns/intersections; I also merged onto Somerville Ave. from Mass. Ave. on Porter instead of just riding to Upland and walking my bike across like I did yesterday -- part of my brain was doing the "I'm gonna die" thing, but not so much because I felt like there was a glut of traffic, just because I didn't feel like I knew all what was going on around me). Gliding up to Baker to park my bike, I stopped and chatted with Andy for a bit (he was ExecEd teaching). I also learned that Shad doesn't open until 10am on weekends -- guess I needn't leave such a buffer in bicycling there (I was still early for my 10:15 lesson).
Our instructor last week (Carol) was filling in for our regular instructor (Paige). Last week, I learned about making a T with my body, leaning forward pushing my weight on my sternum, and letting my butt float up naturally. And about practicing exhaling through my nose with my nose underwater.
This week, we started with just letting our bodies relax in the water to find out how we naturally float. Apparently I naturally float vertically (though I'm willing to believe this might change some if I weren't holding my nose -- being comfortable controlled-exhaling while my nose is underwater seems really crucial to doing most any of swimming, but I also really appreciate Paige offering up the option of holding my nose, so I could get some benefit from having an instructor instead of just using this paid-for-time practicing stuff I could practice on my own if I had the schedule to ever get to the pool).
We also practiced exhaling and then letting ourselves sink -- to practice being underwater, with no air in our lungs, unable to inhale in that moment, and getting comfortable with that. I actually felt more comfortable with that than with just putting my face/nose underwater -- possibly because one of the ways my body seizes up with fear when my face is underwater is to not breathe at all (which is problematic when trying to practice controlled underwater exhales -- though I did let go of my nose and exhale a couple of times during those exercises; apparently to be able to empty your lungs sufficient that you actually float down to the bottom of the pool takes lots and lots of practice).
We also practiced various kicks (and strokes), with optional kickboard. So I was definitely a bit more physically worked than I was last week.
The last one we practiced was backstroke. She had us make a star (arms and legs out) and float on our backs -- apparently something lots of swimmers can't do, even though they can float on their backs while kicking. I wasn't very good at the floating thing, but flutter-kicking I could keep my head sufficiently up fairly easily. I'm not a huge fan of the fact that I can't see where I'm going, but the fact that my face isn't in the water is a big plus :)
It took me about ~35min bicycling home (and after I got home I realized I'd totally forgotten my intention to stop at Porter and buy more bagels; errand for after church tomorrow now).
I continue to not have near-death experiences, though I did get to utilize the fact that it's open-window weather and say "Excuse me" to a woman who was on the phone or something and didn't seem to notice me as I rode in front of her through the Powder House Rotary (I was going perpendicular to her and her line of traffic was stopped when I started to ride in front of her -- I'd judged it safer to ride in front of her than to try to go behind her, which would have exposed me to more traffic). There was also someone who made a right turn onto Boston Ave. from the left turn only lane on College Ave. -- slowly enough (we were all starting from a red light) that I could go straight ahead without danger, but still. Was not the first, "What are you doing?" of the ride home either.
I'm developing a better sense of how fast I'll get places relative to the moving pieces around me -- am riding past pedestrians who are crossing in front of me rather than my usual instinct of stopping for them (when I'll be out of their path by the time they get there, of course). I'm also curbing my instinct to put the brakes on so much when I go down hills -- I think I have a natural fear of speed that isn't really connected to an actual risk of losing control of my bicycle, so I'm trying to train out the irrational fear.