Friday, August 19, 2005

Adventures in Commuting

(Note: I'm temporarily posting in Cyclelicious too, while Fritz is away...Ed)

This morning, as I rode south along Mingo Road, I saw a guy up ahead on the shoulder fixing a flat tire. I stopped and met Pete, who works on west side of airport at BizJet. He's been commuting for a couple of years, trying to ride year-round as I do.

We rode side-by-side (with me looking over my shoulder for Officer Friendly!) and talked about commuting. Since he was bound for the west side of the airport and didn't like the traffic on Mingo, I recommended another route that goes through Mohawk Park. I ride that way regularly because it has little traffic and I get to see a lot of wildlife.

But of course, I couldn't resist trotting out some of those hoary chestnuts about commuting. "I see that same drivers day after day", I said. "They come to expect a cyclist somewhere on the road." And that really is true. What's more, some of them can be very nice.

I was riding in the dark one morning when I hit a pothole hard enough to knock every light off the bike! Honestly, it's only happened once. My headlight and tail light bounced into the weeds and turned themselves off. I was searching for them with a flashlight when a pickup stopped.

"Hey! Are you all right?" the driver yelled.

"Yeah", I replied, "My lights just fell off and went out!"

"Well, if you ever need a lift to work, just stop and wave at me", he said. "I pass you every day!"

He drove off. Later, I wondered how I'd recognize his truck in the pre-dawn darkness, but fortunately I've never needed a lft to work.

I mention this because Justin commented "...the drivers in your area are flat out mean S.O.B's". It's true that Oklahoma has its share of dunderheads and fools, but on the other side of the ledger, there are some truly wonderful people.

I was one of the volunteers supporting the Salvation Army in Oklahoma City after the Murrah Building bombing. Afterward, I was invited to an emergency response seminar put on by the city of Tulsa. One of the speakers highlighted the differences between the responses to the bombings in OKC and NYC. Remember, this was long before the attacks on the Pentagon and the World Trade Center. He said that the responses were like night and day. In New York, people were pissed off at the disruption, the added traffic, and the perimeter security. In Oklahoma, people offered whatever was needed to help the teams, the victims, and the support personnel.

For instance, SA put out a message saying they needed to set up a counseling center in a nearby office building, but they didn't have enough furniture or telephones. Within an hour, a semitruck pulled up at the loading dock, filled with office furniture! People brought anything they thought would be helpful, including lots and lots of food. Believe me, if you've ever had to subsist on the meager fare SA offers, outside food is very welcome! We filled a gymnasium with donated equipment and clothing.

That spirit of generosity extends to most Oklahoma drivers. Like I said, that pickup driver offered to get me to work. And every time it rains, someone offers to drive me home. So far, I've only needed to be driven home twice, both times when I was getting sick. Better than 99% of the motorists out there are safe, careful drivers, and of the remaining 1%, most are inattentive or totally ignorant of safe cycling practices. Malicious drivers, like the one I wrote about last month, are thankfully rare.

So what I'm saying is that the majority of motorists out there are good, conscientious people. Perhaps I focus too much on the fools I encounter, but that in no way is meant to imply that all motorists are fools. I just don't pay much attention to the GOOD drivers.

And that's wrong.

There has to be a way to recognize the good ones. Someone wrote about giving a thank-you letter to a local trucking company that he passed every day. The drivers were courteous and safety-conscious. The firm's manager was happy to have it, and he posted it where all the drivers could read it.

I pass a quarry every day. In the years I've been commuting by there, I've been honked at maybe 4 or 5 times. The drivers are professionals who know how long it takes to stop or pass. They know where the corners and sides of the trucks are. They're so much better than the amateurs over on Mingo Road!

So I really should write something to recognize their professionalism and courtesy. When I do, I'll post it here for the rest of you to use. Courteous Mass, indeed.


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