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Thursday, September 17, 2009

Declared Bike Commuter

She looked like a typical weekend bike stroller. She was on a cruiser with a wicker basket on the front, dressed in shorts and tank top. Just like so many recreational riders that appear on weekends. What drew my eye to her was the fact that she was sitting in the middle left turn lane on Coolidge Side of Tremont ,waiting for the light to change. Bikers that look like that rarely are in the road-usually if they are going in the direction of the bridge they take the sidewalk. I have to confess, Q and I were on the sidewalk going towards the bridge. It has always seemed too much trouble if I am coming up to Frazier up from that side to cross the street to travel half a block to turn onto the bridge. But this bike rider was sitting at the light preparing to turn left.

As Q and I made our way casually over Walnut Street Bridge, this same biker cruised by us.We looked at each other. Now, we weren't in any hurry and we are used to high speed roadies passing us, but this was a Saturday afternoon cruiser! And she didn't even seem to be putting out any effort-sort of the way I was riding when I was on the electric bike.

She was taking the same route that Q and I were taking so I kept her in my sight. She rode confidently, in a nonchalant way. Like she was saying "yeah, I ride a bike, that's what I do, no big deal." It occurred to me that I rarely see that type of aura on a bike rider in Chattanooga. Most cruisers have a "Excuse me for being here" energy going on. Roadies, by their dress and actions seem to be telling the world "Hey, I'm good enough to do this," definitely not the quiet confidence of this girl.

I was determined to catch up with her. Because he wasn't nearly as curious as I was, I left Q behind and finally caught up with her at an intersection. It wasn't easy-maybe I should rethink my 2 ton pannier system on my bike. On second thought, where would I throw my junk ? I am obviously a person who likes to carry her baggage around!

Sarah was her name, young enough to be a student but she said she worked at Moe's (of "Welcome to Moe's " fame). She lived in Red Bank and she identified herself as a bike commuter. A bike commuter! Not a bike rider, but a commuter. Do I hear people say that?

She was that day on her way to the library. On her bike? On her way to the library? Was this a lost daughter of mine? NO, I ruled that out. I have two known daughters and neither one of them would be caught dead on a bike going to the library. So it stands to reason, any other daughters would also be refusing to ride their bikes. She rides her bike to work every day from Red Bank out to Highway 153. Not the most bike friendly territory. But I am sure she was doing it with no fuss or muss

Where did she come from? I didn't get a chance to ask all the questions that started forming in my head. I always feel that I need to work on my question asking skills-get right in there and try to find out what I want to know. Q says I ask too many questions as it is. So I try to keep it in balance and then I find I didn't get the essential information. Like "where did she come from?"

Because I am convinced she did not learn that casual confidence in bike handling in Chattanooga. It was that confidence that comes when you learn a skill in childhood. We don't have a culture to teach that. Was she consciously taught? Did she just pick it up from growing up in area with a strong biking culture? Did she figure it out herself? I don't know.

Wherever she learned her biking. it gives me hope to the future of biking in Chattanooga in having her here, riding her bike, skillfully, nonchalantly, saying "Yes, biking is what I do."

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