I ride a bike… in San Francisco. I’ve actually had a bike here for about 3 out of the 4 years I’ve lived here, but I was always pretty weary about riding as a daily means of transportation. I work downtown and I’ve always had to take Market Street straight down from my cave in the Castro. This means I deal with the occasional potholes, buses, street car tracks and overall asshole in a private vehicle. My first road bike, I purchased from Refried Bikes in the “Mastro” (Mission and Castro. SF has funny micro-neighborhood names). These guys were awesome. I got an awesome vintage Motobecane, put some drop handlebars on it, rolled up right my pant leg and I was off!
The feeling of pure joy is pretty intense. Immediately, I felt like a kid again. I was bobbing and weaving through the streets of San Francisco, whizzing past cars who have to deal with pesky things like traffic and stop lights. I’d put on headphones and pump my pedals to my power song of the moment. I was free of all those constraints. I’m getting around on my terms, my time, my way. Basically, I was an dickhead bicyclist. I started riding to work. Luckily, my prior job had a bike store room with hanging racks, so bike parking was never an issue. I was a fearless rider, zooming up and down market everyday. On days off I’d go on bike rides around the city, or across the Golden Gate Bridge. I was fulfilling my destiny as a Mission Hipster.
Then, I got the rude awakening I needed. I was riding home from work late at night. I was on Market Street and a car came out of nowhere and hit me. I don’t remember much, but I was knocked off my bike and unconscious. Thanks whatever higher power you want to that I was wearing a helmet. I came to with a hunky (I think) paramedic My bike was damaged, but was fine after a new back wheel and paint. The worst part, is the car that hit me fled the scene.
I left that accident with a fear of the road as a bicyclist. My bike sat pretty idle for about 18 months. I couldn’t get right back on my bike.
Fast forward. I started Dev Bootcamp and since I wasn’t going to be able to go to my normal yoga classes with Debbie Steingesser or Janet Stone. I needed to find a new way to stay active without my normal routine. I gazed longingly at my poor, unridden bike. It was time.
I took it back to Refried to fix it up a bit. I put a new leather seat on it because my ass needs to ride in style. I purchased a new helmet and a light, also. I gave myself a goal. I was going to ride my bike into DBC every single day (providing weather permitted).
Monday, June 11th was the day. I hadn’t done a practice ride or anything? Was I crazy? Probably. I bounded down my hill and onto Market; not terrified, but fearfully aware. I got downtown OK; a bit winded from the couple of hills I encountered. I was a better bicyclist. No headphones in my ears, I was obeying all traffic signals. I made it to Grant Avenue and headed north. I’m riding down the side of the road and a car is flanked on my left-hand side. He tries to go right and he taps my back wheel. I put my good down and brace myself; I didn’t fall. I didn’t flashback to my previous accident. That would be far too dramatic and my mind isn’t that clever. I DID however have a mini-panic attack. This lovely fellow got out to make sure I was alright, and while apologizing profusely, gave me his phone number in case my bike needed repairs. We went on our merry ways. (My bike is fine, in case you were wondering.)
Since then, I’ve been biking daily and it’s getting a lot better. I don’t have an inflated ego on the bike anymore, but I feel much more comfortable. It’s been a great way to clear my mind, like yoga does for me. In those moments on the bike there are no text messages, emails, Facebook, Twitter. There is just myself and my bike as one, traveling on the road.
Head on over to the SF Bicycle Coalition to get more info about riding in San Francisco. Become a member, like me!