National Bike to Work Wet Week, Day Two

Having failed thus far to cash in on the True Meaning of National Bike to Work Week—free coffee—due of course to my rigorous implementation of my patented “Leave  fifteen minutes late for work then try to recoup that time on your morning commute belly reduction program” which precludes leisurely chatting and drinking that bitter brown elixor of life (yet remains ineffective at reducing any noticeable quantity of fat), I’ve had to reflect on some of the other meanings of bike week.  On my, according to “Google Bicycling”, 6.9 mile commute—and I’m impressed that Google has apparently managed to program the internets to think like a hill-averse, impatient yet traffic timid bike commuter to the point where I plugged in my start point and my end point, pressed enter and there shimmered my commute, with the single exception of an inexplicable and decidedly unscenic  jag through the alley behind the CAC.  Oh, and the Google hivemind also didn’t intuitively know that I would cross busy Spring Grove Avenue to get on the otherwise unconnected lonely .75 mile segment of the Mill Creek Greenway Bike Trail to look at the geese, herons and monster carp, but we can only assume that when this online tool moves beyond beta testing (which also means that I can’t embed it here yet), it will have “nature boy”, “scenic”, and “absurdly lazy” settings.  The Spring Grove avenue section of my route is a study in the blasted grim, post-industrial moonscape of the Mill Creek Valley.  I parallel I-75, which is usually snarled with traffic, and looking up the side streets I can see the damp concrete escarpments along the freeway that conceal Cincinnati’s infamously ill-fated subterranean railway—they’re doing some sort of work on the tunnels right now, my guess would be that it has to do with the water main that now occupies this failed mass transit corridor.  Below Clifton I can see up straight up the aptly named Straight Street that climbs Fairview hill and, before the interstate came through, connected with the bustling slaughterhouses and industries in the valley.  At the southern terminus of this hill you can just make out the vestiges of the Fairview incline.  I pass beneath the colossal Western Hills Viaduct, its arches deliberately mimicking the rotunda of Union Terminal, then turn up into the West End via Harrison Ave., where the buildings are beautiful if at present run down as hell.   All of this goes to demonstrate how radically the area has changed in half a century, especially with regards commuting, which let’s face it, is a not insignificant chunk of the working man or woman’s life—a few short decades have seen the rise to dominance of those fossil-fueled carapaces being pushed, like cookies by the girl scout cookie cartel, on an all-too complacent and porculent  public.  Don’t get me wrong—there’s nothing like biking in increasingly damp trousers and undertrousers to underline the sensibility of the automobile.   However, despite this week’s decidedly British weather we’re having, biking remains healthier, more relaxing and, if you are predisposed and not perspiration averse, fun and convenient.  I’m beginning to think that some of the ire motorists direct at cyclists—sadly all-too-often deserved–has as much to do with the inkling that cyclists are endorsing a philosophy in opposition to the standing order.  Not so.  We’re all just trying to get from point a to point b and maybe, just maybe even c.  The evidence with which I find myself confronted on my bike to work is that there have been so many other possibilities—in recent history–than piling into our cars, then paying for gas to run our engines at stop lights or in gridlock, or to make the better part of a ton of steal roll forward, taking our own relatively tiny selves with them.  Workers once lived on the hills above the valley—they schlepped to and from work, and it’s easy to imagine them enjoying a beer after their shift, having taken the streetcar up the incline, or climbed the hill home.  Even the ornate and abandoned post office building on Harrison, as I head up toward the canal grade of Central Parkway (itself a relic of recent methods for the movement of persons and goods), demonstrates the smaller circles in which   people lived and worked—in doing so, they didn’t waste vast swathes of their lives being neither here nor there.  If people who cycle are embracing some sort of dissident philosophy, it, like the act of biking to work, is so fundamentally mundane as to sound ridiculous when suddenly referred to as the object of a “National Week”.   The philosophy is only this: that the modern world could stand a bit of simplification—a spring cleaning, as it were, of the closet of modern ideas, or at least a trimming back of the wardrobe.  Cyclists and cycling activists simply understand that a world in which it’s safe to ride your bike to work is going to be a more pleasant, safer world for everyone.   Even if you did forget to don your nylon pants and it’s looking like rain with four miles yet to go.  –Ed Scripsi

Published in: on May 18, 2010 at 2:50 pm  Leave a Comment  

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