You see this symbol on my bike helmet above? Anyone who’s not 12 know what it is? Anyone?
It’s the Rebel Alliance Starbird symbol from Luke Skywalker’s X-Wing Fighter helmet from the first two Star Wars movies (the good ones).
You know why I have that on there? Besides the fact that I’m such a massive dweeb I make Leonard from Big Bang Theory look like Keith Richards by comparison? Because riding a bike in Gloucester is not unlike the trench run at the end of that film. Here you are, screaming along trying to keep up with traffic and there are doors and drunks and moms on phones. You’ve all heard me talk about this before: Riding a bike in Gloucester is like attacking an armored battle station in your tiny X-wing. And I never even had a Beggar’s Canyon back home to practice in.
The newly installed bike lanes are a big Wampa step in the right direction. The biggest thing they do, in my opinion, is say, “Hey, drivers: it’s cool for bikes to be here!” That’s literally the most important thing. I’ll look out for the obstacles, the potholes, the people pulling out of Cruiseport with their eyes on the phone and not the road (I’m looking at you here, mayor of Fitchburg), staggering dudes without shirts on, all that. What I need is for the intentionally hostile drivers to at least know that we exist and that it’s cool for us to be in the road and to tone down the road rage a few dozen notches.
You’d perhaps be surprised how often people yell shit like “Get out of the road!” or “Get out of the frikin way!” or “Your brother owes me fifty bucks!” (That may be a separate issue, actually). I see comments all the time about how “That road wasn’t designed for bikes” or my favorite generalization, “Roads” (as in all roads) “were not designed for bikes”. I guess that’s technically true, the Romans probably did not have cyclists in mind when they laid the first stones on the Via Apppia in 312 B.C. but most of our roads were not “designed” for cars either. It’s up to us what mix of uses we want to put our roads to.
So the bike lanes remind us that the roads are a public resource; they do not belong to any one group of users. We have trucks, we have cars, and we have busses and Tommy the Trolley or whatever and bikes. Everybody needs to learn to get along because auto use in this country is actually declining. People are seeking alternate forms of transportation for a variety of reasons, and bikes are one of the alternatives folks are turning to. You’ll be seeing more of them, not less in the coming years. Maybe you’ll come join us?
So Huzzah to bike lanes and a shout-out to Heidi Wakeman and Steve Winslow for making it happen. And a second Huzzah to all the folks out there who let me in, let me cross, slow down and generally drive safe around cyclists. One of the things I think we all love about this town is that we don’t have a lot of lights or signs; we all just sort of let each other go with a wave so we can all get where we’re going. “Bearing our neighbor’s burden within reason” as they say. Gloucester may get trashed in the media, but we know how to take care of each other and that’s a shit-ton more than I can say for most places in 21st century America.
You know what? Mos Eisley also got a bad rap. That place had a kickin’ bar scene.