I know the cyclist rules of the road, and follow them, but even so, I’ve had my share of traffic mishaps and near misses. I’ve had water balloons thrown at me, firecrackers, rotten fruit, and colorful insults hurled; the most common one, “GET A CAR!” always makes me laugh, especially these days as I coast past the Sinclair near my house, where gas is $4.84 a gallon.
I’m one of the lucky ones, though, hit only a couple of times by cars over the years as I’ve pedaled through towns and cities, down two- and four-lane highways. Both times I escaped major injury, and both times the drivers stopped, remorseful, admitting that they just didn’t see me. This inspired purchases of all manner of flashing lights, reflective gear, and obnoxious neon clothing to announce my humble presence on roadways.
Encountering a red light on a bike is an opportunity, a chance to rest for a bit, a moment to observe the clouds, or to notice a couple of ravens hopping around in a pile of Cheetos in the gutter. It’s also a chance to smile at the people behind the wheels of their cars sitting next to you, staring blankly ahead, fuming, cursing, or scrolling through the phones in their laps, thinking no one will notice.
Red lights are also a chance to look down. I once snatched up a $20 bill that was cartwheeling down the street on a breeze, found a coffee shop gift card that still had $11.72 worth of credit, and another time, a handwritten grocery list where item #6, just under cat food, was, “I love you!”
Possibly the best of these windfalls was a pristine, unopened pack of Butter Rum Lifesavers, which I didn’t know were even made anymore, found in the home stretch of a sixty-mile day bucking a headwind.
On my ride to pick up my CSA farm share the other afternoon, I started off with a slow cruise through my neighborhood to check in with the bed of irises down the block, still confined in fat, purplish-black buds almost quivering in anticipation of bursting into bloom. I pedaled alongside rows of lilac bushes dripping with white, lavender, and grape-colored flowers, trailing my fingers through them as I rode by. Poppies, I noticed, a block later, resemble something from the Rocky Horror Picture Show before they bloom, but when the pods crack open, instead of revealing the teeth of a flesh-eating monster, the poppy unfurls into soft crimson petals; like taffeta, tissue paper, or silk.
I rode past unblemished lawns, uniform blades of green clipped to the regulation three inches, and beyond that, stretches of native grasses, shrubs, and flowers; little lady bug signs peeking out through Delphinium and Blue Flax, announcing a Pesticide-Free Zone. I notice moths, butterflies, and bees fluttering around dandelions’ sunny, golden faces, and wonder for probably the one millionth time in my life what everyone’s got against dandelions.