Columbus, OH USA
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Pedal Pusher
June 2007
Debut Column
by Greg Knepp

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You're not a biker, you're a cyclist!

John Tarantino navigates High Street on his energy-saving transportation device.
© Photo by Rick Borgia

Horse manure, you’re not a biker, you’re a cyclist! A biker is a beefy, black-shirted buba on a Harley who believes in Bush, Busch, Jesus and/or Satan. He drinks Dunkin’ Donuts coffee (a damned respectable brew) and eats Big Macs (great American folk cuisine). He has a coarse yet finely articulated way of life. You, on the other hand, pay premium prices for so-called microbrew, which too often has the slight cloudy aspect of peepee, and drink used motor oil marketed as coffee at any one of a number of hip High Street bistros. As far as your diet, well it looks as if you haven’t had a square meal in weeks! I suggest you check into Michael’s Goody Boy or Phillips Coney Island for an extended nutritional rehab. That’s what you folks call it, isn’t it….rehab?

Yes, I guess…So you say I’m a cyclist?
That’s right; cycling is a superb form of transportation, not a lifestyle. Lifestyle cyclists spend more time driving their bike from rally to tour than actually riding. A roof or rear rack is no place for a bicycle. Cycling is a great way to get from point A to point B, but cycling is also great fun and terrific exercise. And being a Short North denizen, you’re perfectly situated to use your bike (“bike” is an acceptable designation for both bicycles and motorcycles) as your primary, if not your only form of mechanized transport.

You think Short North is good biking…er, ah cycling territory?
Outside of Lucca, Italy, the best I’ve seen in an urban setting. With rare exception, Short North streets are either narrow, allowing for speedy cycling while slowing motorists, or wide, allowing plenty of riding room on the right. The terrain is flat enough for easy pedaling but gently rolling in places so as to afford an interesting ride and allow for the occasional downhill coast as well as the invigorating uphill climb – Buttles from Neil to High would be a good example of just such a hill. Everything you need in shopping and entertainment is within easy cycling distance. Additionally, local motorists are used to lots of cyclists in the area, so they are pretty courteous.

Courteous, are you kidding?
You may scoff, but I cycled in downtown Baltimore for a couple of decades and was lucky to escape with my life – so much for the liberal East! Even the touted berg of Boulder, Colorado, is over-hyped as a cycling paradise; the town is virtually spider-webbed with bike trails, segregating cyclists from real traffic. Trails are great and we’ve got some good ones in Columbus, but bicycles are vehicles and belong on the street.

What about the sidewalks?
Are you nuckin futs? Except when you’re walking it, keep your bike off the sidewalks, period! And don’t even dream about riding on the left, against traffic. Always ride with the flow of traffic. This is common sense as well as the law of the land.

But what if I get rear-ended…I mean, by a car?
You’re hopeless! Let me give you a lesson in physics: If you’re cycling at 15 mph and automobile traffic is running at 30, then your relative speed to both cars and fixed objects is…you guessed it, 15 mph – an easily controlled velocity relationship for all concerned. If, however, you’re traveling against traffic, your speed relative to automobile traffic jumps to 45 mph – not good! You’re also at a distinct disadvantage at corners where a turning driver probably won’t be expecting any traffic going in the wrong direction, especially a bicycle hugging parked cars. And speaking about parked cars, keep a straight track when you peddle next to parked vehicles; don’t make the mistake of weaving to the curb just because you encounter an area where a few car-lengths of empty space are available. You may think you’re doing motorists a favor by moving over to let them pass, but weaving in and out of parked cars is confusing to approaching drivers and dangerous for you.

Won’t I seem a little arrogant by not moving over when I’m able?
Obviously, if there is a long stretch without any parked cars, then move over – but avoid weaving. And remember, as an operator of a vehicle, you have as much right on the road as any motorist. The bottom line is use common sense and obey all traffic laws.

OK, but do I have to wear one of those nerdy helmets?
Now you’re starting to piss me off.


Greg Knepp is a Short North cyclist


© 2007 Short North Gazette, Columbus, Ohio. all rights reserved

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