Saturday, December 31

From the Pavement's Edge

What's in a name? My original title for this blog was: "Jersey Guys" and the original intent was to share an autobiographic fictional account of our "adventures" interacting with the cycling culture that typically terrorized Washington Park in Denver.

Somewhere along the way I realized I was getting away from that intent, mainly because I wasn't being very fictional, and I wanted to focus less on the negative aspects of cycling culture and share some of my more personal adventures. So I changed the name to "From the Pavement's Edge: Taking the Lane."

I imagine the initial inference would be that "From the Pavement's Edge" would reflect the viewpoint of a road cyclist or a commuter cyclist who is striving to hold his own on the fringe of the pavement, and while the latter most definitely applies in my case, I think my intended meaning was more along the lines of a cyclist treading the crumbling edge of the pavement, gazing off across the non-paved landscape looking for answers.

I was a dormant mountain biker at the time. I had ridden off-road in the past and knew I would eventually get back to it, but at the time I was happily a roadie.

And also, frustration with the car vs bike climate on the pavement led me to look away for possible answers, outside the storm of controversy and rage that exists there in abundance. Answers may lie beyond the pavement.

Riding the edge of the pavement is kind of like being registered "independent" politically speaking. Yes, people may call you "straddlepole," but what they don't understand about your position only belies their own ignorance. I feel as if I have a right to the roads, equal to everyone who rides on four wheels, but I also long for freedom from needing to use roads. So when motorists express their fervent desire that I leave "their" roads--in my heart, deep down--I want to do so.

The conundrum is amplified by the truth I often cite: all destinations are located along roads. While the statement is absolute, the underlying truth is not. Of course I can claim my destination is the peak of some mountain far beyond the end of all roads. But for the practical cyclist, the one who only wants to replace his dinosaur juice drinking machine with an elegant velocipede, all practical destinations do lie along roads.

The destinations that are situated outside the normal circle of society are usually sought in moments of freedom from routine, schedule and obligations...a tour, a recreational ride, an escape from the lawful authorities. If you live in a community and are gainfully employed roads are part of your existence.

But that truth need not hold indefinitely. We can reshape our paradigms and create practical destinations that do not have to lie along roads, or that can be accessed by other means as easily and even more efficiently than by roads within motor vehicles.

Over the past couple of years I've wrestled bodily with the issues of obeying the law versus obeying my own common sense, helmet versus no helmet, road versus bike path, and many other cyclocentric issues. I don't claim to have all of the answers. Who can? But I can say I am willing to experiment, to explore different possibilities, and to forego convention in pursuit of biketopia.

There are days when I long to let my wheel drop off the pavement and never look back. I've had my days of hating cars...motorists. But I know the stark reality is that for now I must continue my journeys along the Edge, dodging risk and uncertainty, asserting my own space as best I can without infringing upon the spaces of others, seeking out the best routes, the most effective courses between the destination of my life.

Pavement is not a necessity, but it is a reality. It crisscrosses in our paths like devious black cats. You cannot swing said black cats by the tail without hitting some pavement. It's everywhere. And it defines our society to some extent. I do my best to keep it from defining me, even as it guides me to the questions and answers that keep me here on the Edge.

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