2013.05.15 Biking through Seattle

Written by David Green.

Before my brother Dan returned home to Seattle, he left me with a present: a By the Way column. It gives us small-town people an interesting perspective of one slice of life in the big city.

By DANIEL GREEN

While walking the streets of Morenci I saw some bicyclists and

wondered if they were commuting to work. I'm curious because bicycling to work is a really big deal in Seattle. On a busy Seattle bicycle route during rush hour, it's not unusual to see 25 cyclists stacked up at a stoplight. There are lots of bike lanes and city buses have bike racks to accommodate cyclists who might need them.

This month, bicycle mania in Seattle reaches a fever pitch. Part of the reason is that after months of rainy weather, the sun is finally appearing. The fair-weather cyclists are joining the hardcore riders who have been commuting all winter in their foul-weather gear. The other reason is that May is officially Bike to Work Month in Seattle.

This month, businesses and civic organizations encourage employees to commute by bicycle. If cycling isn't possible, citizens are urged to take the bus or walk. There are contests and other incentives to get people out of their cars. The biggest event of all is Bike to Work Day, which is May 17 this year.

On Bike to Work Day there are dozens and dozens of "commuter stations" set up along popular bicycle routes. These stations offer free goodies, like water bottles, energy bars and mechanical tune-ups.

Some stations have tiny cafés serving breakfast. There are prize drawings. If you're really enthusiastic you can join the mayor (an avid bicyclist) for a morning bike rally at city hall.

I'm not done yet. At the end of the work day there's a street party with live bands and a cyclist-outfit fashion show. Don't forget bicycle happy hour at the bars. There's one bar that owns a 16-passenger pedal-powered beer-mobile. There are photos of this contraption on the bar's website: http://www.thecyclesaloon.com.

Some people spend thousands on the very best bikes and accessories. Not me. My bike is old and very sturdy with fat tires. Lots of riders clamp their bicycle shoes onto the pedals for maximum pushing power. I don't do that. Too scary to have to waggle my shoes out of the clamps when I have to stop. I do wear actual bike pants to avoid chafing, but I don't buy pricey paper-thin jerseys with colorful racing team labels on them.

I haven't been cycling to work very often for the last few years. That's because of the "terrible triad of the elbow." Several years ago I was on my way to work when I cut a corner too tightly and my rear wheel hit the curb. I went down with all my weight on the elbow and the doctors said I had the terrible triad; I'd destroyed all three important parts of the elbow. Three surgeries later, I have a more cautious outlook on commuting.

It doesn't really make sense, but I still ride most every weekend for fun, exercise and errands but I usually take the bus to work. Maybe I should just bite the bullet and go back to bicycle commuting. The building where I work just refurbished its bicycle parking area. The new bike cage is lined with wall hooks for hanging and locking the bikes. It also has a communal tire pump and a few common repair tools for riders. The building also installed a couple showers. It's all very inviting, and I might be persuaded to join the throngs of riders again.

Maybe I will, but sometimes I get angry. I get mad when I remember the car that rapidly backed out of a parking space and into my path. I screeched to a halt and found myself staring into the eyes of woman on the passenger side. She and the driver both seemed surprised to see me. Some drivers have bike-blinders. They pretend we don't exist and don't look for us.

I also get mad at fellow cyclists who ignore the rules of the road and make us all look bad. Then there are the annoying bikers who hold

"critical mass" rides once a month. This is when a gang of bike riders decide to take over an entire lane of traffic to remind everyone that the streets are not for cars only. They wave and yell while vehicles helplessly back up behind them. They are the radical wing of the bicycle rights lobby.

Maybe you didn't know bicycling was so complicated, involving fashion shows, special parking garages and fights over road rights. I'll end this with one simple message.

The most amazing thing I've noticed about bike riders in Morenci is that they don't seem to be wearing helmets. I have a name for riders who don't wear helmets—"organ donors." All of you unprotected cyclists, please sign up to be donors so we can all benefit if your head meets the pavement.

  • Front.train
    WRECKAGE—Morenci Fire Department member Taylor Schisler walks past the smoking wreckage of a semi-truck tractor on the north side of the Norfolk and Southern Railroad tracks on Ranger Highway. The truck trailer was on the south side of the tracks
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    SCULPTORS—Morenci third grade students Emersyn Thompson (left) and Marissa Lawrence turn spaghetti sticks into mini sculptures Friday during a class visit to Stair District Library. All Morenci Elementary School classes recently visited the library to experience the creative construction toys purchased through the “Sculptamania!” project, funded by a Disney Curiosity Creates grant. The grant is administered by the Association for Library Services to Children, a division of the American Library Association.
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  • Front.winner
    REFEREE Camden Miller raises the hand of Morenci Jr. Dawgs wrestler Ryder Ryan as his opponent leaves the mat in disappointment. Morenci’s youth wrestling program served as host for a tournament Saturday morning to raise money for the club. Additional photos are on the back page.
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    SHERWOOD STATE Bank opened its Fayette office at a grand opening Friday morning, drawing a large crowd to view the renovated building. Above, Burt Blue talks to teller Cindy Funk, while his wife, Jackie, looks around the new office. The Blues missed the opening and took a quick tour on Tuesday. Few traces remain of the former grocery store and theater, however, part of the original brick wall still shows in the hallway leading to the back of the building. The drive-through window should be ready for customers later in the month.
  • Front.make.three
    FROM THE LEFT, Landon Wilkins, Ryan White and Logan Blaker try out their artistic skills Saturday afternoon at the Morenci PTO’s first Date to Create event. More than 50 people showed up to create decorated planks of wood to hang from rope. The event served as a fund-raiser for miscellaneous PTO projects. Additional photos are on the back of this week’s Observer.

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