Sunday, July 22, 2007

Pedaling “Strong”

I mentioned a few weeks back the idea of buying a bicycle, and as you can see from the picture, I’ve got a snazzy new Walmart special, a baby-blue model complete with a generous white basket and “STRONG” emblazoned on its frame. I don’t really know why I decided to join the throngs of bikers, except for the adventure and the independence; all other signs point to “Are you crazy?!” For one, the traffic is mayhem, untethered by stoplights or lanes or limits on just what kind of speculative vehicles can be driven or pedaled. Technically, there are “bike lanes,” but not only do they merge at some points with bus stops, but they are traversed by motorcycles, electric bikes, and people pedaling tipsy loads of all sorts in both directions. It is not uncommon to see a family of five coming at you head-on on one motorbike, babies held football-style by mothers riding side-saddle. And then there are the vendors, with vats of soup or watermelons or live chicks strapped ingeniously to the handlebars or racks at the rear. Actually, the commute to work is a daily circus show in itself, and I recall how traditional Chinese-style circus arts include teetering balancing acts and fitting multiple people on unicycles or in tiny barrels. It’s true, raw entertainment.

Don’t worry, though, I’m careful – ultra-vigilant really. The most dangerous part of biking for me is that I am an absolute spectacle on the road. People slow down to stare at my shiny new wheels, shout at me as I pass, and honk incessantly at close range, all of which adds unnecessary risk to my ride. Still, it’s fun! At night after work, I can zoom through the less-crowded streets along the smelly river to the deafening sound of insects, often swerving to miss frogs on the path. (If I wanted frog soup I could find freshly decapitated ones at Walmart any time).