Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Random Cyclists Give Me Hope

The Posey Tube 2 way "bike lane"

So today was jury duty day. I overslept by 15 minutes, and upon making my cup of coffee and checking the court website for details, I read that the parking garage fills up by 8am, and then you are on your own, at the mercy of the Oakland parking meter system. Read: expired parking fines.

So at 7:30 I made the bold decision not to drive but to ride my bike there. This required some hustling on my part, a 2 minute shower, skipped breakfast, got dressed , stripped my bike of stealable parts such as computer, saddle bag, and pump, but made sure I had U-lock, helmet, gloves, and most importantly, I had to invoke the transformation of Flash, a very Power Ranger-like event, and set off in street clothes on my Miyata.

I turned west instead of east. East goes to Park St., west to Webster St. Webster St. means one thing- The Tube. But I realized in a Flash that cycling the tube would save me valuable time---I had to be checked in at 8:30am. So west on Santa Clara I rode, and I found myself flying along. Not sure if it was just the freshly imbibed coffee, or that plus adrenaline, but I was riding like a bike messenger, taking on Constitution Way in the rush hour traffic. The sun was out, the air was crisp, I felt in my element. Soon I approached the gaping jaws of the Tube. Traffic was backed up to a crawl so I was actually making better time then the drivers.

It's a giddy feeling surmounting the sidewalk and coasting down into the bowels of the beast. Not long after entering this traffic intestine, I saw my first encounter up ahead.

Encounter #1 was a scruffy looking dude riding a crappy mountain bike. As we approached each other head on, I was unsure if he was going to stop. His bars looked too wide to pass me without stopping. I pulled over and stopped, almost leaning against the black sooty tiles that comprise the tube walls. The dude stopped, got off his bike, and walked around me.

"Hey, thanks man, I appreciate that" said I
The dude looked at me a moment, then said,
"I've always thought for bikes that the other tube should be one way towards Alameda and this tube should be one way towards Oakland"

I was struck by the irrefutable logic of his thinking. So unexpected at that moment. I pressed on, and soon saw my 2nd encounter approaching me.

Encounter #2 was a petite woman on a hybrid bike. Again, I was not sure if she was going to stop, so I stopped again almost against the wall. She stopped alongside me.
"Thanks so much for stopping! There's this other guy that doesn't stop at all and yesterday he actually clipped my pedal while I was near the railing and scared the hell out of me, so thanks for stopping"
At that moment I felt a kinship to her. She was pretty, but without a helmet. I could almost visualize her being knocked over the railing into the traffic. I wanted to hug her like a daughter.
"I'd feel much better for you if you had a helmet" I said.
"I had one but it was stolen. I'm saving for a good one." I nodded and pressed on. So this young woman is a Tube Regular. I respected her immensely at that moment.

Encounter #3 was a repeat of 1 and 2, an older Asian man on a mountain bike. I stopped once again, he dismounted and lifted his front wheel up in the air to pass me. Nice display so I thanked him and he smiled.

The second half of the tube was encounter free, and I chugged my way up the grade breathing nitrogen oxides and hydrocarbons, thinking at least this is not northern Japan. I made it to the courthouse by 8:25, and have to admit I felt superior over the other 89 jurors who drove there.

But what impressed me this day was the kindness and cycling humanity I encountered inside the tube. The last place I would have expected it. And that my friends, is what makes it so sweet. Comrades in cycling, unknown to each other, but committed to making each other's passage safe and above that, civilized. It made me feel proud to have met them, however briefly. I have the utmost respect for those who have to ride this noir gauntlet everyday.

Ride On my friends



  1. Whoa, dude! You shot the tube! And met three oncoming bikes? (One would be too much for me.) You truly are a superhero, Flash! May you never encounter a bummy with a shopping cart whilst under the estuary.

  2. IToad, The dreaded overloaded recycling cart is the worst case scenario that can only be resolved by the cyclist reversing course and exiting the tube until the cart is shat out, then resuming again. I shudder to think about it.

  3. You ARE VERY BRAVE to use the Tube Flash. Even though I agree it should be a one way path for cyclists and pedestrians, I'd never use it because of the car exhausts you'd have to breathe. BTW, that's a great pic.