Saying Thank You While Riding

Photo: San Francisco Bike Party reminds us about the memorial for Nancy Ho at the corner of Fremont and Mission. Stop by and pay your respects if you get the chance. So sad.

I’ve biked to work now for roughly 6 months. Used up my 100 handy-wipes. Flattened a tire. No injuries, knock on wood, despite the urban mess I ride through every morning and evening. 4th and Townsend, the intersection of a freeway onramp and an active commuter train station, I’ve nicknamed: “CrazyTown-send” for the apparent suspension of common sense and civil law.

At first, I was largely angry when I arrived at work. I was hot, I was upset at the rudeness of drivers. Tangling with your life every morning gives you a shot of adrenalin that’s hard to dampen.

A few months in, I stopped being angry all the time. I think this is due to an increase in fitness. Everything makes you angry when you’re hot and tired. Still- cars cut me off, didn’t signal, swerved into me, or opened doors in my face. Same stuff, just my reaction was different.

A few months after that, I started daydreaming and thinking more while riding, looking at the beautiful Bay Bridge and the Bay- mist on the water. I started tweeting little poetic descriptions of the bay “bay updates” when I arrived at work. I started de-athleticizing my apparel, wearing skirts, squishing my stuff into cuter bags. I started having fun, basically.

Perhaps month 4 or 5, I actively tried to STFU while biking. I’m pretty verbal and confrontational, and this month I was like: I said- no more yelling at cars. You do not want to be shot (famous incident of road rage in SOMA where a famous kickboxer was shot for yelling at a driver.) No more shouting “stop double-parking in the bike lane” into car windows. I did continue to tweet the infractions by the Zynga mini-bus parking in the bike lane on Townsend (and general swerving into traffic without checking for cyclists), and Gordon Biersch for leaving dumpsters in the bike lane on a very narrow part of Embarcadero.

Photo: Milton Repreza’s photo of me at Critical Mass

Last month, I actively decided to focus on the positive. It’s a parenting technique (remember: I’m an auntie of 8!)… I started saying “thank you,” to the nice people. Because they’re all around you, doing nice stuff. This has improved my ride perhaps more than anything else. Thanks, pedestrian, for stopping and letting me zip by. Thanks, bus driver, for letting me whiz around you while you’re at your stop (not recommended for the faint of heart). Thanks, car on Harrison, for letting me wheel through this stop sign without stopping- note, Harrison has *the nicest* cars in respect to cyclists over any other street in SF. Thanks, tourists, for letting me go through this big cable car turnaround crowd. Once in a while it’s a standoff of politeness: no, you go. No, you go. You first! Really. You can go. Go. (On the Division/Townsend turnaround).

I still get angry at being doored, or swerved into. People who park in bike lanes deserve a certain ring of hell (in which they are sandwiched between an Amtrak bus and Muni on a recliner bike, oh, and cab is double-parked in the bike lane, in front of them- yes, I have fantasized about this). Runners who are opposing traffic in the bike lane also need a wake-up call. It’s all somewhat balanced by the occasional politeness.