Posted By: Ale Dominguez
We made our trip from Newburyport, MA to Salem, MA on Tuesday the 5thbecause we wanted to avoid the traffic from the Fourth of July weekend. We were lucky enough to have one of our community partners from Transition Newburyport, Conrad Willeman, who is also an avid biker, guide us halfway to our destination. Mass Acceleration is known for making 30-mile trips into 7-hour odysseys – taking way too many water breaks, stopping to take naps at parks and eat fresh fruit at fruit stands, and digging through fields of poison ivy to recover lost water bottles (cough cough Eliza!)
However, with Conrad’s guidance we managed to cover our first fifteen miles in less than an hour and a half, which is incredibly fast for us! The trip was also very beautiful, mostly on back roads with few cars and lots of green scenery to entertain us. I must say that even though I was pulling one of the trailers (and thus felt like that half of the trip was entirely uphill), it was one of the most enjoyable rides I have had so far this summer.
Once we got closer to Salem, however, we had to say goodbye to those peaceful back roads and make our way onto the busy streets of the city. We have done quite a bit of riding in city streets so far this summer, but the potholes we encountered on the second part of this trip were some of the worst we’ve seen so far. It’s funny how many things I’ve noticed when travelling by bicycle that used to be invisible to me when I was driving by in a car. While it was easy to drive by the potholes, glass, and debris that often line the sides of roads when I sit comfortably in my car, now these things have become some of my biggest enemies. It is hard to enjoy my surroundings when I have to constantly scan the ground for threatening objects, and listen up for my teammates’ warnings of “pothole!” and “glass!” again and again.
Perhaps most surprisingly, is that moving at bike speed has opened my eyes the most to a factor that should have been obvious even when I was driving: the people I’m sharing the road with. And let me tell you, it has not been a pretty sight. I never realized just how many angry people were driving their cars alongside me, and how the smallest of things, (like a car slowing down so a group of bikers can make it safely across the street) will make them even angrier still. The scariest part of this realization is that almost every time I drive my car at home, I am just like these people! I am known for getting quite angry when getting behind the wheel. Now it embarrasses me to think back to all of the times in the past when I have acted just like the drivers that I now find so appalling. What is it about driving that makes us so impatient? Why do we get so angry when we miss a light or get stuck behind a slower car? What is it about bicyclists that we find so offensive? And why do we feel the need to scream at them to “get off the street!” or “get on the sidewalk!” (Which, by the way, is illegal in most places)? It seems as if this luxury, which is supposed to be making our lives easier, is only making us angrier.
Before starting this internship, I never thought it would be possible to transport myself without the use of a car. My experiences thus far, however, has made it clear that many more things than I thought are accessible by bike. And honestly, after the look I’ve gotten at the road rage that plagues our streets, I’m not too eager to return to the ranks of the perpetually angry. Yet, realistically speaking, it is simply not possible to ALWAYS travel by bike. But, is it equally impossible to make use of our cars without turning into unreasonable, raging individuals? Would we continue to let our emotions overtake us while behind the wheel if we could simply how we look when we do so?
I can’t say how I’m going to react the next time I drive and get stuck behind a slower car, but I hope that I will remember how I feel now. And if I begin to get sucked back into realm of anger, can someone please give me a good shake?