Friday, June 14, 2013

turd, reconsidered

This is a cheap department store bike hooked up to a cheap Chinese-made trailer. In my past career as a bike mechanic I would regularly sniff my nose at these things. When a bike like this came into the shop I'd dutifully work on it and when it left I'd mutter under my breath, "Look, mom! I polished another turd today!"

Even if, by some off chance, I return to work in the bicycle industry, I will very likely never again refer to any fully-functioning bicycle as a turd.

The bike and trailer shown in this photo are currently in use by me, on loan from two very nice families while I am a guest in their Jewish community, working at a summer educational program in Kansas.

The town I'm living and working in has no real bike culture. Only two of its streets have bike lanes striped to them. Most larger thoroughfares have no shoulder to accommodate bicycles, though some side streets do have room for bikes to share the lane. Kansas law dictates that, in the absence of a bike lane or sidewalk, a bicyclist may ride in the street if they ride "as far to right as practically possible". If you want to ride anywhere else, you pretty much have to ride on the sidewalk.

Almost no one here is riding for actual transportation other than me; the handful of other bicyclists I've seen have all been out for recreational riding. When I tow the trailer with my guitar in it, people on the street actually stop, stare and point it out to their friends, as if transporting things by bicycle is unheard of (I think they all expected to see a child riding in the trailer). Still, everyone has been polite and courteous on the street.

This bike and trailer, on loan to me from people I do not know, has been a lifesaver during my time here. I am grateful beyond words. And I will think long and hard before I call another department store bike a turd. Those bikes may be cheap, but they work -- and lots of people ride them.