When I was a kid, I got a blue ten-speed for my birthday. Owning a bicycle was a requirement in my family since we seriously did things on the weekend like mandatory family bike rides across the Golden Gate Bridge to get ice cream in Sausalito (It sounds far more well-adjusted than it was; I promise). But then I turned fourteen, my mom sent me off to boarding school in Connecticut, and my ten-speed never left the storage room again. And I never owned another bicycle again.
In fact, other than a few beach cruisers here and there (only one of which I fell off of due to severe intoxication—twice, fine! three times), I haven’t really ridden a bike since I was thirteen.
But when I spotted my first PUBLIC bike—the clean lines, the fun colors, the elegant design—I knew I had to have one. Am I a “cyclist?” Hell, no. Do I like pretty things? Absofuckinlutely. Am I basically comparing a bicycle to a handbag? Yes. But a handbag with magical transportation powers!
Campfriend surprised me with the super-fanciest of PUBLIC bikes on my birthday. It was the first time in my life I was ever rewarded for being patient because if I’d bought it on my own, I definitely would have gone for the one that was half the price. I was excited, but also nervous. So nervous, in fact, that the bike just leaned casually (on its kickstand!) in my living room for almost two weeks. And yes, I love that my bicycle has a kickstand; I mean, isn’t that one of the best features of a bike? It’s so James Dean.
Eventually though, I realized that Campfriend probably wanted me to, you know, actually RIDE the bike, so we set out on an adventure through Golden Gate Park. And then we rode through the oldest redwoods in the world. And then by the Truckee River in Tahoe. Turns out the bike wasn’t just pretty, but it was fun. And practical! Like a vacuum cleaner, but BETTER.
Despite all our adventures, however, two months had passed and I still hadn’t ridden the bike (how to say this without sounding like a kindergartener?) without adult supervision. (Shit. Failed.) So when my dinner plans on Tuesday night were in a neighborhood with horrible parking and just far enough away that I didn’t want to walk, it hit me: That’s a place a bicycle could go!
So I looked up the flattest route on BikeMapper, grabbed my helmet and lock, and rode the 1.2 miles to the restaurant. ALL. BY. MYSELF.
And yes, I had to text my brother and Campfriend to find out how I was supposed to lock the bike. And yes, I basically panicked the entire dinner because I couldn’t see it and why WOULDN’T someone try to steal it. And if they didn’t steal IT, wouldn’t they probably try to steal my adorable red bell that perfectly matches my brake cable? And, fine, when I left and a pedestrian complimented me on my bike as I rode across the intersection, I *may* have said, “Thanks! It’s the first time I’ve ridden it alone!”
Who’s a big girl now? WHO IS?
But it was actually fun. And efficient. And so much faster than driving.
So when I went to meet my friend Matt for dinner the next night at a restaurant that was only 1.7 miles away from my house, I decided it was time to take my bicycle out for our second night of alone time. Yup, I move fast. Which probably isn't something I had to tell you since you *are* reading my blog.
Riding to the restaurant was easy. A ton of downhill, very little traffic, and the only issue I had was when I realized that because I’m on a bicycle, I now talk to strangers. For example: to the man rushing to jaywalk in front of me: “Oh! Don’t worry! I won’t hit you!” because the thing about riding a bike is, you're flying down the street, the wind is in your hair (that is obviously mostly covered with your helmet) and it just feels good and that makes me super friendly. Who knew? Also: awkward!
After a delicious dinner during which I found out that I’d been holding a serious grudge against Matt for something that never even actually happened (oopsie!), I got back on my bicycle, waved at Matt and rode away while literally yelling, “LOOK AT ME! I’M RIDING A BIKE!”
Thirty seconds later? BAM! A car rear-ended me while I was at a complete stop at a red light and I flew off of my bicycle and slammed onto the pavement.
Yup, that’s right. I rode my bike all by myself TWICE and was hit by a car.
The police and fire engine were there within minutes and, luckily, the bicycle’s injuries were far worse than mine. I was shaken up, pretty sore, and crying like I’d just found out they cancelled “My So-Called Life,” but ultimately, I was going to be okay.
Police reports were filed, information exchanged, and Gina, the woman who hit me, even gave us two baskets of organic strawberries she’d just picked. Apparently, in San Francisco, getting hit by a car comes with party favors. I love this town!
As night fell, the fire truck drove away, I shook hands with the police officers, and, finally, it was just the three of us—me, Matt, and Gina—waiting for my brother, Todd, to come pick me up. I was still sniffling, Gina was still apologizing profusely, and Matt? He turned to Gina and said:
“I have to say: A lot of Daisy’s friends want to ram her in the ass, but I never thought I'd see a stranger just go ahead and do it.”
And then he popped a strawberry in his mouth and said, "Wow. These are delicious." Which, to be fair, they were.