Bicycle High Fives
By John Cameron
Evan glanced over and gave me a simple "yo" as we mashed our bikes across town. We had never met before but were instantly connected through a bond we had as injury defying, weather chancing, traffic dancing city cyclists. "What's happenin'?" I forced the reply between pedal strokes. We introduced ourselves, reached over at speed and clinked our fists as if to make a toast.
In 2009 Philadelphia made steps to make the city more bike-able and conducive to human power. Two major east-west roads were retrofitted with bike lanes. One car lane in each direction was converted to a bike only path. The tree-lined streets of Pine (eastbound) and Spruce (westbound) allow enough room for what has become the east-west bicycle highway. It is the fastest and easiest way to bike from one end to the other and the efforts made by the city are greatly appreciated.
Slightly to the north of the bike highway, however, through the sky scraping center of the city lies a maze of moving cars, curbs, trolleys, holes, bigger holes and steaming chaos are Chestnut street and Walnut street. They are the "king lines" for city cyclists and are equivalent to black terrain in the eyes of a skier. Lines that bikers travel are subject to the yawing and waning of traffic and a moving puzzle of route deciphering as a biker unlocks the path of least resistance within the cluttered road. The east-west routes of Chestnut and Walnut are far different than the tree lined counterparts to the south but change a ride across town from a task into a game.
It was somewhere on Walnut that Evan and I found ourselves riding side-by-side-by-back-by-front. Suddenly another cyclist was in the mix as I anticipated clogs between taxis and timed cars to beat them through lights. We swooped through, carving hard to make the tight turn through the cars. The turns a cyclist makes are tightened when a car pulls closer to the vehicle in from of them while stopped. A swoop between cars can quickly change into a series of hard right angle turns as a biker negotiates the cleanest line.
Evan and I carried on a conversation through it all while occasionally pausing as our paths digressed too far for conversation. We talked through short gasps about how we both enjoy biking, especially when it became such a mind trick and a total concentration puzzle. We squeezed through more cars and people who stepped out so close to us that our elbows brushed their coats. "Hey," Evan yelled "do you ever try to high-five people when they reach out to hail a cab?" The open hand of someone stretched out as they leaned over the curb to catch the attention of a cabbie is always too much to resist as I bike by. The unexpected high fives usually are received with mixed reaction but I've always wondered if other cyclists are as tempted as I am at the sight. "Every time!" I yelled.
John now writes and rides from West Philadelphia where he continues to put off getting a real job.