Two-wheeled Jihad

The following entry was written as a guest blogitorial.

How I became a bicycle terrorist

Globalguy asked me to write a guest blogitorial – that’s my cross between a guest blog entry and the traditional guest editorial submitted to mainstream media publications. Globalguy writes the blog Bicycle Diaries. He sent me an email invitation to send my thoughts and I responded with a lightening quick yes.

Wow what an honor, I thought, here I am a budding writer and journalist with my own fledgling blog and now I’m being asked to write for someone else. As quickly as the euphoria had set in, so too did the fear of having to produce something that might be interesting to bicyclists reading the blog.

As an avid bicyclist and a self-taught mechanic I thought I would be able to pull plenty of ideas out my brain and create an entry on any given subject. How about the changing of the flat tire that resulted in a complete brake overall – naw, every bicyclist has had that experience. Maybe the long hot summer ride through the cornfields of Ohio after a job layoff – yeah, like that’s a unique experience. Or an in-depth look at Rails-to-Trails – *yawn* I love the organization but the thought is making me sleepy.

Then anxiety began to take control. Sure, I have fond memories of numerous rides throughout my riding career, but nothing I would identify as interesting to anyone other than myself. Hell, for many years I had the best of bike commuting situations – I rode five miles to my office and the office had a locker room with shower. I biked almost every day from March to November. The facilities were great; the job sucked.

And still no inspiration.

Then I read the August entries of the Bicycle Diaries. If one isn’t too careful, one can become a bit depressed and give up bicycling all together. Too many deaths have occurred as the result of bicycle/car confrontations. Where I live, close to Cleveland, Ohio, Charles Barr, a young man in his early thirties, and a well-respected bassist with the Cleveland Orchestra, lost his life when he lost control of his bike and swerved into the path of a pickup truck. In this case, Mr. Barr was at fault.

Regardless of the fault, in this country there exist very little safe space between auto and bicycle. On too many occasions, when tensions run high between the two, it is usually the motorist who is unwilling to share the road and the bicyclist who suffers.

Then I got my inspiration.

In my younger days I was, what one might call, a bicycle terrorist. I rode the streets and sidewalks like they were paved just for me. I’d weave in and out of traffic, I’d cut off drivers and I’d insult them in a variety of ways. I was hell-on-two-wheels and hell-bent on doing things my way, despite the consequences.

My entry into bicycle terrorism was typical of anyone who eventually winds up in a terrorist organization. As a young man I was a law-abiding citizen; as I grew older I became disillusioned over the inequalities existing between motorist and bicyclist. I turned to the dark side and became a soldier, no a leader, in the jihad against the internal combustion engine.

I wonder if 72 virgins will be waiting for me in heaven if I die while taking the life of an infidel motorist.

Just as a sidebar, I like writing terrorism and jihad into this article. I have this fantasy that it will send Homeland Security and the Bush Administration into a tizzy trying to figure out my hidden message.

Okay, back to reality. If someone offended me in traffic I hunted them down and left my mark on their car; if there was a hood ornament I took it a as trophy. I was particularly fond of carrying a piece of brick with me, then if a motorist cut me off I’d mark them right then and there on the spot. My own version of brick-a-hick – a game involving throwing a brick at drunken hicks at small town bars. It was developed by a couple of high school students I met during my teaching days.

However, I eventually bought a motorcycle and then a car and soon I was commuting on a regular basis. In time my family came along and that resulted in the addition of a minivan (although I still respect bicyclist and will stop a line of traffic behind me to give the right-of-way to a bicycle). It seemed as if my will to tilt against the cars and trucks in America had been sucked from me.

As I got older ( particularly after I became a father) I grew less reactionary – but no less vocal while riding my bicycle. I had put all my bicycle terrorist activities behind me. Bricks are no longer an accessory on my bike but a decoration around the gardens at my house.

Then I read Globalguy’s bicycle tragedy entries and the memories of my evildoer ways  came flooding back to me. America was still cold and heartless to bicycle riders. That was when I realized the jihadist still burned bright and deep inside me. In The Godfather 3 Michael Corleone says, “Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in.” I’m beginning to feel that way. The motorists are dragging me back to my jihadist ways, and who knows what event will transpire and become the catalyst for another bicycle holy war…

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