Tuesday, October 12, 2010

ode to a stolen bike

'Bike Parking Only'
I learned how to ride a bike later than most. When I did finally figure it out, one weekday afternoon in tenth grade, it was for the same reason fourteen-year-olds do anything: I was bored. My friends, upon learning that I'd never learned how to ride a bike, insisted that I learn right then and there. I fell off a few times, though I'd never suffer anything quite as bad as the scar I still have from a scooter accident the year before. But after an hour and a half, I got it.

Two weeks later, my parents gave me a bike of my own: a forest green 15-speed with 26-inch wheels. I tasted freedom. Living on the cul-de-sac, however, made any real taste of freedom elusive until I learned to drive four years later. The bicycle was for riding around the circle, to my friends' houses in adjacent neighborhoods, and to the park by my brother's elementary school. It was until until just two months ago, when I moved to Philadelphia, when I really got to use my bicycle.

It suffices to say that I have grown a lot between fourteen and twenty-two, and when I first rode my bicycle down the street in front of our new house in August, my roommate asked if the tires were flat. "It seems low," she said. No, I replied, the bike is just really small for me.

Still, it took me anywhere and everywhere, and when I rode around I could feel a city of 1.4 million people growing smaller and more accessible. The bus and train are cheap, but are slow and don't always go where I'm headed. As a result, my bike became very handy for trips to South Street or the Art Museum. In the past two months, I have been cut off, flicked off and cussed out on the streets of Philadelphia. But it's worth getting to see the Schuylkill River at eye-level from a bike trail, or racing through Center City traffic late one Friday night with my friends.

I drove home to Maryland last weekend and came back Sunday night to find my bike lock cut and dangling from the "No Parking" sign I'd chained it to when I left on Thursday. Perhaps it was my fault. I should've taken the bike inside for the weekend, or at least chained it up on our porch. But my bike is gone, and I'm surprised at how heartbroken I am. I try to tell myself that somewhere, some fourteen-year-old kid is tasting freedom for the first time on my former wheels. It's better than thinking of the thug who snatched from in front of my house and probably sold it for drug money.

I never realized how much biking would change my life. Two months ago, you couldn't have told me that I'd carry home groceries or travel nine miles in one day without driving or catching a bus. I'm losing weight. I'm learning how to use hand tools. And I'm getting to know my new neighborhood and new city in a totally new way - perhaps not as slow and deliberative as on foot, but with far more intimacy than I could've from behind a windshield.

And I didn't even get to say goodbye.


Cyndy said...

What a drag that your bike got stolen! It's hard to deal with losing the freedom that you can have with a bike. I hope you get another one soon.

Cathy said...

Man, that sucks. Especially losing a bike that had so many memories. On the bright side you'll be able to get a nice new set of wheels; and make sure to splurge on a good bike lock!

Mr. J said...

Nearly the same thing happened to me when I moved my bike to D.C. As luck would have it, I then found an unused 1987 Fuji road bike in my grandma's garage. I think it fits. It's at least better than the bike it replaced.

Rob Pitingolo said...

Sorry to hear that this happened, Dan. What kind of lock were you using? I'd seriously recommend buying a strong lock for your next bike. Think of it like buying an insurance policy.

I feel the same way about biking in DC. There's stuff you get to see from the bike that you simply can't see in a car or on public transportation.

bhance said...

Sucks! You should feel free to register this bike over at stolenbicycleregistry.com though (it's free) and I'd be happy to send you a free "death to bike thieves" sticker

Big Bubba said...

Iafter I got out of college I worked several months as a bike courier. I was a normal person before. No so afterwards.

I changed almost instantly. To say people hate bicyclists would be an understatement. And so, everyday turned into a battle. First, I ignored. Then I did what I had to do and fight back. People would curse me, throw stuff at me, and just threaten to beat the crap out of me. And so I would just be worse than them. And they, always, backed down.

It was the only job I had where I thought getting high or having a few drinks might be a good idea.

retgroclk said...

What were you thinking Dan.
Chaining your bike to a No Parking sign - is an invitation for thieves..
If you are going to leave town you should have put your bike inside the house.
The porch would not have been safe, as I have had(when I owned a house) thieves come up on my porch(everyone was home but it was late night) and steal one of my room mates bike.

Bob Fustero