I bought my beloved Artemis in February 2012. I had resolved that new year to find a way to incorporate exercise into my daily life – sans a gym membership – and bicycling seemed like a novel way to go. I still remember that first ride home from the major (yes, sadly) retailer where I bought her. I felt excited, thrilled, and alive to be on a bike for the first time since I was 10.
I was also terrified.
This is LA after all.
And those early days of riding were filled with lots of pep talks … by me to me. I was afraid that I would give up. That as much as I loved the thrill of being on a bicycle, I would have a bad experience in some shape or form, and stop riding. I told myself over and over that even the most expert and die hard of cyclists have accidents, bad encounters, etc…, and they still get back on their bikes the next day. I could not and would not quit, no matter what happened.
As time went on, and I rode Artemis more and more, the need for the pep talks steadily decreased. I went from “okay, you can do this,” to “let’s get out there and do this!” and the terror of bicycling around LA gave way to the overall thrill of bicycling… and the desire to do it as much as I could.
I also felt myself change.
Today, after 2.5 years of regular cycling, I feel more confident, stronger, and more self-assured. I don’t necessarily take the back seat to my fellow man anymore. I speak out, stand up, and let myself be heard. I don’t worry as much about humiliating myself, or let the little things pull the rug out from under me. I feel like I stand taller, straighter, and more often than not, with a smile on my face.
I can remember a time recently when some toolbox in the grocery store left his cart in the check-out line and ran off to pick up some more groceries. I was willing to let him hold his spot, but only until it was his turn to check out. When he still hadn’t come back at that point, I stepped around his cart and placed my groceries on the conveyor belt. He did come back shortly thereafter, and tried to step around me. “I was here first, ma’am,” he blurted. To which I retorted, “actually, no you weren’t. Your cart was here, but not you. And since everyone in front of you has checked out, I’m going next.” He was taken aback, of course, but he wisely demurred. I paid for my groceries and went on my merry way.
Five years ago, that scenario would have played out in my head, but not in real life. I would have stood behind that abandoned cart until the customer returned or until the checkout clerk waved me forward. Then I would have stepped back when the customer did return and let him go in front of me. I would have taken a back seat, laid out on the floor like a door mat, or, you know, any other metaphor for spineless pushover you want to use.
Thanks to all my time and experiences on Artemis, I stood up for myself that day.
Yeah! Girl Power!!
And I am grateful that it took 2.5 years of regular cycling before I had my first accident. Because the possibility of not getting back on Artemis after said fender-bender is non-existent. Am I going to let a minor crash deter me from riding?? Hey-yo no-oo! I had to get Artemis repaired (which happened last night) so today, I’ll be back on her faster than you can say “spineless pushover,” and back to my life of riding as per usual… maybe a little more cautious about where I choose to ride, and how I choose to handle navigating around buses, but back 110% nonetheless.
However, this surge of not-giving-up is not to diminish what could have been bad, very, very bad. The accident could have been much worse than it turned out to be. I was cycling alongside a bus that decided to swerve right towards me. I’m sure the bus was trying to avoid something, and the driver didn’t know I was there. I reacted by turning away – right into a gutter and on to a curb. I took a face plant into the sidewalk, and Artemis clattered down beside me. Luckily – very luckily – I was not hurt beyond a few scrapes on my arm and leg, and a bruise the size of Connecticut on my thigh. Artemis pulled through relatively unscathed as well. I had to replace both her tires, but there was no damage to the frame, gears, or chain. Whew.
So I was lucky. Have I said that yet? And I will be more cautious. For example, I will not bike down Sunset Blvd. past Dodgers Stadium on a day the Dodgers are playing, again. Yep. Not a good idea. And I will try to be more aware when I am riding near buses. Those belching behemoths are a disaster waiting to happen anyway.
I also hope I walk away from this accident with more than just a desire to return to riding Artemis in spite of what could have been a very bad situation. I hope I remember that bike accidents are kind of like setbacks … or failures … in everyday life. And that when an accident happens, you have to pick up the pieces, get them repaired if need be, and get back on that bike.
Don’t stop riding. No matter what.