Recently, I made the mistake of riding my bike on a nearby college campus, as I had all summer. I ruled the empty sidewalks during July and August, zooming between buildings, rocketing out of parking lots.
Once I surprised a faculty member who fled for his life, open briefcase snowing hundreds of papers on the ground. There also was that time I barged into a band camp, when my bike took out an entire row of tubas.
For the most part, though, no one challenged my reign as Queen of the Bike Routes. Even football camp guys, forever headed for the dining hall, knew better than to dispute my supremacy.
However, as of the beginning of the school year, I have decided to abdicate. Biking to a writers’ meeting on campus, I encountered swarms of young pedestrians who, just because they paid tuition, thought they deserved to use the sidewalks. Some clumped into bunchy obstacles. Others joined in two-way snaky lines that condemned me to following them at three miles per hour — or shaking my liver loose by riding alongside them on the grass. Couples — chained together by a love so strong, even a bulldozer couldn’t separate them — meandered directly in front of me.
As I rode, I ran nonstop evaluations as to whether approaching walkers were in their right minds. Were they tethered to iPods, glued to cell phones or tapping texts to aliens several solar systems away? Such mindsets (or the lack thereof, due to the absence of brain waves) threaten the safety of cyclists and pedestrians alike.
Frisbee golfers comprise a different threat. Deep inside, I cannot condemn these young whippersnappers who, snapping their arms, whip Frisbees so close they trim my nose hairs. My son, studying at a different college, was a member of that club. But when fleets of Frisbees, like the fighters in Star Wars movies, chase an old lady biking to her writing meeting, I say, “Enough is enough.”
Having resigned my position as Queen of the Campus Bike Routes, I have resorted to walking. Now moving at the speed of life instead of lightning, I hear words I didn’t while glorying in my cycling omnipotence: “Excuse me,” “Pardon me,” “I’m sorry, I didn’t see you,” and plenty of smile-filled “Hi!”s. They remind me that the college pedestrians in our area rank among the most courteous in the world.
It’s the wild, crazy cyclists who worry me.
Your Extraordinary Ordinary: Have you lived on/near a college campus? What changes did September bring?