Yesterday was one of those days where everything just felt right on the bike. It helped that it was 65 on the way home. I’m quite certain that a few months ago that sounded chilly. Now, halfway through December, 65 is tropical. Balmy. A hint of spring and summer shining through the bare tree branches.

My legs felt great. “Online” is how I’ve heard others describe it, and that feels like a good description to me.

I think there was a slight tailwind as well, since I found myself cruising a few miles per hour higher than the norm, and with very little real effort.

I passed a few cars when traffic was heavy, and they didn’t have a chance to catch up before I was merging into their lane and then into the left turn lane.

I huffed and puffed my way up The Big Hill, an eye on a SUV at the stop sign of a cross street right at the crest of the hill. The woman had her hand over her mouth – a yawn, an expression of horror that someone was on a bike, or perhaps she was waiting in breathless anticipation to see if I’d make it up the hill. Maybe she thought my obnoxiously-bright yellow windbreaker was like the yellow jersey of the Tour de France. Tour de Arlington? I breathed “thanks” as I rode by, choosing to assume she understood that even though she had plenty of time to pull out in front of me, that people often misjudge their tail ends of their cars, and she could have still made me slow down a bit and loose precious momentum to avoid her. Or maybe just choosing to believe she was rooting for me during my tough daily ascention.

This morning the beauty continued. Colder, sure, but still feeling pretty balmy at 45 degrees. (And I never would have believed that “balmy” and “45F” could ever go together!) There’s a light I pretty much always catch red within a quarter mile of starting out, and this morning was no different in that regard. What was different was the squeaking sound of an approaching (maintenance-needed) bicycle as I waited at the light. I had a feeling I knew who it was. That is, not the typical aspect of the who that we know, not his name or profession or hobbies or anything like that, just the who of a fellow bicyclist I’ve seen before. I’d, amazingly, seen him yesterday at the same light. Amazing, when you consider the variables involved, especially my lack of consistency in what time I leave my home. (Later every day, it seems!) Amazing, when you consider how few bike commuters I see on my commute. (More the later I leave, however!)

I’d encouraged him yesterday to get lights on his bike. His jacket had some nice reflective areas on his arms, but he had no lights at all on his bike, and visibility is one of the biggest keys to our safety. I told Rich afterwards that I hadn’t even registered whether he was wearing a helmet (I thought he wasn’t, but couldn’t be sure) and that most people in this country probably would have offered him a lecture on the magical (and unproven) protective properties of the helmet. Not me. I have read enough to know two things. The first is that helmets offer only the most dubious protection at the speeds we travel. They’re great for kids, given the type of accidents that kids are involved in – slow moving. But for the rest of us, the evidence either for or against helmets is inconclusive enough that I can only encourage people to make their own decisions without assuming it is more than it is. I wear one because I have one and find them to be a great place to attach a mirror and headlamp. I don’t feel they’re the beginning and end of bicyclist safety. To be honest, I think they are irrelevant to the question of safety. The second thing I know about safety is that the most important thing is prevention.

Helmets offer nothing when it comes to prevention, and may actually be detrimental in this regard, based on some small-data-set studies done, showing that cars leave less room when passing people wearing helmets. Lights, however, are hugely important when traveling in the night and half-light. In other words, for anyone who commutes to work in more than the summer months.

And so I encouraged him to use lights. Yesterday he assured me that he had bought a light, just hadn’t put it on. I told him he should, that it was important. This morning he still didn’t have his light on, and I teased him about that. I consciously noted that he was not wearing a helmet. He was wearing a thick winter hat that I can only imagine was making him overheat!

Mostly, though, we talked about how long our commutes are and how much fun it is to ride our bikes. “Sometimes it is cold,” he mused, “but it is still fun.”

Exactly.

I grin on my way to work when I’m on my bike. I can’t help it. I’m having a good time.

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