It was with some trepidation that I began the habit of pedaling to work along the infamous Bailey Creek road. I didn't care about tired legs, a helmet head, or bugs in the eyes; it was the road itself that I worried about. Mainly the lack of road. While the town roads are too wide, most routes out of town are significantly narrower. There's no shoulder, and the edges are ragged like the coast of Maine. This means space problems when oversized pickups rumble by.
In 40 years of being in the (bike) saddle, I've interacted with quite a few lousy drivers. Once in Provo Canyon on a screaming downhill section I was run off the road by an ill-tempered trucker. I've been insulted with horns and taunts, and hit with a tomato now and then.
Thinking how nice it would be to have a bike lane, I dusted off Old Yellow and began to commute. I even ordered a little rear-view mirror so I could make sure the cars behind gave me space. If they didn't, I figured I could make a quick turn into the gravel and avoid becoming an ER patient myself.
To the credit of the good people of Caribou county, and to my pleasant surprise, I was given virtually universal respect on the road. No honking, no tomatoes, and no obnoxious drivers. Period. It's the first place I've ever seen such stellar road manners, applied so naturally. Even people who would never ride a bike themselves are pleasant, and the monster trucks slow down and swing wide. So it's been a reasonable trade -- instead of a bike lane, I got people who get along.
With a little wind, rain, or snow blustering around, the "why ride?" question might cross a few minds. It's not bad crosstraining exercise for the lightweight runner legs, but the real reason is the productive thinking time that doesn't seem to come to me inside a car. And I decided a long time ago that I'd usually rather listen to meadowlarks than radio noise. It's also a good way to find a few more butterflies for Cady's collection.
Now the bike. Old Yellow and I go back 19 years when I rescued him from a rental shop in Maine. Like most old and well-designed human-powered tools, he provides reliable work for a reasonable effort, and can be used by almost anyone. Repairs are easy, unlike a car. A little grease in the bearings, and a new set of tires now and then, and he gets me around as well as he ever did.