Saturday, November 10, 2007

Riding in the dark

This really was the week that I expected to quit. And yet, armed with my flashing lights and a homemade vest striped with reflective tape, I went forth into the darkness each night at 6 p.m., riding across Westlake and along Dexter, then over to the Burke Gilman trail and on home in a new, winter-time route that takes me on back streets for a good portion of the way.

And it's just fine, thanks.

Still. Every afternoon, as afternoon fades to evening darkness, I fight a rising sense of panic that I am doing something irrational and I really ought to quit. Sitting at my computer in the newsroom, I cast my eye over to the window and notice how very dark it is out there. When it is time to go, I don my winter riding clothes in the locker room, thinking to myself, this is nuts. I should not be riding in the dark.

But then, when I get outside, some of the panic starts to fall away. The city is well-lit by streetlights, after all. My blinking lights in the back are visible for blocks. My front lights are more than adequate for illuminating dark stretches of roadway. My jacket is screaming fluorescent yellow-green, and my homemade vest glows in headlights.

I go down Boren to Republican, both side streets at the edge of the downtown core. I stop at the stop signs, pull in behind cars at the traffic lights. I get onto Dexter, joining a small group of other cyclists who are doing the same thing. We ride through the Mercer intersection and climb the hill, our tail lights flashing like some sort of moving Christmas-tree display.

I cross the Fremont bridge, where I count seven or eight similarly-adorned cyclists. I go left now, getting on the Burke-Gilman, which is very dark. I ride slowly, perhaps 9 or 10 mph. The trail is quiet. The darkness is pleasant in a private, almost secretive way that I had not anticipated.

Every commute is an adventure.

No comments: