A Pregnant Jacksonville Cyclist
It has been a while since I’ve addressed this blog as well as bike/ped advocacy efforts in general. I think it’s safe enough now to tell everyone the main reason for this temporary yielding of bicycle efforts.
On the night of May 2nd, Harley and I were very pleasantly surprised with the very best news of our lives by way of (of all romantic things) urine sample – We’re having a baby!
On May 3rd, I was not so pleasantly confronted with the idea of riding my bike in the “third deadliest city in the nation” while our little bun bakes peacefully, albeit vulnerably, in my oven.
Where before I rode however I wanted – freely and fearlessly – I now find myself firmly planted at the crossroads of Liberation and Parental Responsibility.
I rode the Acosta, crossing over at it’s midpoint despite the risk of speeding traffic peering just above its blind spot. I rode the Main Street Bridge, not usually on the sidewalk, but right on the road, sans shoulder and blind spots aplenty. I rode the Fuller Warren, however, far more often than any other bridge, to get from San Marco to Riverside, where everybody knows your name… or at least your bike. There is no bridge in Jacksonville with bicycle facilities, so I made due with what this city has given us cyclists.
I rode outside the bike lane frequently and only because much of the time you’ll find debris within it, broken glass its predominant feature.
I rode late at night, during rush hour, weekdays, weekends. My love of street riding far outweighed any love of a casual pedal down the Baldwin Trail or a meander through a neighborhood-only route. And I would only and ever ride on a sidewalk, if for only a moment, when it seemed most logical to do so.
I rode fast, made quick, even impulsive decisions, many of which helped squeeze me out of sticky situations with cars or other bikes within large groups sprinkled with novice bike riders who sway and swerve, stop and start, as if they weren’t surrounded by about a hundred other cyclists.
Now I hardly ride at all and certainly not the way I used to. As my tummy grows, so does my love for this child. So does my resentment for this city’s leaders as a pregnant Jacksonville cyclist. It may be difficult for some to understand why one would ride so fearlessly, pregnant or not. Why risk your own neck? Isn’t it just as valuable as your child’s? Absolutely. But I suppose I did it out of spite, rebellion, revolt, whatever you want to call it. I did it to prove a point – that cyclists belong, that they have rights, and that my alternate mode of transportation is a gas-free one so get used to it. I refused to be a chicken shit, bowing down to the car-centric, distracted-driving-embracing, gas-guzzling, “fuck you, I’m in a car” culture this city has so successfully bred.
I cannot be a rebel like that right now. I cannot be a rebel like that ever again. I have someone else in my life that deserves my presence, my love, my longevity. I have two someones actually. This is my little family now and it takes precedence over my point-proving to all those fleshless, four-wheeled creatures whose grill is of metal alone, not face or feature. Not kindness or consideration. Not decency or logic.
Perhaps I should rephrase the above. “I cannot be a rebel like that ever again… in this city”. Harley and I have been living with the new roundabouts on San Marco Blvd. for a few months now. We live a block away from both of them. There have been too many incidents where we were either walking across the pedestrian crosswalks or riding our bikes within the roundabouts when a motorist would just not stop, as if we were completely invisible. The flow of traffic on that road is nonstop during both morning and afternoon rush hours. Roundabouts in a neighborhood area in a city like Jax (where motorists aren’t educated about the rules) was a really stupid idea. Whose idea was that, anyway? There are kids, pets, joggers, bikers, and elderly people all over the place. This is our neighborhood and the street we live on is cradled by San Marco Blvd. It’s difficult to always avoid that road every time I get on my bike. After being cut off for the umpteenth time in the roundabout closest to our apartment while pregnant, I was fuming for hours.
I’ll ride more often again, after my belly is freed up and my level of physical comfort improves. But to ride so freely in this city? That will always be questionable. I will, from now on, question every move I make in this car-centric city for the sake of my family. That, my friends, is what you call borderline living in fear. And that really pisses me off.
I have never been more pissed off about the idea of riding bikes in Jacksonville than I have been the past few months. If any of you know me, you know how ornery I already was before. With a baby taking every step, every turn of the pedal with me, I am humbled by how much a family can change one’s life. How the tiniest little person, no bigger than 5 inches long, can completely change the world around us. I am hoping it will not be too much longer that I continue to feel that tinge of fear for the very streets I so enjoy riding.
After all… we do intend to teach this child how to ride bikes.