In 2009, 630 bike riders were killed in accidents with vehicles. This man was not one of them.
In 2009, 630 bike riders were killed in accidents with vehicles. This man was not one of them. olaser/iStockphoto
At least twice a month I walk into the quaint little corner of NPR that is Talk of the Nation and regale whoever is unfortunate enough to be within earshot with tales of my morning commute. It's unclear whether I do this it's because they need to hear the story, or it's because the release is cathartic.
I've never been solicited to share these stories.
And for full disclosure's sake: I only ride 2.2 miles to and from work. Only one way is uphill. And it doesn't snow year round. And somehow in those paved 2.2 miles, there are endless right hooks and impatient drivers owning the bike lane, jumping ahead in the long line at the red light. There are a few go-to defenses: Turning in the side mirrors, spitting on the rear window (unless, of course, the car sports a rear wiper) and pounding on the hood. Of course, I don't advocate these, I'm just merely mentioning.
Clearly, there are more mature riders out there. Better riders, smarter riders, stronger riders, more patient riders. The list goes on, and one man would fill every category: Joe Simonetti. He's a beast of a human being and is profiled in Outside magazine.
There are bike commuters, and there are bike commuters. And contrary to what you might expect of a person who commutes 50 miles into New York (CITY) on two wheels, he's not in the italicized commuter category:
Our route snakes through preternaturally quiet daytime suburbs whose streets seem plied primarily by women in SUVs and tradesmen in pickups. A Latino landscaping crew smiles at us as we ride through the leaf storm they've blown up in Greenwich, Connecticut. We don't see any other cyclists until New Rochelle, and even then it's two young girls riding on the sidewalk. In the town of Rye Brook, a little after 10 A.M., we pause at a deli for Simonetti's traditional pit-stop fare: an egg-white omelet with Swiss on a whole-wheat bagel. They all know him here, and a clipping from a local paper detailing his commute is stuck on the wall, behind a picture of the clerk's daughter.
Here, Simonetti is not some "Lycra lout," some "Lance wannabe," or any of the other epithets often hurled at cyclists. He's simply Joe. He's the guy who rides his bike to work.
He stops at 10:00 A.M. - that's an hour and a half after he begins.
If you're interested in learning more about bike policy in cities across the country, or knowing more ways to get back at the driver who cut you off, give this piece a read.
And tomorrow when I dismount after my 2.2 mile commute, I'll stop at my deli and get my muffin, where they know me. Because I've earned it.