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Blatant bike bias
As a middle-aged, middle-class, white male of average height and weight, I’m fortunate to be among the least discriminated-against people in the history of, well, people.
In fact, as a member of a group that’s far more likely to discriminate overtly than be overtly discriminated against, I don’t even like to use the D-word.
So I hesitate even to bring it up when I say I felt a little discriminated against the other day — because of my preferred mode of transportation.
Yep, I was the object (you’ll notice I didn’t say victim) of bike discrimination. In truth, I’m discriminated against on my bike regularly. Every time somebody goes out of turn at a four-way stop sign just because I’m on a bike or tries to put me into a curb or takes one look at my perpetual helmet hair and goofy bike-inspired get-ups and assumes that because I’m a grown adult on a bike, I must have done something wrong to get my drivers license revoked, they’re passing judgment on me based on my preference for two-wheeled transport over four.
Whoop-de-doo. Judge away.
Last week, however, I was told I couldn’t do something I wanted the way I wanted simply because I prefer pedaling over driving.
Here’s the story:
Awhile back, I saw a notice that Meals on Wheels was looking for volunteers to deliver meals to needy seniors. Had it specifically mentioned “drivers,” I might not have considered it.
But I read “volunteers,” and immediately the puny, runt-of-the-litter hamsters in my little noggin dutifully mounted up the creaky, rusty wheel in my head and barely made enough revolutions to squeak out a thought.
Maybe, I hamster-wheel-thought, I could do a route on my bike.
I googled “Meals on Wheels by bike” and was encouraged to see two bike-friendly communities — Austin, Texas, and Portland, Ore. — had Meals on Two Wheels programs, whereby volunteers did, in fact, deliver meals by bike. I picked up a couple of tips and figured I’d find a trailer capable of hauling a couple of coolers and be good to go.
I called the local group, explained I wanted to volunteer and requested a route that would make it easier by bike. I was told no problem.
But a couple of days later, I received a message stating I’d be welcome as a volunteer, but that I’d have to cover my route by car.
Honestly, I didn’t see it coming.
I figured if they were so in need of volunteers, they’d be glad to have me and never once thought my bike preference would be a factor.
After a few days, I called back to learn why and was told there were “many reasons” I couldn’t deliver by bike. It would take too long, I was told, and there was no way I could manage a route of a minimum of five stops with two trays of food at each stop.
“That would be 10 trays,” I was told. “You couldn’t put 10 trays in your bike.”
I wanted to explain with the proper route, I could make the rounds almost as fast on a bike as a car and that I’m sure I could find a trailer big enough to carry the coolers big enough to contain the trays and that at least two cities already had Meals on Two Wheels programs established.
But I didn’t.
I said I’d think about it and let her know in a few days.
The only other time in my life I recall being so blatantly denied because of my transportation came when I was young.
I must have been in late elementary school, after I was given a bit of free rein but before I and my peers decided cycling wasn’t cool. (In retrospect, if I had kept cycling into my junior high years, I likely wouldn’t have become so fat and could have covered a lot more ground with much less embarrassment than came from relying on rides in the family sedan, but peer pressure’s something else, man).
Anyway, I rode my bike to my parents’ bank, proudly pedaled up to the drive-up window, deposited several coin rolls in the carrier and waited to be rewarded with crisp bills. Fully expecting the bank to balk, I was ready to declare that, yes, I did, in fact, have an account there.
But the tinny voice that came over the loudspeaker didn’t question my membership. Instead, after the coins thudded to a halt in the chute, the voice informed me I’d have to come inside to the lobby.
Bikes aren’t permitted in the drive-up. Insurance reasons.
Again, I didn’t see it coming.
A couple of decades have passed, and I’m not sure the bank’s insurance cared about bikes in the drive-through. Had I been an adult, I probably wouldn’t have been turned away.
I suppose I could have complained or pressed the issue, but I didn’t. Instead, I parked my bike in the bushes and went inside, where a friendly teller gladly exchanged my coins for bills.
Same deal with Meals on Wheels, I guess. I have to decide if I’m willing to compromise my transportation preference to do something I know will benefit others, or if I’ll look to find some other way to volunteer that won’t force me behind the wheel.