SI Vault
Will Jones
January 06, 1958
An adult male bicyclist suffers some privations—and rewards—as a member of a minority group
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January 06, 1958

My Bike And I

An adult male bicyclist suffers some privations—and rewards—as a member of a minority group

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Small Boys laugh. Motorists honk their horns unmercifully. Friends greet me with curious smiles.

I am an adult male bicyclist. I have been one since a year ago last Father's Day, when I made myself a present of a bicycle—a sleek, black, thin-tired English job from that fine old importing firm, Montgomery Ward.

I'm learning what it is to be a member of a minority group. I've experienced all the reactions—from oppression to pity to reluctant tolerance.

The real impact of what it means to be a cyclist came to me when I started riding it to work, a 20-mile round trip. The only other adult I know who rides a bicycle to work in Minneapolis is a taxi driver. He pedals happily to the garage in the morning, drives his hack around town all day and then pedals happily home. When he discovered me riding to work, he greeted me like a long-lost brother. He repeats the performance every time he sees me pedaling. If he greets me from his cab, he never honks. He understands what the honking of auto horns does to a cyclist's nerves.

At first I wondered about this effusive greeting of a fellow cyclist. I hadn't yet tasted the intolerance.

My employers administered the first blow. I started parking my shiny new bike in the lobby of the newspaper building where I work. The bike is a chrome-fender job, $57.88, with a lot of gadgets—hand brakes, light, generator, tire pump, saddlebag and glitter, hung on its basically neat black lines. It attracted little crowds of people. Some of these people liked to play with the gadgets. I asked a kindly janitor if there were a less conspicuous place to leave the bike and was directed to a ramp at the rear of the building.

This happy parking arrangement lasted two days. I was summoned to the managing editor's office. He was fingering a memo that had come to him from the executive editor, a vice-president who had got it through channels from another vice-president, who had been consulted by the supervisor of maintenance.

"You can't park your bicycle in the building," the managing editor told me, "or anywhere around the building. Maybe you can make some arrangement at the parking lot."

I wasn't prepared to expose my new bicycle to the elements in an open parking lot. I telephoned the nearest parking garage, two blocks away, to get a rate for bicycles.

"We couldn't even bother with it," the man there told me. "It might get smashed, and then what? Our insurance wouldn't cover it."

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