Look at this guy. Look at him and be wowed. This gentleman made my night. Dare I say he made my month. He reminded me of how joyful riding a bike can be.
Last week I led my second annual Winter Solstice Daily Ride. It was billed as “Put on your bike lights and let’s check out some pretty holiday displays.” I showed up with my standard gear, front white and rear red lights, plus another orange light on the back. I knew I could have been more festive but was just thrilled it wasn’t raining. A couple other folks showed up, and one person had a battery powered string of Christmas lights on. I was impressed to say the least. And then this guy shows up. I am sure words came out of my mouth. I couldn’t tell you what they were, I was so amazed. Jim Olsen and his bike were covered from top to bottom in Christmas lights, all battery powered. We rode up to Candy Cane Lane off Ravenna Boulevard, which has crazy light displays, but Jim’s display was by far the best. As a fellow rider commented, “You couldn’t have hoped for anything this good.”
Something pretty magical happened along the ride. As most people who ride bikes know, there is tension between bicyclists and drivers on the roads. When I ride to work, I feel the impatience of drivers wanting to pass me. I know I have every right to be on the road, but I feel a twinge of guilt for holding people up as well as a little nervousness about a driver passing too fast and too close. On this ride with our magical Christmas tree on wheels, that didn’t happen. People who drove by slowed down and gave us space. People called out how great it was. “You guys are so cool,” came from the passenger inside an SUV. People wanted their picture taken with Jim. We (mainly Jim) were being celebrated as bicyclists for spreading joy. I know many of us ride for utility and, as activists, it is important for us to remind people that bicycles are not just childhood toys, they are actually useful tools. That said, bicycling makes many of us happy. The gift Jim gave to me is that he allowed us to make others happy by bicycling.