There it was next to the fireplace and opposite the Christmas tree. Blue and shiny and ready to ride. My first grown-up bicycle. No training wheels. I walked that bike a thousand miles. Got really good at it, too.
It took me two years to learn the ride the thing and my dad wore out three pairs of shoes running along beside and holding the seat. I hated riding bicycles then. I hate riding them today.
I finally got the hang of it well enough to keep up with the neighborhood kids when they’d fly down the hill, no-hands, shrieking just for the heck of it. I was really good at walking it. As an adult, I pedaled with my son and husband on New Jersey and Illinois trails and I did the Sparta-Elroy bike trail in Wisconsin.
Did I say I hated every minute? I was born without the internal gyroscope that seems permanently affixed to everyone else over the age of two. Never could I shake that out-of-control, unbalanced, I-am-going-to-crash-right-now feeling.
So why in the world would I buy a new bike thinking I could ride it safely in the most dangerous bicycling city in Florida? I mean this is the place where 80-year-olds swoop through town on vintage bicycles, looking cool and fit and, yep, balanced.
I wasted my money. That darling, sea foam green Conch cruiser stayed chained to my house for three months before I finally admitted: Get rid of the darned thing. Buy (embarrassed throat clearing heard here) an “adult trike.”
Oh, go ahead and giggle. I don’t care. Well, actually I do, but I can pretend pretty good. Got lots of pretending experience walking my bike all those years. Anyway, based on the responses I get when I’m out and about on my old lady trike, there are a whole lot more aging baby boomers who wish they had the guts to go with the big-butt tractor seat on the trike.
There are five reasons they ought to make the switch.
- The three-wheel profile tricks drivers into thinking you are an actual vehicle. This was a surprise. Automobiles and bicycles rarely play nicely together on the same roads. Even the most courteous driver tends to hug too close to the bicycles on their right. Not so with trikes. Drivers give wide berth to trikes. They’ll even slow down and not insist on passing.
- Trikes have gravitas. One sits up straight in that tractor seat. One can do the Queen Elizabeth parade wave if one wants. No weaving or swooping in and out. Just solid pedaling with a glance into the rear view mirror and a swirl of the get-the-heck-out-of-my-way dainty bell.
- Trikes are stolid. Forget the flash and dash of skinny tires and 27 gears. Egads and little fishes, this is a stable, boring machine. It does not do anything until you make it do it. Doesn’t turn, doesn’t fall over, doesn’t move backwards. It just sits the heck there and waits. For someone with no gyroscope, those are blessings indeed — and they ensure one can stop at the red light, make one of those cool signals with one’s arm and then pedal queenly across the intersection.
- Trikes make for great pick-up lines. OK, so you’re not going to pick up lovelies in Spandex. Those days are gone, even if you’re still riding a bicycle. But with a trike, everyone wants to ask about it. Do you like it? I heard they were hard to ride. I heard they take more energy than a regular bike. I wish I could get up the nerve to buy one, too. Do you miss your real bike? Oh, it’s so cute.
- I’m safe, or at least I feel safer. For reasons one through four, I feel safer on the trike. And in the city that routinely ranks at the top of Florida’s most dangerous bicycling towns, that matters.
The Key West marketing folks want us to believe the Southernmost island is a bicycling paradise. That is, however, a whopper of a fantasy. We simply are not a safe place for bicyclists to work and play. Key West has a shot at becoming a safer, more bicycle friendly town. Its new bicycle/walking czar, Chris Hamilton, has great plans. I wish him well.
Until then, this little old lady and her three-wheeler (with helmet, of course) bid you a queenly wave farewell.
Linda Grist Cunningham is editor and proprietor of KeyWestWatch Media, a digital solutions marketing company for small businesses.