Thursday, October 22, 2009
The South Will Ride Again?
Why are all the cities with high ridership up North? Just about all of these cities are plagued by overcast skies, profuse rain, frigid temperatures, and even snow (gasp and clutch the pearls) in the winter. I read in a pop psychology book about the "Yankee self"--a less self-involved frame of mind that's more focused on things greater than itself--but I just shrugged it off as the author's bias. Are we Southerners more decadent than our Northern neighbors? After all, we did give the world Coca-Cola, Pepsi, and Little Debbie's. On the other hand, we're probably the largest consumers of Coca-Cola, Pepsi, and Little Debbie's so we should be among the early adopters of utility cycling in North America. On a positive note, we have more than bearable conditions for riding in Fall and Winter--ample sunshine and milder temperatures. Another plus, we like to be flamboyant (we coined the term, "bling," and we're overly fond of gold teeth). At this stage in its development, cycling in North America will probably get you as much attention as a monster truck or a mullet, but these monstrosities outnumber bicycles at the local strip mall by huge numbers.*
We also have gastronomic incentives. Many of our traditional foods are perfectly respectable, they just get a bad rap because everybody's wide butt is taken as evidence to the contrary. We know that most of us don't have deeper fryers in our homes and that a cast iron skillet and a modest amount of oil suffices for fried catfish, fried chicken, fried okra, fried green tomatoes, etc. Moreover, we're not frying everything all the time. With the proper amount of exercise (even if that includes riding to your local seafood or chicken shack once in a while), you can regain a healthy figure and tell all those nay-saying nutritionists to kiss your grits.
Additionally, we are widely reputed to be polite. Unlike other American motorists, Southerners tend to act like they have some home-training behind the wheel. I can count on one hand the number of times I've heard a car horn in Atlanta (where you'd expect a lot of exasperation). Oftentimes, the car horn is used for the staccato "toot toot" of recognition and greeting drivers give people on the street. I've already touched on my concern that many Southerners will interpret hand signals as a friendly wave. Hopefully, cyclists will benefit from these good manners on the streets--they may not get a wave or a toot, but perhaps they won't get the finger.
* I can make such a joke because I'm part of the family, so to speak. Do not attempt if you're not from the South. You may irritate natives or, worse, get them heated. This may result in the offender being blessed out. (This will sound nothing like anything you have ever heard from a member of the clergy).