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01/15/2013: "Slow Cycling in a Fast City"
It's been five and half months since my stroke, and I am riding around most of the city again, but I am still constrained from doing anything involving "strain," be it weightlifting, hammering up hills, and perhaps sprinting.

The doctors haven't specifically mentioned sprinting, but I am taking no chances, as I'd very much like the stroke to be a singular experience.

In a way, this fits in perfectly with my philosophy of cycling, in that I don't think we should try to emulate motorists and hurry through the city as fast and as blind to its street life and scenery as possible. After all, if I were in a hurry I'd go back to motorcycles.

This is what I believe. But, of course, I get caught up in the general frenzy of traffic, and also I have let a bit of pride in power subvert me, so I enjoyed sprinting from stoplights and hammering up hills, as well as getting across town faster than driving friends do.

Then, I worried a bit: would it be safe to ride at a slower pace in LA's mad traffic? Would I get places late?

As it turns out, No. I take a little longer than before to get across town, but it's not enough to fret over. Still faster than cars at peak hours, and much more relaxing.

Hills haven't been a problem either. I take them much more slowly, but, even on the fixie, I can clean them without making anything even remotely approaching a Herculean effort if I slow down. Once in a rare while, on steeper hills, I get off and walk the bike. This has happened twice in three months.

And I've had no problems integrating with fast traffic. It turns out that, if you are patient, you find the gaps you need for a deliberate and unhurried passage even across what appears to be a raging stream of hot metal.

First impressions are so often wrong.

Today, for example, I approached the Glendale-Hyperion bridge from the east. This is a double bridge, with an upper and a lower span, each of which goes to a different area. I wanted the upper span, which meant that, from my position on the far right, I had to cross the two lanes that veered to the lower span and merge into one of the lanes that cross the upper, with motor traffic zipping along fairly quickly. In the end, I stopped at the curb and waited for a gap...waited about twelve seconds, as it turned out. Then I eased into my lane and started across the bridge.

This span not only has narrow lanes, but it slopes upward to a bluff, so is quite a climb. I didn't hurry, just pedaled along, keeping part of my attention on traffic behind me but resolutely not hurrying. Even getting around the construction crew that blocked my lane partway up presented no difficulties. I crested the hill and rolled down into Silverlake more relaxed than I ever did before my affliction.

And this is just the latest lesson in riding slowly through traffic.

It's been repeated over and over, even on streets where I felt sure I'd be the audience for a chorus of angry honks. In fact, I've been enjoying riding more as I hurry less, and I get everywhere I need to get to—in some instances my destinations are nearly twenty miles off—without strain or conflict.

And this in Los Angeles!

Quite a revelation.

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