Tag: ethics

Why I Ride a Bicycle to Work

Standing at the front door of my school one morning, juggling with the handle and my bicycle as I worked through toward the hallway, I met the mother of one…

Standing at the front door of my school one morning, juggling with the handle and my bicycle as I worked through toward the hallway, I met the mother of one of my students who said “Oh Mr. Snyder, we love the way you are so committed to a ‘green’ lifestyle, riding your bike to school everyday”. I hope I didn’t visually grimace as my will clenched  in reaction to the verbal blow. The last time I committed to a ‘green’ lifestyle was when I joined the Marines in what is becoming the distant past, and then to pursue decidedly environmentally harmful ends – at least for someone. I suppose I still regard the environment as a competitor with whom I struggle for dominance.
I didn’t reply in any other way but by a smile that morning, but have considered it ever since, that exchange on a school morning as a lesson in perception and intention. The green life I lead is more one of the virtue of struggle and combat than one of natural harmony and political virtue. This is at least true when I ride my bicycle. Think more of the novel ‘The Thin Red Line’ and its evocation of the ‘Green Hell’ of Guadalcanal than the fictional ‘Green Jobs Initiative’. I enjoy pitting myself against gravity, friction and distance in the morning and frequently venting the shortcomings of the intervening school day on the road back home. I live in Wichita, and my route carries me through neighborhoods of old houses with teeming, man cultivated yards and gardens. I often reflect that this same patch of the globe would have been an unbroken and shadowless grass wilderness in its pristine state. Now, in submission, it flourishes with trees, birds of all kinds, cats, children, mailboxes and undulating sidewalks being thrust upward by old roots. I see them all because I am there among them, shouldering through air, riding my bike.
I ride as fast as I want to. Because of the physical limits of my apparatus, the one composed of me and my bicycle, I cannot factually transcend the man appointed limits placed on velocity, expressed by the speed limit signs. Were the authorities to read my intentions, they might see that I accounted myself an anarch while riding. I am sequestered from the intrusions of mannish law regarding how I, Jehu like, thrash down the street. Dark green tunnels of trees overarch, and I charge on, not (gloriously) wearing a helmet.
Once, when based in Quantico as a Marine Sergeant, I disregarded a decree regarding helmets. For years I had ridden to my post aboard (as we quasi nautical types would say) a bicycle, first in Beaufort South Carolina, then in Quantico. I was a computer programmer for training and education command.  I had to pick up a print order, moving from one physical location to another,  computers being a bit more widely distributed regarding their occupation of space in those days. I would send a print job through the mainframe from my terminal, and pick up a bound report a couple of miles away from a top-secret cleared facility. The printed book would be slid out through a steel door with a steel flap, hands the only thing to be seen. I enjoyed those days of riding a bicycle back and forth around Quantico as I pursued my highly techno-bureaucratic duties. Then, as now, the sweet and sour combo was energizing: pedaling by brute force to move immaterial data.
That day of the helmet I had overlooked the change of command on base and the subsequent order concerning bicycle safety. In that day a decree had gone out requiring the wearing of orange safety vests and helmets while operating bicyclitic equipment. I rode intrepidly down the company street, cloth camouflage cap properly starched and blocked, to be disturbed by a wailing siren from abaft (more salty nauticisms). At first, I thought that of course this concerned some other more technologically compromised person, perhaps in a speeding Honda. As I came to understand that I was the subject of interdiction, I perversely began to pedal harder….

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