5 Unexpected Perks of Being a Bicyclist in Austin, Texas

Sophie Gets Me Compliments

“Dude! That’s a sweet bike you’ve got there,” says a random person on a bike every week or two at a stoplight or while I’m locking or unlocking my bike. They’re talking about Sophie the sea foam Fairdale Weekender Archer, my main squeeze these days. “Yeah, she is, thanks. I won her in a raffle from Bike Austin,” I counter.

“Really? Wow, that’s great!” they say. “I love that color too, it’s really pretty.” I reply, a skosh sardonically, “Yes, she’s pretty, just like me. And she was worth $850 new! Lucky me, right?” That’s usually the extent of it. Some car people talk about their cars in a similar fashion, but it doesn’t seem the same. Back when I had one, 14 years ago, I didn’t have such conversations. It wasn’t pretty, it just got me from point A to point B.

BENEFIT #1: For me, these little chats are specific to being out on a bike. It’s a small thing, but they brighten my day. (Sophie loves it too.)

Meeting Peeps and Learnin’ Thangs

Tonight I was running a quick errand (in a friend’s car, actually) and saw a couple getting ready to ride. I approached them and said hello and that I was usually on a bike. They were friendly and not in a rush, so I asked the woman about her helmet.

Lumos helmet

It was a Lumos brand that she got from online. Hers was a bright lime-ish yellow like my Giro, but it lights up in the back and sides, and can even signal a left or right turn with a push of a button on the handlebars. It’s very visible and a great idea for better safety. I asked how much it cost and she replied that her mother bought it for her, but that it was not cheap. Currently they run for $179.99 – not cheap! But then again, neither is brain surgery. Good thing the Lumos offers the same MIPS Brain Protection System as Giro. (For that much money, it ought to make your morning coffee and rub your feet after a long bike ride!)

My helmet retails for $150. I got it several years ago on sale at a good discount. My main mechanic Mike in the Bike Shop at Sun & Ski Sports recently noticed it was cracked and should be replaced. Also, the insert is all jacked up. So I’m in the market for one the next time I have money (or if someone is feeling generous and wants to do ate one). Phoebe, her friend and I parted ways amicably.

BENEFIT #2: I got a hot tip on a product that (if I can ever afford it!) may save my life by preventing a car from crashing into me. That’s another interesting and rewarding bicycle interaction. It cost me nothing but a few minutes time and the willingness to not be shy.

Discounted Smoothies

Local Austin, Texas juice bar Juiceland finally opened a store on the East Side near where I live. I had stopped by earlier in the week to check it out, but today was the grand opening. Man, the place was hopping. Austinites love their smoothies, I guess. It is a health-conscious city in many ways, and it’s a popular store with numerous locations. They have an extensive menu and also paint their shops with bright, vibrant colors.

Juicleand Mueller with mural after the crowd thinned out

I was greeted again by the friendly Stewart, who I reintroduced myself to. After consulting the cute, friendly and of course married woman behind me for a suggestion, I ordered a smoothie called the “Vegetable Collective” — without the cauliflower. I lamented to Stewart that I had missed the prize giveaway, and he reminded me that cyclists get 10% off all purchases! Since it was half off due to the opening, he gave me an extra 25% off discount card.

BENEFIT #3: Sweet! (Literally.) I did not see this benefit of being a cyclist coming, but I accepted. It kinda made my day that a company would offer that, recognizing that bicycling is both an individual effort that benefits the community (less car traffic and pollution and better health).

Colorful Characters

The capital of Texas is known for the slogan “Keep Austin Weird.” As Californians move in, build ugly metro houses and run up the rent for the rest of us, it’s getting harder to find the wackiness. But it’s still here. I stopped at a coffee shop the other day and there was an older guy sitting out front with a bike parked nearby. I struck up a convo, as I tend to do, being a friendly Dude, and was rewarded with a nice chat.

Jeff has a cousin with the same name, so family members started calling him Jeffro (like the far more common but still little-heard Jethro). That right there is a little weird. But the more he talked the more I got the impression his elevator stops at the 13th floor. (And that’s a reference to the recently departed Roky Ericson, singer in various pyschedelic and other bands). It wasn’t that he didn’t make sense, he just had some big ideas and opinions about things, and a way of talking that made me think he could have been a professional storyteller.

BENEFIT #4: Point is, it never hurts to have more bike friends. If I run into him again, we might have another amusing chat. Nothing wrong with that! I told him about this blog, so maybe he’ll see it and get a smile out of it.

Making an Impact

Before running into Jeffro, I had been by a presentation by the City of Austin (Texas) Corridor Improvement Office. There are big plans to make Burnet Road friendly to pedestrians and cyclists. (“It’s pronounced ‘burn it’, durn it, so learn it!” we say). I spoke with project manager Lars with the City of Austin who explained the plans for installing a shared use pathway in most places, and protected bike lane when there was an existing good sidewalk. This will be done with 2016 mobility bonds funds, but construction won’t begin until 2021 and lasts until 2024.

Map of planned improvements to Burnet Road

So we’re discussing the project, I’m looking at the plans and asking questions, and he tells me a story. Pulling back his shirt, he shows me a scar on his clavicle where he has a metal rod that was installed after a car wreck. He told me all about it, how he got hit and sailed through the air, landing hard. He didn’t press charges because the driver was at fault and had stopped, but he just wanted the insurance to cover the costs. To me that was pretty remarkable. Here’s a young guy with a bad injury caused by a negligent car driver, and he didn’t seem the slightest bit angry about it.

BENEFIT #5: So not only did I make friends with some staff in that office, learn about the design and get to give a little input, I also learned a lesson in humility. Maybe next time a car comes too close to me I’ll be a little more forgiving.

So what are you waiting for? Get out there on your bike and see what kind of cool, fun, educational, humbling, interesting or otherwise rewarding things happen. Or already have a good story? Tell me in the comments or email me (see the About page).

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