With all of my complaints about the public transit in Buffalo, it became necessary for me to learn how to drive again. I’m making a bit of progress for someone who hasn’t been behind a steering wheel in five years, with the exception of a single trip through the entire state of Ohio. Getting around in Chicago was always very convenient – any curiosity you had was just a Google search and a bicycle ride away, or a bus ride or two if the weather was bad enough.
I hate driving, and I think I’ve finally figured out just what I have against it. I’ve learned how to navigate the worst aspects of biking – three years as a messenger will do that to you. But it’s also that, on a bike, I have an awareness of my physical presence. I know exactly where the front and back wheels end, and how wide the bike is, and that gives me a good sense of my comfort zone. I can get a better feel for the terrain, my view is unobstructed, and I’m entirely in control of my own momentum.
In a car, I’m robbed of a lot of this. A car has a plethora of creature comforts, which is why people prefer them. But a lot of the things that make me an effective cyclist are gone. I have no idea where the hood or the front wheels are, yet I’m still expected to dodge potholes. On a bicycle, I have 360 degrees of swivel direction so I can turn around easily and see what’s tailgating me. In a car, everything coming from behind can only be seen in mirrors – mirrors which have blind spots. If I try to turn my head around, my vision is blocked by the seat of another chair.
Many cars are giant wastes of sheet metal and plastic, which is even worse. If I’m the only one in a car, I have to calculate extra room for the other seats, which can be a real chore with no one there to give me any guidance.
I’m terrible at parking because of the extra space. I don’t know how much room is between the car and the curb or the car in the spot in front of me, since the hood is slanted downward and invisible to the driver.
I’ll give cars this: They’re a nice barrier against the rain. But then again, so is a desert, which is where I’d rather be when all transportation problems possible are taken into account.