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'Bravo!' says the guy with the van and hairy legs

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By JAN GLIDEWELL, Times Columnist

© St. Petersburg Times
published April 21, 2002

It's becoming almost a mantra: ugodda geddabike, ugodda geddabike.

And if it sounds like some of the other mantras in my life, like the one that says I also have to lose weight and exercise more, it should.

Although I don't ride the bus, I was heartened recently when the Pasco County Commission agreed to put bike racks on the county's buses.

Okay, I don't ride the bus, and I don't have a bike. Still, I like the spirit of the move. Getting around Pasco County, despite millions of dollars in road construction, hasn't gotten that much easier in the past 30 years.

Buses don't really go where I need to go when I need to go there; I'm afraid to get on a bike; and road improvements, except possibly for the really nifty Suncoast Parkway, seem only to be producing wider traffic jams.

I have a stepson who lives in a large European city and who hasn't driven a car in nearly 10 years. He doesn't have to. A combination of trains, streetcars and buses takes him pretty much anywhere he wants to go -- in the entire country.

I, basically, have the option of either getting behind the wheel, or calling a taxicab and twiddling my thumbs for the next several hours.

Driving as much as I do, I see enough of local traffic to not want to get on the road in any vehicle that doesn't surround me with a ton or more of rubber, metal and, (sigh!) fiberglass.

I make it a point to give bicyclists (and we have a lot of them in east Pasco) a wide berth. Not everyone else does.

No weight jokes, please, but I run across (and not into) enough people who can't see me coming in a big maroon van. I really don't want to try it on a bicycle.

And I really don't want to wear those silly tight pants with built in (one thing I really don't need) butt pads.

One of my co-workers wrote a little while ago about a group that rides out of San Antonio twice a week . . . serious competitive riders who sneer at folks with off-the-rack (so to speak) equipment and unshaved legs. (Shaving is supposed to help the aerodynamics).

I understand their mindset, but those of us with different motives shouldn't be around serious bike riders, or weightlifters, or even coupon clippers.

I refuse to shave my legs; the seats on those competition level bikes were obviously invented during the Spanish Inquisition, and I don't have $3,000 to spend on a bicycle so I can burn calories and save money.

I envision myself showing up with something I bought in a mall department store, with balloon tires, a wide (and well-padded) saddle seat and -- if I feel like it -- playing cards clipped to the wheel forks so I can make "vroooom, vroooom" noises.

I'm pretty sure I would be ridiculed.

And, much as I like the area's current bike paths (I walked the Withlacoochee Trail from end to end just to see it), they really don't take you anywhere unless you count downtown Istachatta.

I'm not knocking downtown Istachatta; it's just not a place where a lot of people go, which is one of the main reasons people who live in downtown Istachatta moved there. I just feel like I am obliging them by staying away most of the time.

Street riding? I don't know. I admit it would be good for my cardiovascular system and for the environment if I rode to Winn-Dixie instead of driving. Surviving the trip, especially during the winter-visitor season, and trying to navigate with a 25-pound bag of cat food and a case of beer, might be tricky.

And in most areas of these counties, you are taking your life in your hands to ride on the streets, especially if you obey the law and ride on the correct side, where you can't see traffic coming at you from behind.

Still the important thing about the Pasco County Commission's bus/bike rack decision is that it, along with recent decisions by the Metropolitan Planning Commission in the area of a commuter rails system, is that it indicates that people are at least thinking about a future where folks in these parts will be able to know that you actually can get from Point A to Point B without burning up a lot of dead dinosaurs in the process.

That, I salute.

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