The local police set up a roadside speedometer a few houses down from where I live. It shows the speed of passing cars and flashes if that speed is over 30 mph. Since I bike past the sign every day and walk my dogs down the street, I have been able to observe the reactions of motorists to the speedometer.
As the cars come around the corner and see their current speed displayed, the most common reaction is gentle pressure on the brakes until the car is moving at or under the speed limit. Of course, there are some drivers who either don’t see the sign or are feeling brazen; they continue to speed down the road unflinchingly. My personal favorite are the drivers who see their speed and instantly stomp on the brakes until they are going way below the legal speed. It is my firm belief that these individuals think that a police officer is hiding in the shrubbery, waiting to pop out and hand them a ticket.
But all these motorists, regardless of their behavior when they notice the speedometer, have one thing in common. They are all speeding to various degrees before they come to the sign. Clearly, many of them aren’t speeding on purpose, their reaction to the speedometer is proof of that. It is just that speeding in a car is so easy. I have (occasionally) driven a car in the past and it shocked me every time how simple it was to go over the speed limit without even realizing it. Cars want to go fast, they are made to go fast, but in many situations they should not go fast.
I was thinking about it on the way home from work today. Just for fun, I decided to add three sprints to my route. For a few minutes each time, I pounded on those pedals as hard and as fast as ever I could. Going at my top speed down the road-it feels great. And that is the freedom of traveling everywhere by bike. My speed is not determined by road signs, laws or police officers. In most cases my fastest speed is legal and safe. I set my own pace, whether it be slower than a jogger running up a hill or faster than an Amish racehorse.
Some people think I am a little odd for choosing a mode of transportation that is slower and less convenient for getting around. It is true, they can zip around the countryside at speeds I could never dream of reaching.
But biking does have lots of great perks and one, little, maybe rather trivial perk, is that I have the freedom to choose my own speed. I can race down the road as fast as I can just for fun and it is exhilarating. It doesn’t get me killed or fined. Although…in the event that I ever was caught speeding down a hill, well, I would probably brag about the resulting ticket until the day I died.
Oh, I should probably tell you my own reaction while biking past the speedometer. Well, I think it might not be calibrated correctly for bicycles because yesterday it said I was going ninety. I didn’t slow down.