One day, a decade ago, I was riding my bicycle over one of the bridges across the river in the center of Portland when some guy started yelling and pointing at me in a demanding, aggressive way.
I was confused and annoyed. I was working hard to pedal up the hill onto the bridge, focused on my effort and also both proud of and a little nervous about what I was doing—crossing over to the west side of town by bicycle, something I’d done only a few times before. Usually when I ventured downtown it was in a friend’s car or as a passenger on the bus. I didn’t know my way around well yet, and found the wide, one-way streets daunting. I’d had to muster up my courage to make this trip, and now some guy was heckling me. Great.
It wasn’t until I was coasting over the flat part of the bridge that something clicked. My bike felt like it was on springs or shocks, bouncing strangely over every bump in the road. Then I realized what this meant—something that had happened to me only once or twice before—I had a flat tire. The yelling guy had not in fact been harassing me, he’d just been trying to let me know.
Since then I’ve learned a lot, like how to tell that the air in my tires is getting low, much less flat. People don’t usually yell at me anymore either, unless they really think I should be on the sidewalk, or if they’re a friend and they want to say hello. I’ve witnessed plenty of yelling, though, and done a little of it myself—most of which I regret—and learned some things along the way.[Keep reading at Bicycling]