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Biking in the City
Harvey B. Sarles

We have old, refurbished black three-speed bikes; not very regal, but they work well. They sit in back of our house in a garage; mostly safe from theft, an unstylish form.

On evenings often just before dusk, we roll up pantlegs, hop on board, having checked tire pressures, squeeze past the car, and amble down to the lake at the corner. Two paths, one for walkers (mostly drowned this year of the deluge), the other for skater, runners, and bikes, continue around the three lakes on the west side of town.

Our lake, stylish, where the skaters come to ogle one another, where people come to perform theatrics upon one another, to promenade, not to swim in not-so-very-clean water, is the one with irregularities of size and sphere, with two isles, ducks and geese.

We bike, facing traffic, shouting, "on your left," to pass slower bikers or skaters tuned in to the detail of skating's rhythmics. "On your left," we brake for small people, going slow, or crossing bike path; at first struggling, now with legs strong enough to conquer prairie's hillocks still in third gear. Turn off path over bridge to lake two.

The other lakes, essentially round, may be seen in the all-at-once with sailboats' white sails, and windsurfers' colorated silhouettes. The path runs under hillside's road, past cemetery's green, and turn left over big hill to lake three. Here, evening concerts ring out on the edge of lakeside as the sunsets mellow, and city dwellers thrill to their presence: we are here, and what could be better!?

Dusk falls, we move on third lake's paths, past continuous urban marchers, exercising souls' searchings. Pump hard, back over hill to see sky glow over cityscape, across the big road, left over hill to finish up in the great calm of now-dead railroad yard's huge quietness.

Day done, home through quiet streets driving to garage. Black bikes, stodgy, sitting upright pedaling around city's jeweled lakes. Night lights on, city settles down to almost quiet. Night birds fly; squawk.

editor's note

Dr. Harvey B. Sarles is professor of Cultural Studies and Comparative Literature at the Minneapolis campus of the University of Minnesota.  He is author of several books including Nietzsche's Prophecy: The Crisis in Meaning, published in 2001 by Humanity Books.




Photographs: Cyclist shadows by Alaa Hammoudeh (Canada); Szczesliwicki Park, Warsaw, by Anna Paczewska (Poland).









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