So, it's MLK Day -and- of course, I'm sitting here thinking about Dr. King and, well, bikes. (There may just be something to my Long-Suffering-Wife's claims about my one track mind.)
As it turns out, though, the Reverend and bikes are indelibly stitched into the fabric of my daily routine. My last post was devoted to my bike commute, focusing upon the morning ferry ride and the cast of characters I share it with. As it so happens, my evening ride home around the bay starts with me crossing San Diego on the bike path that follows the trolley line and the City's 3/4 mile long MLK Promenade.
This wonderful linear park, stretching through the heart of San Diego's "Marina District," is lined with works of art devoted to Dr. King and his legacy as well as embedded stone inscriptions of some of his famous quotations. Oddly enough, though -- despite the fact that the promenade is listed in some places as a bike path -- the only people who are not free to utilize the promenade are bike riders! I have never seen it enforced, but there are signs at the beginning and end prohibiting bikes. The parallel, dedicated, bike path makes this a non-issue for my commute, but still gets my goat as yet another non-sensical restriction imposed by those with an anti-bike bias. Why shouldn't bike riders have equal access to one of the City's most beautiful, and inspirational open spaces? When I see those signs, I can't help but contrast this closed-minded approach to my experiences with the monuments surrounding the National Mall (another great space with a strong connection to Dr. King), where bikes were welcome, and, in my opinion, are the best way to show out-of-towners the sights. Shouldn't San Diego bike tourists have the same opportunity to roll from inscripton to inscription through the Promenade?
Of course, this, somewhat trivial, inequality pales in comparison to the epic struggle taken on by Dr. King and the Civil Rights Movement. It still irks me, though. Easing that annoyance a bit, however, is the latest artistic installation to the Promenade, right in front of the Children's Museum:
Yes! Bikes do have a place on the Promenade! I'm a sucker for bike art (especially when it utilizes recycled bike parts), and this living installation, incorporating old rims into the Children's Museum garden, is one of my favorites.
But, what about Dr. King himself? Did he like bikes? Did he ride them? Well, I set my crack research team on it, and they uncovered a 2010 Newsday photo gallery, with images of his 1967 trip through Long Island, NY. Look at how he chose to traverse Fire Island!
Even better -- check out this image of the good Doctor breaking free from the throngs!
You can only read so much into a picture, but I have often alluded to how I can feel the weight of the world melting off my shoulders as I hop on my bike to start my commute home, or head out on my Saturday morning ride. While I can't possibly relate to or begin to comprehend the enormity of the burden carried by Dr. King, I CAN completely relate with the hint of playfulness and (dare I say) freedom displayed on his part in this picture as he appears to be leaning on the pedals to gather a head of steam. He devoted his life to pursuing freedom and equality for all on a grand scale, but after seeing so many über-serious images of him over the years (usually surrounded by dozens, hundreds, or thousands of people), I just love this image of him capturing a moment of freedom for himself.
I never feel more free than when I am on a bike. I am freed from all of life's mundane worries, and even from the power of gravity itself as I defy it on my improbable two-wheeled transport that would just fall onto its side without the centrifugal force supplied by my pedaling. As for Dr. King, the real world is still there waiting for me when I hop off the saddle, but, oh, what a joyful respite during those rolling interludes where time seems to have frozen and the laws of gravity itself have been suspended.