Tuesday, June 22, 2004

A Bike Bike Here and a Bike Bike There

In Celebration, the car is king, but you can still find some unconventional means of transportation giving some competition to the autos. The more unusual choices include Segways (the two-wheeled "human transporters" that were supposed to revolutionize transportation) and glorified electric golf carts known as NEVS, or "Neighborhood Electric Vehicles." During certain times of the year, you can tour the town via house drawn carriage. There used to be lots of electric and gas-powered scooters until a Florida law prohibiting them was finally enforced.

Out of all of the above, the most fascinating for me is the Segway, although I doubt it will ever be more than a niche vehicle. It has some good applications for mobility impaired people, but for mainstream use it's never going to catch on. I remember its inventor making lofty statements about how tomorrow's cities would be designed around the Segway. He must have been sniffing some good white stuff, or else he was desperately trying to make a self-fulfilling prophecy. A Segway on the streets of any big city would be a trial lawyer's dream.

But they're fun to just bum around on. We've ridden them on several of our Disney cruises (they allow you to ride them in the lobby or on Castaway Cay, although the speed is cranked way down so you can't do too much damage, and the price is obscenely expensive for only a few minutes). I want to do the new Segway tour at Epcot, where you get to ride around World Showcase, or else go on one of the tours offered by Relay (the dealer in Celebration).

But overall, for me the alternate choice to the car is my good old-fashioned bicycle. Well, actually it's a new fashioned one. It has an obnoxious amount of speeds...something like 12, or maybe 15. It's a cheapie K-Mart model that has been fitted with a rear rack for transporting goodies that I buy downtown and little Mickey heads on the tire valves that light up when I hit a bump (good for my frequent after-dark jaunts).

In theory, Celebration is a bicyclist's dreams. There are miles of bike-friendly paths weaving throughout the town, and they are even lighted for night rides. In practice, navigating them can be rather challenging. The path near downtown is often choked with tourists who are too busy gaping to make some room on the path. And even the locals seem to love to walk five abreast, and many consider it a supreme inconvenience to move over and let a bike through. When I say the words "Excuse me," they give me a look like I've just made a rude comment about their mother's sex life.

Still, even with these challenges, one of my greatest pleasures in life is riding my bike around the town. My husband and I will both bike to the high school and then to North Village. Once, we got really insane and biked to the Logan's steakhouse on 192, then biked over to the nearby Publix for some light grocery shopping before pedaling back home.

There are lots of bike racks downtown in strategic locations, so we can easily leave our bikes while we bum around the farmer's market, have lunch at one of the restaurants, or enjoy a coffee from Barnie's or an ice cream cone from Herman's (make mine pink bubble gum, please). Sometimes my husband goes biking along while I putz around the house, and he's perfected the art of riding home with one hand on the handlebars while balancing an iced coffee in the other as a treat for me.

Biking is almost a necessity when there is a special event going on. Even though there is a large parking lot downtown, plus a generous portion of street parking, it all seems miniscule in size when the restless hordes descend upon the town. The streets are clogged with traffic, and the parked cars extend from the asphalt into the grass and finally onto any flat, or even semi-flat, surface in the general downtown area.

With my bike, the worst parking woes I have to worry about are finding the most convenient bike racks are already full. But I know where there are plenty of others, and my husband and I always manage to find some space. I remember reading in one of the Celebration books (by a couple who lived here a couple of years for the sole purpose of writing about it and then bailed) that the mother wouldn't buy bike locks for her kids. What planet is she from?! Even if I trusted my fellow residents implicitly, there are too many strangers in town for me to leave my bike unlocked. It way be an $89 K-Mart special, but I'm still rather attached to it and used to it. I've read enough blurbs on the community intranet about unlocked scooters that disappeared from racks and bikes that were stolen from garages for me to leave mine in such a tempting state.

I am a paranoid biker, and I always wear a helmet. I've had a lot of close brushes with cars blowing through stop signs or speeding and not watching where they're going, but so far I've never actually been hit, or even bumped. My husband and I did manage to survive a drive-by heckling once, though. In a big city, it would be a drive-by shooting, but people in Celebration are more civilized. Instead, the car just goes by while the driver shouts obscenities, with no weapon other than the words.

We were on Celebration Avenue, just passing Waterside, which is a common thoroughfare to get in and out of town. As we were preparing to cross the road, a car full of teenagers came screeching up. I don't think they liked the fact that they had to stop because we were crossing. Once we were past them, they peeled off in the opposite direction, yelling, "Rich Celebration bitches on your rich Celebration bikes!"

I guess I have to excuse them because it was pretty dark out, so that must be why they mistook my banged up cheapie for a "rich Celebration bike." And I'm sure that they considered the flashing Mickey lights on the tire valves as the ultimate in pimping out my two-wheeled transportation. My husband was offended that they'd mistaken him for a "bitch," but as I thought about it, I began to realize that they were actually complimenting us. Since we live in a triplex, I'd always though of us as the trailer trash of Celebration. After all, the woman I saw walking through the model when we were buying our home had shuddered at the thought of anyone living in such a tiny place. I'll never forget how horrified she sounded when she said to her friend, "Can you imagine someone actually living in one of these?"

Now I'd been mistaken for a rich Celebration bitch. Perhaps the kids in that car actually thought I was heading over to "Millionaire Row," the street lined with mansions that leads into East Village. Maybe they thought I was am independently weathly that I spend all my days and nights riding around on my pimpin' rich Celebration bike, forcing cars to stop at stop signs. Ah, what a lovely fantasy!

But unfortunately, the reality is that we only get to bike in our free time, and there's never enough of that. But at least we can do it most of the year, with no frigid Midwestern winters to force us to keep the bikes stashed on the garage rack at least half of the year. When you're out on the walking paths or driving around town, maybe you'll see me one of these days. You'll recognize me easily: I'll be the bitchy one on the rich Celebration bike.

Learn more about Celebration on my website: www.celebrationinfo.com

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