Crossing Guard Advocacy and The Joy of Cycling

Carol BarkerCarol Barker lives in Colorado Springs, Colorado, where she enjoys bicycle commuting and joy riding year round.

She is a tutor and school crossing guard who shares her bicycle love and general rebellion against the wife-and-mom-of-suburbia stereotype at her blog.

It was the first thing I saw and the only thing I remember from that Christmas. Fire-engine red with a white seat, white-wall tires, and gummy white hand grips with red and white streamers, it rested shiny and proud under the tree with a bright red bow on its stem. I was four years old and had just received my first bicycle.

And I vividly remember the day I could ride it without training wheels. I felt like this kid!

Thumbs Up for Rock and Roll!
Thumbs Up for Rock and Roll! | Screengrab: YouTube user katdangers

But he can articulate better.

But I never saw my parents, or anyone elses parents for that matter, ride a bicycle when I was young. Bicycling was something that kids did, but not grownups. As we got older, most of my friends shunned their bicycles for cars.

Now, Im grown up. And I still happily (rebelliously?) ride a bicycle two of them actually. I also moonlight as a school crossing guard, and many of my customers are young bicycle commuters.

They ride up to my corner in the mornings, often looking sleepy and grumpy. But in the afternoons, theyre back and full of zest.

Carol Barker's Crosswalk
Carol Barker’s Crosswalk, Colorado Springs, Colo.

I know that pleasant feeling of fresh air on the skin and human powered speed after a day indoors. Their cheeks are rosy, their hair sticking out wildly from their helmets. And they’re smiling.

Some of them, most of them actually, will stop riding when they get their driver’s licenses. It’s what grownups do. This makes me a little sad as I see such contrast between them and the motorists who sit isolated and disengaged in their vehicles, inconvenienced at having to slow down and stop for 30 seconds to let school kids cross the street.

Carol Barker's CustomersSo what’s a crossing guard to do to exploit her position in the name of bicycle advocacy? Lecture them on childhood obesity? Talk up the price of gas these days? Somehow I don’t think either of those will do anything other than illicit blank stares or worse.

Thankfully, I do have a couple of young clients who show great promise for a future of bicycling. They ride up and want to show me their newest acquisitions, like new stunt pegs, or the latest sticker placed carefully on the frame. Sometimes they proudly show me the latest road rash. And I can see the passion in their eyes along with their rosy cheeks and their disheveled hair. If only we could put that feeling in a bottle.

They are lifers. Like me.

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11 thoughts on “Crossing Guard Advocacy and The Joy of Cycling”

  1. Ted Johnson says:

    Welcome Carol!

    Something happens to someone when they’re in a car. It happened to me this week. I had to drive and do some errands for about an hour. By the time I got home I was ill tempered and irritable. Even as I was apologizing to my wife for being ill tempered and irritable, I was being ill tempered and irritable.

    It’s sad that people not only transition to becoming motorists when they reach driving age, but they accept that ball and chain joyfully — as though it really did represent freedom.

  2. Carol says:

    Thanks Ted. I agree. I also often drive for practical reasons, but it’s not something I enjoy.

    And it strikes me that many motorists see bicyclists in general as “anti-car” and have a sort of us-vs.-them attitude. I don’t know where that comes from.

  3. listenermark says:

    Beautiful post…..hopeful and humorous…right on!

    As you point out, not many grown ups on bikes these days. I think that partially explains the “us vs them” defense posture you address. Anything or anyone who acts outside the norm makes the neuro-typicals nervous.

    1. Ted Johnson says:

      @listenermark One of my favorite quotes is this, by Bertrand Russell:

      Conventional people are roused to fury by departure from convention, largely because they regard such departure as a criticism of themselves.

      One of these days I’m going to write a post on Commute by Bike on that theme.

  4. BluesCat says:

    Actually, I LIKE driving cars.

    Especially if it has headers and the rest of an exhaust system which makes it sound like a purring dragon at idle. And if it has enough horsepower to burn away over four hundred dollars worth of tires in the first five seconds after launching it in first gear. And if the whole presentation of the thing makes cops turn around and follow you for a mile or so to see what you’re going to do.

    I LIKE driving those cars.

    It’s COMMUTING in a car that I find stupefyingly BORING.

    1. Ted Johnson says:

      My guilty pleasure is driving alone on road trips — in just about any car, so long as I can plug in the music I want and play it loud.

      In particular, I like driving North through Monument Valley, spending the night in Moab, then driving Utah State Route 128 through Cisco before connecting to I-70 and heading East towards Denver.


      If there are no posts to Commute by Bike this weekend, you’ll know why.

  5. BluesCat says:

    Heh, heh, gotcha, Ted!

    And, listenermark? I think you hit the nail on the proverbial head.

  6. Carol says:

    BluesCat, I love to both look at and especially LISTEN to those types of cars! Strangely, I don’t care to drive one though

    And I do enjoy a good road trip – with the “right” people! I have a tendency to fall asleep in cars, so that is usually a challenge for me. It’s yet to happen on a bicycle.

    Great quote by Bertrand Russell, and I think it’s very true. Something to ponder on the next road trip!

  7. Woodie E. Comer says:

    Very good article. If I may, I’d like to put in a plug for Barnett Bicycle Institute there in The Springs, you might enjoy the mechanic courses there. I have taken all of the courses offered and really learned a lot about bicycles and the maintenance they need. The Springs is a beautiful area of our country.

  8. Graham says:

    The “road trip”, done properly in a car you love for some reason with people who get what you’re doing, is one of the best things ever invented.

    I couldn’t agree more with folks that doing the daily grind in a car is a soul-sucking experience that has led to my seething resentment for my car. In fact, the only reason I am able to continue our relationship is that I commute by bicycle. 🙂

  9. Joel says:

    Getting on my bicycle allows me to breathe fresh oxygen to the memory brain cells that stored the freedom I felt when I was young.

    I still remember the first Columbia 27″ “Racing Bike” that I saved up for in 8th grade. I went to “Discount Harry’s” in New Jersey with my parents to plunk down $80.00 of hard earned cash and gift money. I spent all night wrapping the handlebars with tape, assembling the parts and adjusting the cables. That first morning in the daylight when I went pedaling as hard as I could into tenth gear with my eyes watering from the wind shear, it was just a marvelous sensation.

    Every morning that I commute later, almost forty years after that event, I feel my eyes tear. It is a joyous feeling.

    Did I tell you that I just like to ride a bicycle?

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