A Bear in the Hood

This morning we received an email from the Superintendent of Schools letting us know that school would be delayed by an hour, because a bear had been seen in the neighborhood. A black bear. We live about six miles from the center of Boston, where there are abundant trees, but the rumble of the city is always in the air. This bear is no doubt confused and lost, likely lulled by the quality of our garbage or our gardens.

My friend John texted me yesterday. He said, “Ok, if you ride bikes you’re one of us. But a guy showed up for our group ride on a full carbon road bike with aero bars. It was an eBike. We realized he had earbuds in when he failed to respond to various calls and instructions in traffic. Turns out, he uploads his rides to Strava too. Is he one of us?”

Someone called the cops on the bear. This feels like a very (sub)urban thing to do. My friends who live in Vermont or Maine or New Hampshire would see a bear and think, “I’ll take the garbage out later.” Still, I can’t blame the narc. We’re a densely populated area, kids everywhere. Black bears aren’t dangerous, per se, but you don’t want them mixing with kindergarteners on their way to school. I worry for the bear though. How will it be corralled? Will it be returned to something like its native territory? If the powers that be manage to get it back in some acceptable patch of woods, how will the bear cope? It will still be lost. It will still be confused.

The guy with the aero eBike might also be confused. Or not. Perhaps he doesn’t understand the culture of the group road ride, or perhaps he just doesn’t care. Maybe he’s riding a bike, so he assumes he’s “one of us.” John’s group said nothing. They made no corrections to his behavior and offered no criticism because they’re pretty chill, though most of them rode away after wondering what they’d just seen. It would have been fair to say, in the interest of safety, “No earbuds, friend.”

Hopefully, we are living in a time of burgeoning tolerance. It’s Pride Month. There are those among us who are frightened and confused all the time. There are others who are who they are, and just want the space to be that person. We may not understand intuitively or even intellectually what they are doing or how they want to live, but that’s not a real problem. None of it limits our ability to live our own lives or ride our own rides.

One of the ways we exclude people from cycling is by defining spaces they can’t enter or don’t feel welcome. In our minds, there is no real boundary. We think all are welcome. But they aren’t. By rule, circumstance or attitude we define spaces where “outsiders” don’t feel they can enter.

As I said, I worry about the bear, who just wandered into the neighborhood, likely for a snack at someone’s birdfeeder or compost bin. What does the bear think now? What does it need? Where are its friends? Is it scared? My sincere hope is that we take the time to care for the bear, rather than deciding it’s dangerous, capturing it, maybe even killing it. As the seemingly dominant species on the planet (Fungi might argue this point), we are awfully insecure, and fear, as we see every single day, often makes people do cruel things.

Join the conversation
  1. aron says

    The Great Bear Sighting of 2019 caused a shelter-in-place for the Turkey Hill / Stratton School area. In that case, the bear was loaded with happy juice before being sent to Western Massachusetts. This bear was close to three, THREE! elementary schools and the upper middle school. Perhaps it is heading to the nearby guerrilla trails. That bear has no respect for the slow pace of progress through town government.

    TCI Friday asks: If you were loaded with tranquilizers and relocated to another part of the state, where would they bring you? Would you return home? How’s the riding out there?

    1. Emlyn Lewis says

      @Aron – Are you me? Am I you? If they filled me with happy juice and brought me back to my house, I’d be as confused as ever. We sent our kid to school this morning, and said, “Look out for the bear.” Then we laughed an unreasonable amount.

    2. aron says

      I am apparently from the long ago past, according to the all-knowing TCI. From way back then, I knew not about the bear, which makes this bear posting quite prophetic.

      Please deliver me to Western Mass, as it is my happy juice.

      Our (self-professed “drama kid” not “sports kid”) was delivered to school inside a steel cage carpool, as she would have needed to cross the DANGER ZONE that is known as “Paul Revere’s Ride”.

  2. bart says

    Regarding the person who showed up to the group ride with the aero-bars, e-bike, and ear-buds. If I’m the ride leader, I would tell them no ear buds and no riding the aero bars while in a pace line. If I’m not the leader, I’m watching the leader and keeping an eye on this rider to learn their habits, behaviors, talking to them, etc. If I can’t have a conversation with them while we’re riding due to the earbuds, I’d try to find a way to ask them to remove their earbuds so we can chat. I know they might not want to chat, but that is how I would learn about them and how much to be trusting vs careful. If they won’t engage with me, I’ll give them distance and keep an eye out for dangerous behavior. I see the e–bike as a challenge that I’ll take on with my old school pedal-only power approach.

  3. khal spencer says

    Seems to me that riding in a city with earbuds, if they impair hearing, is tantamount to competing for the Darwin Award. If someone wants to compete for the Darwin Award, I guess that is their business as long as it doesn’t endanger anyone else. But behavior that endangers others in a paceline calls for telling the person to ride with regards to the group’s safety or ride somewhere else. Nothing to do with being mean or exclusionary. Just safe behavior. People riding in a paceline have to all agree to the terms, not be afraid to call out unsafe behavior.

  4. mattdwyerva says

    Aero bars and ear buds in a group is scary. Ok for GDMBR maybe. Maybe. I would still want to hear bears, esp brown ones.

    As folks may or may not know, Strava does not let ebikes use the same segments anymore, which I know because my wife has an ebike. Although there are ways to cheat on Strava, which seems insane to me. Her ebike is wonderful because now we can ride together. Once you see someone you love benefit enormously from ebikes, then ebikes become way less scary than bears. Meanwhile, I am sure everyone wishes I had one on the group rides where they are often waiting for me, but I haven’t swallowed enough pride yet.

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