The Anonymous Rider
by: Gianna Bellofatto

There was a time when I could go for a jaunt and not be recognized. This predates my column and before bicycling saw its growth in popularity. It was before helmets were the mandate and spandex was the fashion. When traffic ebbed and flowed at predictable daily intervals and wasn't the constant roar it is today. No one except my family and closest friends knew I cycled.

I was the anonymous rider who spied and traveled where cars could not. I was secure on my bicycle pedaling through towns, passing people, some whom I knew but who did not recognize me, while others recognized me only as "the biker." I could smile at familiar strangers knowing full well that I kept a safe zone while riding. What peculiar specie we are. We long for intimacy while our dark side strives for solitude and anonymity.

For example, there is the man with a light in his eyes that I began to notice along my route three weeks ago. It's usually around seven o'clock when he is walking home in business attire, flanked by his two small children. As I wind down and coast along the curve his eyes beam on my bike. He wears a dark mustache and bright smile. His attention diverts to my approach. Then, just as I clear the curve in the road in front of his home, his two gleaming eyes greet me. His eyes follow me as I pedal past him and watch well beyond the vanishing point. He has become a regular on my itinerary.

Did I mention that his house was the former residence of a murderer? Perhaps you recall the case some ten years ago. The murderer was dubbed "The Ice man" because he placed one of his victims in a freezer. Eugene O'Neill's play would never be quite the same. Soon after the news broke on the evening news, I hopped on the bike to investigate.

Sure enough, the street was clogged with traffic. Neighbors of the accused were pointing to the house, milling on the lawn and talking. Cars were rubbernecking making it almost impossible for even a cyclist to pass. This is where a bike can be the perfect mode of transportation. Sleek, the bicycle glides quietly and innocuously, again and again and again. Who would suspect a cyclist of morbid curiosity? We're fresh air junkies and exercise freaks.

Guilty? I felt a twinge each day riding by and reading the details of the case as it unfold in the daily papers. My goodness, The Iceman was an iceberg, a big hulk of a guy. I suppose he wasn't a cyclist. Too bad, it may have kept him out of this mess.

Guilty. He received life and an extra twenty years. Those extra years always baffle me. I'd like to get two more decades in order to keep riding after my allotted years are finished.

It has gotten more difficult to skulk around on the bicycle without being recognized. Now I'm the one being spotted about town. People often mention to me, ''Oh, I saw you on the bike the other day." This both amuses and frightens me. I, the spy, am being spied.

Which brings us back to the saddle. It's 7 o'clock and I'm about to see the man with the light in his eyes. He and I have an implicitly scheduled rendezvous. We'll be there. I see him now. But the main attraction is the anonymous rider.

Until next time. Gianna Bellofatto is a freelance writer and cyclist. Her writing has appeared in Modern Collage, The American Citizen, and One Voice. Comments about the column can be emailed to