Monday, December 17, 2007

Well-behaved Cyclists Never Make History

Let's agree that motorists would rather we were not there, cluttering their commutes. They don't care if we're One Less Car.

Let's also agree that motorists are not subtle in expressing their distaste for our presence on their roads. They are not subtle; rather they are dismissive, rude, distracted, tunnel-visioned and occasionally brutally aggressive.

Any disagreement on any of that? I thought not.

If we persist in riding our bikes, we're in their faces. We are legally entitled to our ribbon of road. Even so, drivers perceive us as uppity, assertive misfits whose purpose is to piss them off. We evidently don't know our places. Probably few of us come from good homes.

If we persist (despite their displeasure) in riding our bicycles on the streets of our cities and suburbs, we participate in civil disobedience. No need to block downtown streets at rush hour to be disruptive. We're nuisances in traffic at any time, worse even than other cars.

Our being out there - in disregard of their evident distaste - makes several statements.

We say we know we're within our rights to be here. We know we're not the problem on the roads. Sucks on the roads even when there are no cyclists. Drivers treat us badly anyway. We will persist nonetheless. We will not let drivers scare us away.

Drivers are not our allies. Drivers and cyclists are not in this transportation thing together. Most bike owners are not our allies. Recreational cyclists who drive to rides are not our allies. Racers who never ride for transport are not our allies. Bike "fanciers" are not our allies.

We are all the allies we have. We need every one of us to be visible out there. Perhaps as we ride we'll persuade a driver or two to park a car and join us. I suspect the costs of fuel and repairs will be more effective persuaders.

If we ride and show the driving world that we are not going away, perhaps some drivers will cut us some slack. Maybe. I mean the two percent of them who manage anger and impatience well.

As you read the above paragraph, did you say to yourself: "No way, Maynard, you utopian. You go ahead and ride out there with the cars and make your statements. I'll take the bike path."

Do I think you're a coward? No. Do I regret your non-participation in our take-back-the-bike-lane movement? I do. Do I understand your reluctance to be where you are manifestly unwelcome? You bet.

Do what you can do. Ride the streets or ride the bike path but please leave your car at home whenever you can.

You won't be on the front lines of the movement if you limit your riding to car-free bike paths. But you will not be part of the problem.

Unless you drive, that is.

If you can ride back and forth to work somehow, on the streets or a bike path, even if it's only on long summer days - please do so. If you choose to drive for whatever personal reasons, I'm sure they're good reasons. Damn good reasons.

1 comment:

gazer said...

I've enjoyed the recent posts and comments.

One to add: I'd encourage calling the police after an encounter with a "brutally aggressive" driver. A car that is threatening other road users with death needs to be dealt with severely.

If the police are not accommodating (and I'd ask for a stiff scare be given to the offending driver on a first report), escalate it until it does. Involve your local representatives if need be. This is important.

I had to do this on Saturday night (my first in thousands of miles bike commuting), and the 1/2 hour I spent waiting for the police and giving my report was time well spent.

Fortunately, the police were understanding, and appeared to be on the look-out for the car after I continued on (I usually don't see any squad cars on my route, and there were three on the road after I called in the car).

On a final note, resist the curse words and aggro gestures at all costs. Raise the voice when one needs to use it as a warning signal, but stop there. I'm still working on that one...