It's Wednesday, Bike to Work Day. As I walked through the parking garage under our building this morning, I waved at another resident, a nice guy I see every week or so. He knows I'm a writer; he evidently thinks I wield that "mightier than the sword" influence.
He asked me to stop for a moment, to tell me that he thinks that bicycles and their riders are positives for the community and the city. But, he said, he's been scared twice just this week by riders who've passed him suddenly and without warning on the sidewalk, where he had previously felt pretty safe. Walking.
Have you noticed, he asked me, more cyclists than ever riding on the sidewalks?
And y'know, I have. I’ve been scared twice myself, startled is a better word, by cyclists who suddenly appeared on the sidewalk from the street, missing me by millimeters. Both riders appeared to be sure of themselves and of their right to be wherever they wanted. Oh-kay...
Those guys, guys who dart onto the sidewalk or ride on the bike path no-handed or take the right lane on a busy, fast street even when there's a bike path next to the street - those guys aren't reading my blog. Maybe no one reading my blog even knows one of those guys.
Had I felt like arguing with my neighbor, I guess I could have asked him if he turns in dangerous drivers via some hotline. Does he say anything to people he sees doing stupid things in their cars, people he follows coincidentally to our building's parking garage? Does he police HIS peers? If he doesn’t, what would he suggest I do?
Are those sidewalk terrorist cyclists any better than aggressive drivers? They are not. Are they aware that there are other people in the world? Or are they just as self-absorbed as our driver friends?
Evidently they are every bit as self-absorbed and just as quick to take advantage.
I don't know those guys. Neither, I'm pretty sure, do you. Know them or not, they have upset my neighbor. He’s not an angry guy, or never has shown a sign of it. He's angry now though - because of a few scofflaw, do as they please, dudes on bicycles.
My neighbor, not a student of cycling sociology, cannot differentiate among classes or types of cyclists. He lumps us all together, I'm sorry to say.
He said that he assumed that the laws for cyclists were the same as those for drivers, but he sees cyclists who stop next to him at the light, then take off without waiting for the green. He has to pass them a half a block or a block down the street, traffic approaching and traffic behind him.
I said very little to my neighbor. Certainly I did not defend the bicyclists he sees flaunting their disrespect for the laws and other traffic. What can I say?
I hate like hell blaming the victim. I’d like to think that our cycling makes us all family, sortof, and that we have so much in common that we share a certain mindset.
I don’t ever scare people. I treat people further down the traffic food chain with respect, just as I’d like drivers to treat me. I wouldn't be surprised if you do the same.
I wouldn't be surprised if you do the same.
There have always been irresponsible cyclists, I guess. I always figured they were guys who were riding because they had to; they’d lost their licenses or cars or whatever. There are more of those scofflaw cyclists than ever though, these days. Havin’ fun, scaring the seniors. Acting exempt from the law. Peeing in the pool.