Monday, July 7, 2008

Two people - same problem

My neighbor, the guy I see in our parking garage, is upset at cyclists, as you've read in previous posts. He's been startled a few times by cyclists while walking on sidewalks he'd always thought were safe preserves for pedestrians.

And he's watched in frustration and anger as cyclists who were stopped next to him at traffic lights took off across the intersection before the light changed. My neighbor can't do that; why should those god-damned cyclists be able to? Isn't the law the same for drivers and riders?

He has never been hurt by a cyclist, never even brushed on the sidewalk. He has never been slowed in his motorized progress by a cyclist. He had to wait in his car until the light turned green no matter what the rider did.

He has not been injured or inconvenienced. His feelings have been hurt. Because he feels he is important and deserving of respect, when he is not treated as important he is hurt. He feels impotent and becomes angry. He just can't understand why cyclists behave as they do.

When I ride on the bike path or the road and I encounter other cyclists, I wave. When they don't wave back I feel hurt and baffled, sometimes angry. I can't understand why cyclists behave as they do. No respect.

Who am I to feel that cyclists should feel obliged to wave back at me? I don't know. Why should I care if they wave back at me? I don't know that either.

Am I lessened somehow by their non-waving? I am not. If no cyclist ever waves at me from this moment until I can no longer ride, will I experience pain or injury? I will not.

My neighbor and I are burdened by overgrown senses of self-importance.

If I want to wave at other riders, I can wave all I want. If he wants to stop at red lights and take off again when they turn green, he can do that unimpeded. No cyclist will prevent it.

I could recognize that my neighbor had not been injured or inconvenienced by the rude cyclists he told me about. I knew that the problem was his; he needs to be treated as someone special, someone who commands respect on sidewalks and at lights.

I did not realize I had the same need. I need reassurance that I am worthy of a returned salute, and all the cycling world should damned well know it. Sounds awful, explained that way, huh?

I'm grateful now that my neighbor chose me to unload on. I've never felt reluctant to unload on you, have I? Maybe you'll learn something about yourself from my not-so-well-founded bitching.

When we feel we've suffered personal injury but bear no losses or bruises, we may need to examine our values. Or maybe I mean value, singular: the overblown value we place on ourselves. Are we really injured?

If I'm grateful to my neighbor for illuminating his problem and mine, perhaps I should be grateful to each of the cyclists who didn't wave back. When I can genuinely feel that gratitude, I'll have made some progress... Wish me luck.


Khal said...

Waving is optional. Running red lights is illegal.

One of my teammates back in Hawaii was hit by a red light runner and suffered a fractured hip. Guess I'm a little sensitive to the topic.

Maynard said...

Hiya Khal!
Running a light on a bike after stopping and watching for traffic is illegal for sure, but it's not hostile or careless of the safety of others.

Running a light in a car is crazy but it's business as usual. I'm sensitive about it too.

Khal said...

I agree that treating a red light as a stop sign can be done as a de minimus infraction (i.e., illegal but nothing harmed) whether on a bike, motorbike or car. That is, if you do it carefully. In the case of those dang-blasted traffic-actuated red lights that don't see a cyclist, our only choice is to run the (expletive deleted) thing.

On the other hand, I get tired (as you probably do) of being accosted by non-cyclists with the same old tirade about cyclists who act as though they are above the law. Seems to me it is the social equivalent of poking the public in the eye. Not good for PR. And, with more cyclists seemingly on the road these days, its also bound to get more attention.

As far as my first commment. Former teammate Ray Brust was up off Mr. Pavement and racing that same year. But I recall it was a hip fracture that caused Floyd Landis's hip to rot out. It sucks being "the crumple zone".

Maynard said...

Yo Khal...
I agree about "poking the public in the eye." I won't wait for eternal lights and I run the occasional light, but not while folks are watching. Terrible PR...

sda said...

Aw your too hard on yourself Maynard. I know I'm not injured if someone doesn't return my wave on a ride - but that doesn't mean I can't lament the fracturing of a community (the bicycling community - commuters, tourists, racers, et all - beautiful freaks and geeks the lot of them ...) into ever smaller sub-cultures who cease to acknowledge the existence of their two wheeled brethren.

That is what gets me riled up. The lack of a wave is just a symptom of a greater ill.


As far as your neighbor goes. I can respect his position as a pedestrian, but not so much as a motorist. The motoring public has had a free ride at the expense of all of us. This includes massive government subsidies, external environmental costs that go unchecked, huge swaths of land in our urbanized areas (which are supposed to be built for human beings ....) dedicated to nothing but moving and storing vehicles ....

What would Jesus find more offensive - all of the above or some hipster wearing too tight jeans sporting a hello kitty messenger bag rolling a stop sign on his converted fixey?

Maynard said...

Whatta great comment!

Thanks, SDA! (I can't bring myself to use lower-case letters...)