In my first post on this blog, I was on a rant about the lack of attention given to cyclists. How people in cars do not give us our space, how the city does not have good bike lanes, etc. Yet there is something else I wish to speak of, the inattentive cyclist. Yes, I am one of those people who are ragging on one of their own. Sue me. If you have ever wondered why cyclists have a bad reputation with drivers, just watch a few of them. Some cyclists, even though they lack the cage of metal protecting them from harm, ride around like nothing can hurt them.
I have attended a few weekend bike shop rides. You can really see who is who in the group. One of the routine routes we take is a right out of the bike shop parking lot and a left at a light about a mile up the road. We all know that bikes make for a lousy detector for the light trigger circuit. It takes a vast amount of metal to trigger a modern stoplight. More metal than any cyclist would ever want to have on his or her bicycle. As cyclists, we understand this. I guess this is about to turn into “the impatient cyclist” instead of motorist.
So I watch several people fly through a red light after only being in front of it for about 30-seconds. This makes no sense to me. The rest of us wait patiently and after 2 light cycles, we cautiously make our way through the intersection, 2 or 3 at a time. We pedal slow and wait for the group to catch back up to us. I then witness the “all clear” on red. Someone yells out “all clear” after checking the intersection for cars and people proceed to fly right through it at 18mph like it is nothing. I stopped, as did several others, waiting for the green. I mean by law we are a vehicle on the road, maybe we should be acting like one?
Okay, I admit it; I sometimes get on the sidewalk because I really do not feel safe out on the road with those big trucks and SUV’s. Like I said earlier, sue me. However, I do give the right way to the pedestrians because it is their turf. I make sure they have plenty of room. I do not see this as a bad thing since it involves safety (and I am going much slower). Yet I am somehow reminded of a video about New York messengers that I own. You routinely find them flying through red lights in intersections (sometimes physically saying hi to a car), masses of people (sometimes hitting them), and going the wrong way on a one way street. I get their lifestyle. It sounded fun at one suicidal point in my life, but not anymore. I ride for the pleasure of it, not to be in a race against the clock on public roads. I guess that is why I have no desire to participate in an alley cat race (if you do not know what that is, Google is your friend).
I am one of those riders that respect cars and I hope the drivers of those cars respect my space. Often that is not the case. For some reason people seem to think I enjoy getting a Tom Cruise-esque Top Gun “fly by”. I do not like it. I do not like seeing your mirror flash by mere inches from my left side. I do not like impatient people, but I get why they are the way they are. It is funny, because I used to be one of them. I used to not give cyclists their fair share of road. I had to be somewhere and be there now! Years later I realized how fundamentally retarded that logic was and began to lead a more patient lifestyle. It all began with my first car since I was a teen that had an automatic transmission. All of a sudden I was not Speed Racer and I started taking my time. Now, I am sure people mistaken me for an old man because I do not step on the gas pedal like everyone else around me. I discovered that getting one car ahead only saves me maybe 2 seconds at 65mph. Is it worth the hassle? Not really. Like I said, I understand these drivers. They are doing what they do to cyclists because they most likely came across a group of riders riding 3-wide, taking up an entire lane and running red lights. I guess some cyclists are too important to be required to stop.
This change in my thinking towards driving has definitely translated to my riding. If I head out on a training session, I make sure I obey the laws. Often at intersections I wave people past me because I would rather not have to deal with someone trying to wedge in between me and the other car with only 2/3 of the lane space. Some may disagree with me on that, but my life is a bit more important than keeping my target heart rate. I do not always do this, but sometimes I do just to be nice. People like cyclists that are respectful and on occasion show a nice side to them. I wave at people who give me room when they pass.
I refuse to get angry when they give me a “fly by”. I am not saying it does not bother me, I just control my emotions. I am sure a driver or two has had an angry cyclist yell at them because of something. That makes us look good, does it not? A guy going all crazy because he was cut off by a car is a wonderful thing to see. For starters, you look retarded. Secondly, the driver is going to think all cyclists are like you. They are going to really learn to dislike cyclists. Oh, did I mention that the driver is most likely ignoring you as well? Yes, your point is really getting through to them. Why do motorists judge so quickly? Simple, that is how society has programmed us. To judge the group based on one.
If you have a horrible experience in a new store, are you going to go back again? I seriously doubt it. You will judge that one experience on the experience of the store as a whole. It does not matter that you had a 17-year old kid who did not care about you being in a rush serve you. You will be mad and not ever wish to go back. The same goes for drivers. The second they get a bad taste in their mouth, it stays there. It festers into a major league oral boil that pops at the sight of any cyclist. They start to gun for all of us on the street as the puss runs down their chin. Okay, I do admit that the reference I made was rather gross, but am I a lair?
In the end we need to respect each other on the road. We need to respect the laws and try to set a good image out there. I’m sure there are times when you are having a bad day. We all have them. Just try your best to blow off whatever took place and enjoy the ride. Being on your best behavior benefits us as a whole.
So please, be a courteous cyclist.