One of the reasons I decided to get a mountain bike as opposed to a road bike is the fact that I want to stay off the roads as much as possible. Fortunately, with the trail system in our wonderful city I can eliminate a lot of road travel even when I’m commuting. When I had my road bike years ago, I quickly tired and became extremely wary of motorists who, to put it mildly, didn’t like to share the road. Then there were the complete wackos who considered it a sport to see how close they could drive by a cyclist without actually hitting them. They are probably the same people who enjoyed pulling the wings off of flies when they were kids. Seriously what is it about a bicycle that makes people lose their minds?
I remember having a conversation not terribly long ago with a woman who told me she “hated…absolutely hated” cyclists. When I asked her why she told me she felt they weren’t entitled to share the road (despite laws dictating otherwise) because they weren’t licensed and therefore weren’t paying their fair share of taxes. “I’m paying for the road and they’re not,” she said anger punctuating every word, “so they don’t belong there and they deserve it if they get side swiped or hit.” I can’t even repeat what she said about cyclists who blow through stop signs or lights. (If you’re a cyclist who does this, you don’t help the cause one bit.) There were so many kinds of wrong with her way of thinking that all I could do was walk away. She’s definitely on the bat guano insane end of the spectrum, but anti-bicycle sentiment can be rather innocuous as well.
Just the other day, on my second ride with my new bike, I was on the trail at the same time a “Girls on the Run” race was finishing up. There were a lot of young people on the trail and so I slowed down accordingly. About 50 yards ahead of me were a group of kids and an adult woman heading my way taking up the entire width of the trail. There was no way they didn’t see me. As I got closer, I shouted that I was hanging to the right but nobody budged. I slowed down to a crawl. This time I shouted, “Excuse me,” but even though they were looking right at me, I had to stop as the kids milled around me taking their sweet time moving on. As the throng cleared out, I pushed off only to hear a snide, condescending, “Biker needs a bell” from the adult. Really? Yes, I know they had the right of way and I acted accordingly. I also made darn sure I was polite and accommodating throughout the convergence. Fortunately, this little altercation was an aberration. Trail users here in Bellingham are normally quite civilized, friendly, and respectful of each other.
Biker has her bell now and she plans to use it. Ching-ching!