If it isn’t apparent by now you’re probably not paying enough attention so let me remind you that I LOVE riding my bike. I spend an inordinate amount of time carefully crafting my words to get this across. But sometimes a picture can capture a feeling more than any amount of words,carefully crafted or not, can describe. The Bike Shop Hub posted this pic on Facebook the other day and they nailed it. This is exactly how I feel every time I push off for a ride.
Now that I’ve sucked you in with the promise if a great blonde joke, I have to confess that there is no funny punchline in this post. Back in July I posted about a guy who I refer to as “dickweed” who had harassed me on two separate occasions while I rode on Pacific Street. He followed me for a bit, honking his horn and sped past me perilously close. It was unnerving, infuriating, and confusing, leaving me to ponder the question as to what drives someone to that level of irrational and dangerous behavior for absolutely no reason, other than the fact that I was riding my bike on the same road. My experience with dickweed is pretty much an anomaly here in Bellingham but in other parts of the country that behavior is all too common. In fact, with the exception of the Netherlands where cycling is simply an everyday part of life, irrational aversion to cyclists seems, sadly, to be rather universal.
In New York City, ranked somewhat ironically the 7th most bicycle friendly city in the country, cyclists not only have to put up with a city full of dickweeds (or worse) and a police force notoriously unfriendly and even hostile towards cyclists, a cabbie recently got into an argument with a cyclist who was just trying to ride in the bike lane, tried to run him down but instead jumped the curb onto the sidewalk and severed the leg of a British tourist. He wasn’t cited at the scene except for some obscure taxi law because in New York, if a cyclist is involved, it’s almost always their fault. Fortunately, there is some good news here as prosecutors are now investigating. It will remain to be seen whether the cabbie is actually indicted. The way things are in New York, though, it wouldn’t surprise me if the cyclist ends up being charged.
Speaking of Britain, they have their own special breed of bicycle haters. Back in May, a young woman, Emma Way (one of the blondes), from Norwich, England, hit a cyclist and fled without stopping. According to the cyclist, Emma veered over to his side of the road and almost took out the cyclist in front him before striking him hard enough to break off her side mirror and knock him off his bike, sending him crashing into a hedge. As bad as that was, it isn’t what makes this a story. It’s what Emma did after her hit and run. Thinking this was all in good fun, Emma tweeted the following:
To no one’s surprise but Emma’s (she claims she thought only her friends would see them), her tweets went viral and the hue and cry against her was enormous. Someone who should get an award for responsible behavior actually sent the tweets to the police. That landed Emma’s psychopathic bum in serious trouble and somewhat restored my faith in humanity. Emma is now facing charges of driving with undue care. (Only the British can make an assault with a vehicle sound polite.) Emma’s now somewhat of a pariah. She will more than likely lose her job, if she hasn’t already. She is very, very sorry…for herself. (Check out this YouTube clip.) Oh yeah…and for the tweets.
Then there’s Daisy Abela–the other blonde–who also thinks committing a hit and run of a cyclist tweet-worthy. She used Twitter to boast that she was driving while (actually I think it’s “whilst”) ‘still drunk’ and hit a cyclist after having an argument with him.
Her tweets about the incident:
After a barrage of backlash tweets and being reported to the police, Daisy apologized, said it was just a joke, and then closed down her Twitter account. The police investigated but as of yet no cyclist has come forward to say he was the victim. She may have been joking in which case, not funny…not even remotely… or she actually did hit someone. The idea of this sadistic little twit getting away with committing an assault by vehicle is just too depressing to think about.
The one thing I come away from all this with, other than that a lot of people out there are in serious need of therapy, is that I’m even more happy to live in a city where most of the drivers are polite or at the very least accepting of bicycles. I mean, this trio makes dickweed look like a choirboy. You know what? I’m feeling a little guilty about there being no joke in this post so I will close with one of my husband’s favorite blonde jokes…no offense to all my blonde friends out there.
Two Blondes are riding a tandem bike. All of a sudden the one on the back yells, “Stop,” and gets off and lets the air out of the back tire. Front Blonde says, “Why did you do that?” The other replies, “Because my seat was too high and it was uncomfortable.”
So front Blonde gets off the bike, loosens up the handlebars, and turns them around 180-Degrees. Back Blonde says, “Now why did you do that?” And front Blonde replies, “Because if you’re just going to just do stupid stuff I’m going home.”
- Butt Boils, Smoke Monsters, and Standing My Ground (highonbike.wordpress.com)
- Motorist who ‘purposely’ hit cyclist while drunk driving says it was all a joke (standard.co.uk)
I’m well into the fourth month of the National Bike Challenge with close to 700 miles behind me. While it’s not as many as others have under their belts or tuchuses as the case may be, it’s still a lot of miles! With over 33,000 riders nationwide I rank in the top third, and among the 900-plus in Washington I’m in the top half. As for Bellingham, there are 14 riders registered but only three of us are logging in miles regularly. Here I’m ranking a close last. However, it’s not about competing with others, at least not for me. I only mention where I rank because I have to live up to my rep as being a font of useless information. What’s important is that I’m getting on my bike most days of the week and a enjoying the hell out of each and every mile.
A friend asked me recently if I would have had as many miles if not for the Challenge. My answer was that in the beginning, probably not. But as I kept choosing my bike over my car to rack up both points (you get 20 points each day you ride a mile or more) and miles, it simply became a habit to hop on my bike. I don’t even think about it much anymore. Going to the gym? Take my bike. Going to the store? Bike. Same with my knitting group, bank, and hairdresser. So those almost daily 6-12 mile trips, most of them being commuter miles, have steadily increased. In that sense, the Challenge did what it was designed to do which is to get people on their bikes more.
With just over a month to go, I’m already feeling kind of sad that this year’s Challenge is winding down. It’s been inspiring and a lot of fun. I wish there was something similar for the winter months because it isn’t as easy to be motivated to ride when the weather is wet and cold. But as I write this, it’s raining and cool and I’m getting ready to ride down to the gym. I haven’t even considered taking the car.
Driver — Fear Thyself Today, apropos of nothing, I decided to count the number of cars breaking obvious traffic rules. Riding home from the gym that takes me on approximately three miles of road, I counted 20 cars that rolled through stop signs, zoomed through a “pink” light, didn’t signal, or drove above the speed limit. At the same time, I noticed that out of the numerous cyclists on the road, not one did anything wrong. In fact, they didn’t even come close.
The misconception that bicyclists are scofflaws is rampant in our society. Sure some are, but no more so than those who drive a vehicle. I’ll go so far as to say that proportionately, cyclists adhere to traffic laws more than drivers. But I’ve had numerous conversations with non-cyclists over the years who declared that they weren’t against cyclists on the road per se but that it would be a lot easier to tolerate them if so many didn’t break the rules. I’m not going to get into the conversations I’ve had with the idiots who hate cyclists whether they follow the rules or not. The people I’m talking about here are otherwise normal and rational. In fact, many of them think cycling as transportation is kind of cool.
I believe that part of the problem is that except for psychopaths, no driver actually wants to hit a cyclist. Even the Neanderthals who believe that bikes don’t belong on the road really don’t want to be involved in a collision with one, if only to save them the inconvenience. So drivers view cyclists as obstacles to avoid instead of simply considering them as a normal part of traffic and that makes them uncomfortable, even scared, and yes, sometimes hostile. And, when you’ve invested all of those emotions in a group of people it’s easy to slap a label on them. But it’s probably safe to say that most cyclists riding the streets are to varying degrees more alert and more cautious than their driving counterparts. We don’t want to be hit either. A driver might be inconvenienced but we could easily be dead—and we know it!
As a driver you might shake your head at another person running a light or stop sign but you wouldn’t then condemn all drivers (or even most of them) as scofflaws. In fact, you probably just take it for granted and, unless there’s a major collision, don’t give it much thought at all. And isn’t that interesting? When someone operating a ton of metal does something risky or illegal, isn’t that infinitely more dangerous than say someone operating something as flimsy as a bicycle? Just sayin’!
I’m glad I did this little exercise. The next time somebody tells me that cyclists would be easier to tolerate if they followed the rules, I’ll whip this nugget of observation out and see where the conversation goes.
For the sixth year in a row, Washington tops the list for the being the most bike-friendly state in the Union. We have a lot of beautiful places to ride and soon there will be a guidebook called the Cycling Sojourner: A Guide to the Best Multi-Day Bike Tours in Washington by Ellee Thalheimer to showcase some of them. The Bicycle Alliance of Washington, the voice of bicycling statewide, is heading the fundraising drive for this book of 9-10 multi-day rides. Royalties from the book will support the efforts of the Bicycle Alliance to increase investments in bike infrastructure for everyday riders as well as bike travelers through its policy work on the state level. Click here for more information on this worthwhile project.
Years ago during a very rare visit from my parents, I let my Dad drive us up to Mt. Baker for a picnic. I did not let him drive us down. Blowing around corners much faster than the speed limit and crossing the double yellow lines while doing so, had me white knuckled, exhausted, and angry by the time we arrived at the top. Well not really the top top, just as far as the road would take us. Anyway, Dad was not happy that I bumped him from the driver’s seat and was rather surly for the rest of the day. He just didn’t understand why I was upset enough to take the keys away. When I told him that by not obeying the speed limit he could have killed us, his response was that speed limit signs were merely “suggestions,” he was in completely control, and knew what he was doing. Of course, the flip side to this is that he was very prone to road rage when other drivers didn’t follow the rules.
Dad has long since departed from this world but unfortunately his ideas about traffic laws are still alive and well — as is his egocentric attitude that it is okay for him to break the rules but not for anyone else. I see it every day when I ride. Sadly some of what I see are bicyclists blatantly ignoring stop signs, stop lights, and other basic rules of the road. Look, I get it. Nothing is more annoying that stopping at a red light on a bike when the sensor doesn’t register that you are there and you have to wait for a car to pull up so it will change. I’ve been sorely tempted to run a red light or two when that happens. I’ve even asked a passing pedestrian to hit the walk button to change a light. It’s frustrating. Just as having to stop at stop signs every other block. But just because traffic rules are annoying and sometimes inconvenient doesn’t mean we get to be immune from them.
As cyclists, we can’t have it both ways. We can’t expect drivers to respect our right to share the road if we don’t respect and abide by the rules. If we believe its okay to blow through a stop sign because “we know what we’re doing” then you have to know that some other asshole behind a wheel believes the same thing. (Sorry Dad, but you were an ass behind the wheel.) The ultimate result of this kind of thinking is that someone gets killed — and it’s usually the cyclist. I was stopped at a busy crossroad when a roadie ran the stop sign. He turned to look to at me for a second, laughed and shook his head, like I was the idiot. He squeaked through traffic, leaving me wondering if he had a death wish.
One of the things I hear most often from non-cycling drivers is the complaint of cyclists blowing through stoplights and stop signs, not signaling, and hogging the road. It makes them angry and when there is a tragic accident involving a cyclist, it’s automatically assumed that the cyclist is at fault. Never mind that there are many cyclists out there that do obey the rules, people only remember the ones who don’t.
I can almost hear my Dad telling me what a pompous, preachy, idiot I’m being right now and maybe I am – at least a little. I’m just saying that cyclists get a bad enough rap as it is just for being out there, we don’t need to justify the idea that cyclists are all scofflaws and deserve whatever happens to them on the road.
One of the many things I love about being on my bike is the imaginative free-for-all that takes place in my brain. (Read my post about the Smoke Monster. See below.) But sometimes I have to give it a rest deal with a real threat. Instead of the Smoke Monster from “Lost” haunting me along the trails, it’s some dickweed with a long, stringy pony tail in an old, beat up, dark, mini-pick-up filled with what looks like the paraphernalia of a handy man. Evidently, he haunts Pacific Avenue because twice now this summer this jerk of all trades has for no apparent reason — other than he must really hate bicyclists — harassed me while I’ve been riding.
Pacific Avenue between Iowa and Alabama is a two-lane road that is wide enough to accommodate parked cars, cyclists, and moving cars. I ride far enough to the right to be as out of the way of motor traffic as I can but far enough away from the parked cars to avoid the risk of being “doored.” In other words, it’s right where a bike lane would be — if there were a bike lane. Visibility on this section of the street is excellent, allowing drivers to easily see a rider, particularly one wearing a bright orange vest. And they can safely pass without any trouble.
But this dumb ass in the pick-up, which by the way is probably worth less than my bike, apparently leads such a pathetic life that the sight of a cyclist on the same road fills him with a blinding rage. He sees no other way to assuage his anger than to follow behind a cyclist (me) honking his horn and then zooming past perilously close with his middle finger extended.
The Smoke Monster at least had an excuse to be crazy. Try being trapped on a weird-ass island for hundreds of years as its protector. You’re dead and all you want is to take over another body so you can just get off the friggin’ island. Anyway, I don’t know if dickweed expects me to ram myself into a parked car to get out of his way or if he thinks I’ll wither at his abuse and ride on the sidewalk. But my guess is that he’s just a bully and a miserable human being. Maybe some Fred ran off with his wife.
I don’t take it personally. I’m sure he behaves as badly with other cyclists as he does with me. Although a part of me would like to whip out a .357 magnum and go all Dirty Harry on his ass, that’s just my imagination escaping its cage. Besides, I don’t think the Stand Your Ground rule would apply, shame though that is. Fortunately, he is an aberration in this town — a boil on the butt of a bike-friendly community where drivers who are considerate and accommodating outnumber guys like this by…a lot. So I just have to content myself with a little silent name-calling (I’m sure to respond verbally to him would just further aggravate his road rage) and continue to ride where I want.
- Chasing The Smoke Monster (highonbike.wordpress.com)