High On Bike

A Bellinghamster On Wheels


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Don’t Justify The “Cyclists are Scofflaws” Mindset

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.Stop

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.

Driver Cyclist HosingOne 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.


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(Near) Death by Roadie

They don’t appear to enjoy what they’re doing and they don’t appear to know you exist      Bike Snob

Can you find the bell? Nope, 'cause there isn't any!

Can you find the bell? Nope, ’cause there isn’t any!

The morning was stunning. Sunny, warm, a cool breeze gently rippling through the trees. Riding the trails on my way to pick up a few groceries and drop off a library book, I maneuvered my bike deftly and politely around the throngs of runners, walkers, and other cyclists also out enjoying our ever-elusive sun, my bell in almost constant use. The streets weirdly enough were quiet in comparison, probably because half the town of Bellingham was on the trails. So on the way home with my panniers loaded down with food, I plodded along in the bike lane thoroughly enjoying being out on the road. Suddenly, and without warning, four road cyclists blew by me like they were three minutes late for a Lycra sale, scaring the crap out of me. They were lucky I didn’t yank my handlebars to the left and plow through the lot of them. Leaving me in their dust, they sped on not knowing nor caring that they almost gave me a heart attack.

Roseanne RoseannedannaI’m quite aware that I am basically a dork on wheels. In my ANSI orange vest, pink helmet, colorful arm sleeves that seldom match whatever else I’m wearing, astride a tall mountain bike tricked out with side mirror, pink bell, trunk bag with a piggy button attached at the back, fenders, and extra grips on my handlebars that resemble the horns on a bull, I am the antithesis of what those road bikers were – or thought they were. Heck, I don’t move fast even when I’m going downhill. So I’m sure that being behind me was like Sophia Vergara sharing the red carpet with Roseanne Roseannadanna. I get it. But c’mon! Slow moving dorkiness aside, I deserve some courtesy, if not respect. While I know no roadie with an ounce of decorum would ever have a bell, a simple “On your left!” isn’t too much to ask. Just because I don’t fit in with your style of cycling, doesn’t mean you have to act like an ass!

I put my (near) death-by-roadies quickly aside and rode the rest of the way home with a smile on my lips and a song in my heart, (I Will Survive) perfectly content with the fact that I had to be nowhere fast.