On the local OBRA email list there's been some hand-wringing lately over how our actions on the road affect motorists' perceptions of cyclists.
I got all fired up and drafted a reply to a recent post. After I was done writing, the need to reply to the email list had subsided-- and I would have probably just pissed off a lot of folks anyway. I think I'll post it here instead. This is my journal. So there.
Here's the post that inspired me to finally respond:
I've thought a lot in the last few years about the 'reputation' cyclists
have, and are getting in this town. As a poor excuse for a bike commuter
I've felt all ranges of self righteousness anywhere from being sick of
getting cut off and solving that by holstering a 45 on my left hip with the
back of my jersey being silkscreen with "I carry a Gun, Here (arrow)", to
just being hyper sensitive and slowing down everywhere expecting everyone to
come out in front of me, cut me off, and change lanes into me all the time.
And then this happened.
Meditating at a full spin northbound from se Stark on the 205 bikelane
crossing the Market intersection. Decide that the little stop sign means
rolling through at 20 since my limited periphery shows no vehicles. Shows
no vehicles including the mother in the bronze ford contour coming from my
left and the Old chevy converging on my right. My reaction time was great,
but didn't due much since my hands were not on the hoods or in the drops.
Her reaction time was great too. At try two of breaking, I was already in
the street seeing how my front wheel was going to be connecting with the
front corner of the contour right in front of my fork and that that was
going to catapult me over her hood, into her windshield, and over her roof.
Somehow, this didn't happen.
My judgment was correct though, my bike and her car did infact stop in a
wonderful spooning position. Her bumper corner, and the crux of my fork and
wheel. But unlike spooning, the gaze at which the driver gave me was much
less than loving. Probably due to the fact that like me, she slammed as
hard on her brakes as possible, but unlike me, her 9 month old toddler was
in the back car seat just trying to hold its head upright. Feeling like a
moron is an understatement.
I backed up so I could let her by, apologizing profusely and unable to get
my shaking legs to clip back in anyway. After she passed, then the chevy
rightfully added insult to lack of injury by saying, when I motioned him on,
"You're already in the middle of the road, I'll wait."
Shaking legs and the taste of my breakfast in my mouth, meditation
shattered, I clip in and peddle along.
I did not give bicyclists a good name that day, accident or not. It's our
responsibility as cyclists to ride lawfully, and safely, for ourselves and
I liked the bit about packing heat. I've certainly felt that militant after some jerk seems to go out of his way to threaten me with his car.
Anyway. Here's my response.
I understand the feeling that we (cyclists) have to prove ourselves on the roads. Bicycles don't own the roads, cars do. That we have to be better, cleaner, and smarter than motorists.
However, it seems that many of you, while you're busy falling on your own swords, are missing the fact that motorists already have a bad reputation. Motorists break the traffic laws everyday either through accident, ignorance, or disdain. They receive the same verbal abuse from others in cars.
By all means, please ride safely and pay attention. Slow down and yield. But don't beat yourselves up because you made a mistake. Motorists make mistakes all the time and the cost and consequences are far far greater.
You only give cyclists a bad rap when you really do ride like a jerk and behave erratically and unpredictably in traffic and display a disregard for other users on the road.
Hm. maybe I will send this to the email list...