Friday, March 7, 2014

Fear The Cyclist

"I had to steer around two cyclists riding side by side the other day.  I was in a hurry - I had somewhere to be, and it made me so angry!  The worst part is, when I looked back, they didn't even seem to care.  Can you believe it?!".

Yes, I can believe it.  What I can't believe is how often people feel it's appropriate to vent their frustration with cyclists to me.  Me, of all people.  Don't they know I will always side with the cyclist?

I do care about one thing in relation to motorists: that they don't hit me.  That's it.  I don't care about their feelings, or how important they are, or how busy or rushed.  I don't care if their lights are on or what they're wearing.  I don't care if they're having a bad day or bad breath.  And I certainly don't care what they think about me.

I've stared down the barrel of several road raged drivers over the past month.  Maybe tempers are short in the Pacific Northwest because the weather is weather-y and the sky's not always sunny.  Maybe anger flares for some other reason, like living a sedentary lifestyle and experiencing the disappointment innate in driving a car in our urban landscape.

It's usually the same set up.  We are "in the way".   The cycling humans, approximately human-sized, rolling at about 15 miles per hour in our little bike lane have the gall to be in the way of a single human who can't seem to find space in four lanes of asphalt for his or her giant motorized vehicle.  Their solution is to lay on the horn and flip the bird.

It's not my intention to, but I almost always "catch" these drivers at the next red light.  That's their cue to yell angrily, and maybe even lunge at me menacingly.  Although I'm the one at risk, the one whose eardrums smart from loud honking, the one taking up a tiny portion of the road - I don't feel angry during these exchanges.  I feel confused and maybe a little sad.  Often I feel frightened.

I simply don't care what motorists think of me or my bike or the decisions I make in traffic, which I can promise you are always with safety in mind.  It's very nice that they have a picture of a bike on their license plate and a "share the road" bumper sticker, but I don't care.  I refuse to alter my behavior to please drivers or coddle their perception of cyclists.

If they want to judge the entire cycling community by the actions of a single cyclist, and believe me, they do, then my riding around smugly trying to impress all the motorists will do nothing to further the cause.  The motorists' perception of what a cyclist is doing and why is often wrong.   But I don't care.

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