Once when I was living in Boulder, I spat over my shoulder while crossing an intersection on the bike path. I happened to be right behind a grey SUV. The guy driving it, who seemed like a perfectly normal person, and probably was, most of the time, thought I’d spat on his car. He chased me down for six blocks, cut me off, got out of his car, ran up to my and ripped me off of my bicycle. He stood there shaking me and screaming at me, and when it occurred to him that what he was doing was felony assault, he ran back to his car. I wish I’d been close enough to see his plates, but he’d knocked my glasses from my face and I was crying anyway. He got away and I went home, bruised and battered.
Something happens to the kindest, most loving, most compassionate people when they get behind the wheel of a car. They turn into self-centered psychopaths whose rage finds its foundation in the jeans-and-t-shirt clad, messenger bag-toting, water bottle-slurping, hand-signaling person piloting a bicycle in front and slightly to the right of them. I’m just on my way to my morning meeting, to work, to my mother’s house to help her with the early summer yardwork, but somewhere in their brain I am the most horrific of all enemies. I am apparently just waiting for the perfect moment to make their life a living hell…to dart out unexpectedly, to have to turn left and move in front of them into the turn lane, adding three-point-seven seconds to their morning commute and instigating such taunts as “fucking MORON!” “goddamn RETARD!” “whatthefucksthematterwithyou?!” and so many more kind and appreciative verbalizations. On the up side, I know that they SEE me.
What is it with the animosity between people driving cars and bicyclists? Cyclists can be just as bad; I know it…riding two or more across where there’s only room for one, not signaling, blowing stoplights and stop signs and ignoring traffic signals, often, altogether. We’re guilty of plenty of sins on the road. There are a few things drivers need to consider, though, when they decide to scream at/honk at/ride right on the wheel of/skim or otherwise terrorize cyclists:
1) Do you really want to be responsible for someone’s death? That machine you’re piloting is a two-ton death sentence for a cyclist. Me and my stuff and my bike altogether clock in around 200-210 pounds. You are literally TEN TIMES MY SIZE. Back the fuck off of me.
2) I AM just going to work/meetings/school/home/to some social occasion. JUST LIKE YOU. And if I were driving a car, just like you, I would be causing even MORE congestion in traffic. Do you really want that? No, you don’t. Get the fuck off of me.
3) Yes, there are some really bad cyclists. They put our already vulnerable, already complicated position even more at risk when they ride on the sidewalk, opposing the flow of traffic, without a helmet or a light, wearing black clothes, in the middle of the night, and get clocked by a soccer mom heading home from picking up milk at King Sooper’s. But when you, yes, you, in your two-ton killing machine, assume that every cyclist is disobedient, lazy, drunk, stupid, discourteous, rude, angry, selfish, mean-spirited, or whatever it is you use to justify your shitty behavior towards us, guess what? You’re doing it wrong.
On top of it, so many of you are distracted by your cell phones, your kids, your thoughts, your anger at me that I pretty much assume you’re all psychopathic lunatics out to murder me if you can possibly get away with it. It makes me an extremely cautious cyclist. You get pissed at me and decide to clock me, the least I suffer is a few bumps and bruises and broken bones. Maybe you paralyze me. Maybe you end my life. If I get pissed at you, what’s my recourse? I can smack your car with my hands, kick it with a Dansko-shod foot. I can throw something, maybe. More likely, I mutter a curse or two under my breath and keep going, assuming I’m not trying to crawl out from under you.
In the state of Colorado and the City of Fort Collins (no matter how much the Larimer County sheriff’s department might dislike it…but that’s another topic, anyway), bicycles are classified as vehicles. If you don’t like it, quit buzzing and honking at us and start pressing your state legislature for change. DO something besides threaten the life -the LIFE!- of the person astride that bicycle. Consider that I, too, have a family, friends, a job, a life. I’m not any better or worse than you because I decide to take a different form of transportation than you do. And take action to keep us off your precious roads. Please do: it means more infrastructure to protect cyclists, to keep us further away from you, to decrease our interactions.
Until then, you can take your entitlement and stuff it. I’m every bit as entitled to the bike lane as you are to your car lanes. Oh, and where there isn’t a bike lane? I’m entitled to the right traffic lane, so you can just calm the fuck down and go around me. NOTHING you are doing is more important than MY LIFE.