Monday, January 10, 2005

Don't Confuse the Issue

Last week I was riding downtown over a bridge in rainy/icy conditions. There were two Eastbound lanes and I was riding somewhat to the right of my lane. I wasn't quite 'taking the lane' but I wasn't inviting cars to zoom by me either. I car rode really close past me as it honked to beat me to the yellow-turned red light, along with the three cars ahead of it.

Knowing I had time, and annoyed, I coasted up to the car to have a conversation. I asked the woman why she beeped at me. She said that I shouldn't be on the road at this time of day. "But this is when I go to work and it's illegal for bicyclists over the age of 12 to ride on sidewalks in Chicago." She said that I shouldn't ride on the busy streets (please tell me where the magical non-busy bridge in downtown Chicago during rush hour is, and I will consider taking it). We got into the standard conversation about bicycle rights, lane sharing/passing...blah..blah. She then expressed concern for my safety as the reason why I shouldn't be on the road.

This is utter and total bullshit. I am sick of hearing this excuse from people who moments earlier showed complete disregard for my safety. Does a person who is concerned about my safety pass by me so closely that they don't cross the lane line? In slippery conditions? Accompanied with a startling beep? To get to a light that will be red by the time you reach it? Sorry, but I don't buy it. Just be honest and admit that either you weren't really paying attention to the situation or that you drive like an asshole, caring for nobody but yourself. I expect some of both played a part.

I actually would have more respect for a person who boldy just said, "I don't like bikes on the road because sometimes they inconvience me. I also often don't pay attention, and they spook me sometimes because I am not looking for them. I don't like to be spooked, nor do I like anything to indicate that I am not observent when I drive. They also make me nervous even after I am aware of them--I don't quite know why, and don't really care to think about it. All that I know is that sometimes I can't speed and have to pay more attention when driving, and I don't like that." That is a conversation that would make sense--because it deals with ,what I consider to be the real issues, why people don't like bikes on the road. Sure, I would think the person who says this is an asshole, but not a self-delusional hypocrite.

Instead I hear people professing concern about my safety as a shield from their own selfishness. The worst part is that I know that most of these people actually believe that their concern for my safety is genuine. Not only can't they be honest with me, but they are lying to themselves, too.

Additionally, why do cars beep so much? Do they really think that biking on an arterial or downtown, I am not aware that there are cars sharing the road with me? Do they not know that I not only hear them, but have a pretty accurate idea of their speed, size and proximity based upon the different noises they make? I can't remember ever being surprised by a car overtaking me. Cars make a lot of noise--I hear you; they also pollute--I smell you; I definitely see you--because you are ugly, too. I am quite certain though that the reason I haven't felt or tasted you is primarily due to my diligent observations and reactions and has little to do with motorists' 'concern for my safety.'


At 10:21 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I also bike to work through busy downtown streets, and I am the recipient of much animosity from motorists. For the life of me, I can't understand why, since I'm considerate and law-biding. One woman, riding in the passenger side of an SUV, once hung out the window to scream obscenities at me. What she failed to realize was that her vehicle was traveling down a street with lots of stoplights. The car she was in would get ahead of me, only to stop at a light, allowing me to catch up. At about the third light, I think she was feeling sheepish about having to keep seeing me at light after light. It was an interesting lesson, to me anyway, in the sociology of a person who just lost her temper at a stranger and acted like a antisocial maniac for no good reason.


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