Saturday, May 28, 2005

Random thoughts on a Saturday morning.

Someone on the fixed gear mailing posted a rant about ‘posers’ riding fixies. I guess that unless you’ve been riding fixed for less than ten years, you don’t qualify as a ‘real’ fixed gear rider. Likewise, I’ve seen disparaging comments made toward the lycra and spandex crowd by those who ride for transportation wearing work clothes or old Bermuda shorts. Maybe they’re the SPD sandals demographic. And there are the mountain bikers who wouldn’t dream of riding on the road with all those cars. “Too dangerous”, they say as they zoom downhill past trees within inches of their handlebars.

Why can’t we all just get along?

Because we can’t.

I really don’t care how someone dresses when they ride a bike. Back in my boy racer days, a guy wearing a suit and tie dropped me on a climb. It’s a humbling experience. Granted, it was a hot day and I’d put in a lot of miles before reaching that hill, but it was humbling nonetheless. My point here is that we can’t judge another cyclist’s merits by his attire.

But we can and do judge other cyclists on their behavior. This is one reason I dislike doing group rides. I see things that set my teeth on edge. Cyclists routinely run red lights and stop signs. They yell “Clear!” when the head of the group reaches an intersection, and the rest follow like lemmings. They cut corners and ride on the wrong side of the street.

These behaviors become habits, and habitual behavior can get us hurt or killed. I was in the habit of running a stop sign in my neighborhood until I nearly ran into a car. The intersection was ‘always’ clear, so why even slow down? It was a stupid, dangerous habit.

But I didn’t start writing this as a rant about the stupid things we cyclists do. No. I really wanted to focus on what unites us rather than what divides us. And the one thing that we need in a universal sense is the simple right to use the public roads. Trail advocates, bike lane zealots, and mountain bikers may not agree, but there comes a time when every cyclist has to leave the bike lane or the trail and reach his destination on public streets. If he’s too timid to attempt this on his bicycle, he’s effectively cut off from those destinations served by public roads.

Some of the obstacles to riding on the street are self-imposed. “I wouldn’t ride there. It’s too dangerous”, we tell ourselves. Some cyclists go so far as to tell other cyclists where and when they should ride. Brian, one of our LCIs, was scolded by another cyclist for riding on the road instead of the shoulder. Someone yelling “Car back!” every time a motor vehicle approached followed me on a local group ride. He was getting angry because I was riding side-by-side with a friend and I didn’t dive for the curb.

Honestly, I’ve been getting angry recently because of rude motorists and stupid cyclists. I started flipping off the horn honkers and assorted other idiots, even though it does little good and merely escalates the situation. So on my homeward commute, I made a conscious effort to be nice. Some fool in daddy’s enormous SUV started honking and I merely waved – using all five fingers for emphasis. He didn’t honk again. I gotta remember to do that, rather than let my anger show.


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