Friday, June 17, 2005

Teachable moments

Every parent experiences teachable moments. My kids are wary of asking questions that might provoke a long-winded answer, or even worse, find themselves sent off in search of a dictionary, history book, or a relevant computer page. Their questions are carefully phrased to elicit a simple yes or no answer. Come to think of it, they could just possibly be lawyers when they grow up!

I was riding home a few days ago, when a couple of teens in a Honda came up alongside, wound down the passenger window, and yelled the traditional, “Get up on the sidewalk!” They drove off. As luck would have it, the next two traffic lights were green, but the third one changed to red before they reached it.

I caught up to the car, rapped on the now tightly closed passenger window, and said, “Do you have something to say to me?” I whacked the window loudly and repeated the question. The window remained down and I’m certain the door was locked. “Do you want to say something? I didn’t think so!”

The light changed and I rode away. I expect they’ll think twice before shouting at another cyclist.

The very next day, I had another encounter, this time at the infamous intersection of 86th and 129th. South of the intersection, there’s a long deceleration/right turn lane. Motorists expect that I should ride through that lane rather than the adjacent travel lane. Some get quite irate.

One guy passed me in the right turn lane, horn blaring and yelling something unintelligible as he went by. Again, God smiled on me and the light ahead changed. He stopped and I caught up.

“You’re ridin’ in the middle of the damn road!” he bitched.

“That’s a right turn lane back there. I’ve already had a go-round with the police and public works about it. I’m not supposed to ride through it and you’re not supposed to drive through it either. They won’t mark it properly because they’re going to four-lane this section and they don’t want to spend the money.” I spoke quickly because there isn’t time for long explanations at a traffic light.

“Well, we need some damn bike lanes then!” He was still pissed.

The light changed and we moved on. I thought about the bike lane comment for a minute or two. There was no way he would ever vote to fund bike lanes. He’d rather fume about cyclists in traffic, or find some way to outlaw them altogether. For that matter, I wouldn’t vote in favor of bike lanes either, since they’re an expensive public facility set aside for the exclusive use of a tiny minority of road users. It’s not a good use of public funds.

It’s a novel concept to some motorists when they find that bicyclists have an equal right to the road, and that some cyclists are going to assert that right. Still, that intersection has been problematic and I should contact the police, pubic works, and some elected officials about it once again. Teaching cuts both ways. I educate motorists and other cyclists in safe bicycling practices, and at the same time, I’m being educated in better communications with them and the local government. I have much to learn in becoming a more effective advocate.


Blogger George said...

I usually go the "one finger salute" route when someone blares their horn at me in traffic.

Thing is, they figure I just "disappear" after they pass me.

I always enjoy the look of terror in some soccer mom's eyes when I roll up right next to them at the next light and bang on their roof:-)

Don't get me wrong.......I'm a really nice guy........... Unless someone is using a 5000 lb vehicle as a weapon against a 30 lb bicycle.

3:49 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home