A teachable moment...
I was riding home last night, thinking about stopping at the car wash to clean the Bianchi. It's grungy from being ridden in the rain. I really need to put some
fenders mudguards on that bike. Cleaning a bike with a pressure washer is easy, provided the spray isn't directly into the hubs or bottom bracket.
But as I was grinding my way up 129th, a few cars stacked up behind me due to oncoming traffic. One of them decided to lay on the horn. Two teenage kids were in a beat up old Ford Ranchero a couple of cars back. When traffic thinned, they came up alongside and the passenger yelled the traditional, “Get up on the sidewalk!” They jetted off.
But God in His infinite mercy, decided to make the traffic light at 86th turn red. OK, maybe it wasn't God. Maybe it was the Public Works department, or it could have been someone in Public Works who only thinks he's God, a fairly common occurrence. This would mean we live in a polytheistic universe ruled by bureaucrats in cheap suits. I don't want to think about that. On the other hand, we could be living in a universe where every detail of our lives is predetermined by an arbitrary god. Sometimes it's hard to tell the difference.
Anyway, the light turned red. The Ranchero stopped. I grinned as I rode up alongside it. This makes people uneasy for some reason. I suppose they expect that a cyclist will be pissed off and angry, but when a 220 pound guy shows up with a huge smile, they get a little nervous. It's like getting into a minor fender bender and discovering a grinning Tony Soprano getting out of the other car.
I rolled up next to the passenger door. The kid looked shocked that a mere cyclist would have the effrontery to engage in a confrontation. But he rolled the window down. I switched to 'pedantic mode' and did my best Brian Potter impression.
“Fellas,” I said, “it's illegal to ride on the sidewalk.”
“Whaaaa?” he replied. He stared up in slack-jawed wonder at a big, middle-aged guy leaning down from a bicycle.
“It's illegal to ride on the sidewalk. Besides, it's about three times more dangerous than riding on the street.” I held up three fingers for emphasis.
“It's illegal?” Obviously, not the sharpest tool in the shed. Maybe he had to take his time counting all those fingers.
“Yeah, that's why I don't do that.” The light changed. Both the driver and passenger were staring at me. “It's green. Go-go-go!”
They went. No gestures, no shouts, no honking horn. I'd like to think they were just a little bit better informed about cyclists and that the brief encounter served an educational purpose. Or, on the other hand, maybe they thought they'd just met Tony Soprano on a Bianchi.
Labels: bicycle education