When I first moved here in 2005, I was terrified of the bicyclists. Everyone had “Share The Road” bumperstickers on the backs of their vehicles, but that didn’t seem to be the case, and it only seems to be getting worse. Bicyclists and cars have always had an uneasy relationship, and I agree with sharing the road, as long as bicyclists remember that they are smaller and harder to see, and need to take some precautions. Nine years later, and I’m still terrified to drive down certain streets for fear I’ll hit a bicyclist. Why is this?
This isn’t aimed at the bicyclists I don’t notice, because you’re taking care and not pretending you’re a car. Or the ones who follow the rules, to whom I am ever grateful. Those of you who ride bicycles without endangering others already have a little star with your name twinkling on it up there at night. No, bicyclists, you’re not a car. You are a bicyclist, in other words, you are the exoskeleton of a bicycle, which makes you extremely vulnerable to cars. You are not given divine, goddess given rights that make you superior to cars. I try to share the road with you, but those of you peddling down the middle of West 11th, especially those of you with a child on board–I know you’re trying to miss the mirrors of the parked cars, but West 11th is narrow, and guess what? There is a sidewalk on either side. Be safe and ride on the sidewalk, please, especially if you have a little one with you, so I’m not driving with my heart literally in my throat. That just seems like common sense to me. It might help if you weren’t listening to headphones.
See, I lived in Northern California for twenty years, and once, in San Francisco, saw a motorcycle get rear-ended at a stop light, which the motorcyclist was properly stopped for but the car behind him didn’t see. That motorcycle did a full 360 in the air, I’m not kidding, and it scared me. If a car can do that to a Harley, imagine what it can do to a bicycle? So when I moved up here to super bicycle friendly city in my super-long Subaru wagon, yes, I was terrified, because the last thing I wanted to do was accidentally hit someone who decided to pop out into the road or because there was glare from the sun, a puppy jumped in front of my car and I had to brake suddenly, the list goes on and on. I didn’t drive until I was twenty eight, and this had my nerves screaming in anxiety (the reason it took me so long to learn to drive in the first place). Having a long car doesn’t help. But I saw the way people reacted to certain events hard core bicyclists arranged at, oh, rush hour in San Francisco to bring attention to themselves in a “share the road” sort of way. Oh, yes, they got drivers’ attention. And forever gained their ire in the meantime. Sympathy seems like a better emotion to try to engender, as opposed to making people hate your cause, but to each their own. Different spokes for different folks.
That attitude is becoming more common among bicyclists up here, unfortunately, with a lot of flaunting of the rules. Sharing the road means that I, in my car, and you, on your bicycle, take responsibility to sort of, let’s say help each other out and try not to hit each other while coexisting peacefully on the road. It also needs to be conceded that both drivers and bicyclists will make mistakes, and that we are not deliberately trying to take each other out in some sort of Beyond Thunderdome Mad Max scenario.
But Wendy, you mild-mannered woman who never gets upset over anything, you might ask. Why all this grief on bicyclists this evening. Well, let me tell you. I already wanted to bust out the ones on Mexico and Switzerland, and I’ve got a migraine. I have done more today around the house and online than I have in the past week, because doing things makes me tired, the severe depression and whatnot, which is why I shouldn’t be reading articles like those about Mexico and Switzerland. But at some point I signed up for the EPDs text alerts, so this one came to me. I don’t know if anyone else receives those–sometimes they are helpful, and I do have to say it’s disturbing how many bank robberies we’ve been having, but that isn’t the point. I got one today at 3:02p.m., you know, right about the time school lets out? This is what it read:
“Bicyclist Knocks 8-year-old Boy Down in Walk Your Wheels Zone”
Now I am in no way Sherlock Holmes, but I think it can possibly be inferred from that detail filled text that the bicyclist was riding his or her bike through or near enough a group of school children in a place most likely clearly demarcated as a place to walk your bicycle to knock an 8 year-old boy down. The sign is probably there to remind the children to walk their bikes. That does not mean, as an adult, you get to ignore the sign, get out of jail free, pass Go, and collect $200. The sign is there for everyone. What appalls me is that adults are supposed to set examples for children, not knock them over because the adult isn’t following rules the children most likely are. No wonder this country is in such a mess. No one thinks the rules apply to them, because, well, they’re just special.
I am also inferring that most Walk your Wheels Zones are near schools, in which case the bicyclist should have been paying closer attention. For one thing, while they were disregarding signs they could have been merrily ringing their bell to tell kids to scramble. What if the 8 year-old boy were deaf? Or, with the energy of most 8 year-old boys, he could have been bouncing around like a stripey tiger we all know and most of us love.
The thing is, that’s all the text said and that’s all I know, but it took two of the things that are bound to get my attention, bicyclist not following the rules and an 8 year-old getting knocked over–I’m not a mother, but after working for a long time in elementary schools, I have very strong protective instincts. I don’t know, I wasn’t there, obviously, and eyewitnesses are the least reliable, which is pretty crummy. Especially if most of them are 8. I hope there were some other people around. Irate crossing guards, maybe.
We can share the road. Everyone needs to pay attention. Everyone needs to follow the rules. There is no reason me, you, or anyone else is special and can drive/ride however we want.