2.10.2007

almost famous

got out of work early on friday
left work with the camera around my neck
but... the cold had the cyclist's hiding
it was a few minutes early to capture the commuter culture
while the messengers were spending their down time indoors
so I put the camera in the bag and focused on spinning

was on the Surly Karate Monkey Rigid Single Speed
a bike clearly geared for singletrack
not exactly the gearing for playing Superman out racing the train
good to spin
but can be frustrating trying to race the cars

went looping around town
took some random paths towards Capitol Hill... then deeper into Capitol Hill away from the Capital Building
then worked my way back towards home on Mass. Avenue

tried to time the lights as I rounded the bend past Union Station
I am familiar with the traffic habits of the cars on this stretch of road

it is predictable that my actions may frustrate the cars around me
when I reach the post office I at North Capitol I start taking the full lane
it frustrates the cars that I move in the full lane
but I know that if I take the far right lane...
I risk getting run down by a right turning car at the next intersection which has a right turn only lane as well as an option lane
the use of the full lane is a must
as the rules of the road are SHARE THE ROAD
not SHARE THE LANE
if I were to ride vigorously in THE DOOR ZONE the passing cars would try to squeek through
not granting me a safe escape from opening car doors, parking cars, and pulling out cars
no one is as concerned with my safety as I am
no one is concerned with my safety but me

early in the first few blocks of my use of the full lane I feel a car close behind me
the lane along side of me is open
yet I am being followed closely
I pass the right turn lane in the option lane
then get passed by a speeding car
their passenger side window is open... an older man braves the cold and calls me an ASSHOLE

I had alread taken notice of this car
the silver family wagon with maryland tags and a bicycle roof rack
their roof rack and their sunset maryland plate did not match up to their exclamation
as I move through traffic I am always measuring the variables around me
the make and model of cars
the condition of cars
the tags on the cars
and the drivers of these cars
trying to measure these variables to guesstimate their actions

(movie is over... kids are wild... time to get them dressed before their friends come over... will try to spit out the final summary of the ride)

the balaclava on my face prevented a verbal response
the lobster claw gloves on the hand prevented the use of sign language
so I spun forward
sure enough
a block had not passed and I was ahead of the silver family wagon with a roof rack in the queue

these people are tourists
most everyone passing through this town are tourists
they lack the know how of how to behave
short sighted and ignorant
this car began a little game of cat and mouse
as they should have opened their eyes to the story of the tortoise and the hare

again an aggressive fast pass
as I am all the way to the right
allowing traffic to flow to the next light where they got blocked up again
I rolled from the right side to the front of the queue
seems fair...
just as the cars pass me
I pass the cars

at this next stretch it is the same thing everyday
two lanes of traffic
no real room to ride to the right
so I take the full lane
spinning the single fast
but not hectic and painful
just full spin ahead
I lead a blockage of cars behind me
the left lane is open to my side, yet there are cars filed in behind me
I can see that there is a line of cars parked at the red light ahead
this same car passes
this time too wimpy to roll the window down and brave the cold
the older male passanger flips me off as they pass
the woman in the driver's seat moves forward
taking the space in front of me then getting stopped by the line of cars in front of them
again... I pass

this cat and mouse continues
their aggravation builds as the curses and gestures continue at each of their passes
at the turn past the NPR building I make a turn then another turn back onto Mass by the convention center
traffic is really built up
I bridge a gap
the silver family wagon is many blocks behind me
more than likely the pressure cooker is building up in the male passenger's mind
hard to say if the woman behind the wheel shared his sentiment

this sort of behavior is everyday
even with the roof rack
hard to understand their perspective
but their perspective is the same as most every other car driver

why did my presence bother this man so much?

was it my being in front of the cars?
was it my taking the full lane?
was it my being on the bike while he was stuck in a car?
was it the lights that I ran in more of a leading than stealing sort of fashion?

there needs to be an education
there needs to be an understanding
there needs to be an injection of empathy

car drivers need more logic to their approach to travel
there needs to be a swap between speed and efficiency

people need to know the bicyclist's rights to the road
and that so much of what is taken is an effort to be defensive not offensive
no one is looking out for the safety of the cyclist but the cyclist
these drivers do not care about me getting home to my family
they only care about getting to the next red light

with gears I would have been so far ahead of this car that they would have only been able to flip me off once
but I showed them that even the slow bicyclist has an advantage to the car in urban traffic
that flow occurs with efficiency not with high speed
each time this car passed me they seemed more concerned with getting ahead of me than the red light ahead
if they looked past their dashboard to the world in front of them they would see things better
if they focused more on their dashboard
they would see their speed is exceeding the legal limits

I was not trying to race this car
never was my hectic spin taken to the extra energetic level
no... I kept doing my thing
going my way
eventually my path was changed
I went around Thomas Circle rather than through the tunnel under Thomas Circle to capture some pictures of this cyclist
saw him in the distance

it turned out to be Vinnie
who as been on the page before
as well as being interviewed by NPR this week
we talked about the brunch alleycat that is happening today
as I rode away it occured to me that I could bring my two boys to the event

we will have to see how the day plays out

kids are here
no time to proof read this
just publish and post

wonder if that car ever reflected on our exchange
maybe the driver let the steam settle then explained things to the passenger
maybe this guy will get a u-lock to the windshield one day
not that a broken windshield would teach anyone anything
but
I am not so sure that people should go around cursing at other people
especially when people did nothing to deserve such an attack
the concept of ulock justice is not my thing
but it never comes about unprovoked



3 comments:

MRussell said...

these drivers do not care about me getting home to my family
they only care about getting to the next red light


What a great line that explains so many drivers. Somehow 10 seconds of their time is worth more than another human's life...

gewilli said...

empathy...

greatly lacking and the root of society's problems...

MTC
G

bmpskier said...

i am always completely surprised at the roof rack/angry driver combo. they are the people who insist on yelling at you to ride on the sidewalk, which i remind them has the word walk in it.