Acceptance... Not Segregation.

I like bike lanes... I like bike paths
I like the idea of bike lanes... I like the idea of bike paths
but... the bike lane or the bike path may not always be the best place for me to be on the bike
so... I ride where I feel makes the most sense

for years... years and years
ever since I was a child I have witnessed that non-verbal directive from the passing car that I should be on the BIKE PATH
any long time cyclist knows that look
it is exaggerated as if the driver were Marcel Marcel himself
the wide eyes... the hand motion pointing to the bike path
it is really annoying... and not just because mimes are annoying

some drivers even break the mime code and speak
the logic often involves their tax dollars spent on the bike path and the cyclist's refusal to use it

this article from Florida touches on some dangerous laws

a few years back I was passed obnoxiously fast and obnoxiously close by a car in Rock Creek Park
there was a bike path off the road to the right just ahead... but no yet where I was riding
as the car passed me within inches and pushed even close forcing me to break hard and consider jumping the curb into the grass I acted instinctively... I spat... I held my ground... I did not leave the road... I acted defensively and I spat

my spit hit the windshield
the driver hit the brakes
the car was not even stopped and the back doors opened
although the gentlemen were all well dressed... they came at me like a group of thugs in the prison yard
the driver being the least aggressive of the pack

need I mention... I was scared

without hesitation I was instructed to wipe the spit off the windshield
SHIT.... I felt so threatened that I was ready to wash his car for him
but... being me... I played it differently and tried to use this moment to find some sort of level ground

"yes... I will wipe my spit off your windshield... but while I have you here... maybe you should hear my perspective..."
I went into describing how he had passed me obnoxiously fast and obnoxiously close
to which he gestured to the bike path which had not been an option until just ahead
to which I had a rebuttal

"well... at the speed I am traveling the bike path is not the most considerate route... it you and your girlfriend were walking on the path... would you like me to buzz past at the speed I was traveling?"

"what about the woman with the stroller and the small child? does it make more sense for me to be on the road or on the multi-use bike path?"

the tension declined... he seemed to find a bit of understanding for my being on the road rather than the bike path... the spit was cleaned off the windshield with my cycling glove
the car driver had heard my diatribe
it was time for us to all get on with our day

I was back on my bike and they were back in their car
we were all a little more enlightened
they got to see things from the cyclist's perspective
while I was reminded that it is foolish to spit on someone's car windshield

how do we get this message across to the car drivers?
how do we get a mass understanding of the cyclist's rights?
how do we let the masses know what is happening in this situation?


Marc said...

That conversation on the porch on memorial day was (is) still irritating me days later... comments like "cyclists should stop whining until they stop doing stupid stuff on the roads"

there are so many things wrong with that comment I don't know where to begin...

grrrrrrrrr -mg

Emily said...

It's a tough situation for bikers - walkers and joggers don't want us on the paths, motorists don't want us on the road. Where do we go!?

Plus - as I frequent the Rock Creek Trail - there are some sections that are so degraded, biking them is almost dangerous!

..and I won't even get into the times there are "Pony Presents" left in the middle of the Rock Creek Trail.

Meredith said...

Great post, Joel. Great story. My sister lives in the 'burbs of Detroit and has a problem with cyclists on the road despite the fact that our father bikes on those very roads. I will send her this piece so hopefully she will gain more understanding.

Because bike lanes and sidewalks don't make sense for all cyclists, I believe that our culture needs to change in such a way that cyclists are seen as valid road users. And one way for this to happen is through stories. Stories like yours, and many of ours, need to be told and need to be heard. Thank you for doing what you do!

nathan said...

Ah, the power of spit. Yes, it does get someone's attention, however my experience with spit has not been so positive. Maybe I need to add that piece of glass into the equation.