Day 217: MLwC and the Very Important Bike Conversation

Bikes in traffic

B2 sent a great comment to my previous post about Bike Conduct. Since Brian commutes all over the area, I take his thoughts and opinions to heart.  As he notes, it sounds like the rider in the previous post was indeed obnoxious but that, “your friend, through no fault of her own, became the focal point of an ‘I’m-fed-up-and-I’m-not-going-to-take-it-anymore” moment.’  Maybe so, and lord knows, we’ve all had a few of those now and again.

Brian goes on to list in his Howl skree a litany of car-related insults and near-misses that I, and I’m sure every bike rider out there, can identify with:

Personally, I’ve been cut off by turning vehicles, cut in front of by cars, passed on narrow streets with inches to spare by cars that couldn’t slow down and wait an extra 10 seconds to pass a bit more widely, nearly hit by clueless u-turning taxis, nearly doored by clueless drivers opening their door wide open into traffic without looking behind them first, screamed at to get the hell out of the way, and had shit thrown at me, among other things. So I can definitely see where a cyclist could get pushed to the breaking point by someone she perceives to be an impatient driver who can’t seem to wait an extra minute or two on his way to do what must be Very Important Things indeed.

Yes, indeed.  A while back in this year long project I began to notice and commented on at many points how driving made me feel in much more of a hurry than I actually needed to be.  Just getting behind a wheel made me feel…well, aggressively interested in getting wherever I was going as soon as I could, viewing, as B notes, everything in my path as an obstacle to get past.  It’s true.  I’ve broken the habit of driving everywhere, I live on both sides now and I know: driving makes you obsess on one thing–getting past the thing in front of you.  As Bri describes it:

One of the issues with car and truck drivers is that the mentality of many drivers behind the wheel is that “everything on the road is an obstacle that is in the way of me getting to my desitination as fast as possible, so everyone and everything just get out of my fucking way now.” The physical structure of the car (which cuts you off from your environment) feeds into this mentality.)

In the case of my friend Susan’s close encounter with Bike Rage, however, the cyclist was expecting the driver to go uphill at what was likely 3-4 miles per hour.  That’s not easy to do in a car, not at all.  So in that case, I think the cyclist was asking too much.  Just my opinion, and had it been me, I would have hopped over to the sidewalk.  There’s a very steep hill in my hood, on the north side of Lincoln Park–long, winding, narrow lanes and steep.  To me it just screams “accident waiting to happen,” so I avoid it at all costs.  Fortunately for me, the alternate path takes me along the waterfront of the park and for the life of me, I can’t imagine why anyone would take the long and winding road, but hey.

Thanks for the comment, B2!

Daily Stats (Wed)
Car: 6.5 miles (will this office project never end? 4 tasks)
Bike: 0
Ped: 1

Bus: 0

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4 responses to “Day 217: MLwC and the Very Important Bike Conversation

  1. I’ve thought about these questions a lot today. I feel empathy towards both sides of the fence — er — road on this one. I too feel frustrated when I get caught behind a slow moving bicyclist that I can’t safely get around for a period of time. So I grit my teeth and wait. Yet as a friend of many bicyclists — and as a believer of alternate forms of transportation — I believe that ideally we all need to share the road. The question that comes to my mind is why is it OK to go 4-5 mph and block traffic. A fast runner could maintain that speed, but they don’t have a “right” to the road. If roads are designed for specific speeds, then shouldn’t the vehicles traveling on them be capable of maintaining the intended pace and flow? That’s why bike lanes are so great; designated space for two paces. But just as there are speed limits, I think it’s prudent to have speed minimums if the road is not wide enough to safely allow for both cars and bikes. B2 I feel your frustration at the legions of unaware drivers — they are the same ones we curse at for other mindless actions behind the wheel — but if you got caught driving behind a little ol lady going 10 mph in her SUV, wouldn’t you want her to get pulled over for going to slow? We need to share the road, but if a bike is blocking traffic, then is it “sharing” — or asserting a “right”?

  2. well put, substrata. I think bike lanes are not only a good thing, but a requirement. When all bike riders have actionable insurance against injury from drivers and/or cars, and when bike riders start taking down license numbers…I have a feeling more *real* bike lanes will show up. just mho.

  3. I bike about as many miles per month as I drive, and I’m pretty fortunate to be able to do that. I have family on Mercer Island, which is prime cycling grounds, and when I visit them by car on a decent (weather) day, I have to assume I’ll spend five minutes driving 10 mph behind a cyclist, unable to pass on the windy roads. It’s definitely annoying, and I can sympathize with the guy who left for work late, only to be stuck, fuming, behind a cyclist.

    On the other hand, on a bike, I’ve been hit by cars who blatantly ignored the law. Most often, people fail to yield the right of way and make left turns directly into me. This seems to happen because cars assume all cyclists to be very slow, so when I come down the road at 20 mph, and the driver thinks I must be doing 2 mph, they assume they have enough time. On the other hand, I assume they’ll stop and obey the rules of the road ( which is the case 90 % of the time ), so I don’t stop at every green light, etc.

    I think drivers don’t sympathize in the way cyclists do. If I hit another car with mine, I have air bags, and hopefully they do, too. But if I hit a cyclist, there’s no steel cage and no air bags to protect them; just soft flesh, and bones to break. So, when I’m on Mercer Island, doing 10 mph on a curvy road where I can’t see around the next bend … I just take a deep breath, and remember that the cyclist’s life is worth more than my five minutes.

    • very mindful, that last line–and agreed, many drivers have not experienced the lack of steel cage protection that bikes are, and simply see the road in terms of obstacles and speed. In that case, bikes and the human who ride them, become obstacles. I’ve done it myself, and watched myself do it. Shame on me, and sort of amazing since I’m a bicyclist. Something bizarre happens behind a wheel, it still amazes me, even after all this time. Thanks for your comments, much appreciated addition to the ongoing conversation!

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