Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Of Foul Weather and Foul Language

Monday was the BPAC's monthly meeting, and I plan to post more on that later. I woke up a little late, being on the night shift, and was sorely tempted to take the car down, but common sense prevailed, and I managed to push the bike out of the garage and take it instead. I'm really glad I did. I do love riding, even on the streets here in Medford.

It was a gorgeous ride down, with a nice cool breeze and some tolerant drivers. When I got out of the meeting, however, it had started raining. No problem! I just unpacked my rain gear and got into it before leaving the building, and since I'd taken my bicycle in with me, I didn't have to contend with a soaking wet seat.

Thus attired, I started on my merry way. About 1/3 of the way home, the rain started really stinging as it hit my chin (that being the only thing uncovered enough to hit), and I started thinking "Man, these are really big drops of rain." Then I saw them start to bounce off my hat and my body. It had started hailing. So all in all, I had a rather soggy and novel ride home. Every driver who saw me on the road had this look of pity or horror on their face. It was quite amusing.

I've been reading a lot of blogs and news articles about bicycling lately, and I've noticed a trend in comments when it comes to bicycle articles, especially in newspapers. You get this great story about how folks are taking up bicycle commuting, and that it'll be safer now that the government is passing such-and-such a bill, and oh-isn't-this-great? Directly after the story, you usually will find one of two people: 1) idiot cyclist who's really in support of the bill and thinks that motorists are all murdering ruffians out to kill every cyclist they meet, or 2) idiot driver who thinks the roads were made just for his H2, and everyone else, including Honda Accords, Cyclists, Motorcycles and Pedestrians should get the heck off.

A few posts down, you'll see another poster - Driver who wants to remind us all that cyclists are hoodlums just waiting to throw themselves in front of our cars at stop lights and stop signs, and that all cyclists just have a death wish, since they all ride on the wrong side of the road.

Directly following, you will have - Cyclist who points out that far more drivers than cyclists break the law, and cyclists only break the law to get away from murderous, foul tempered drivers who, by the way, are trying to kill all the cyclists, children and little fluffy bunnies they can get their wheels on top of.

I'll admit that in the past, I've participated in some of these discussions, much to my chagrin. Most of the comments I post are in response to horribly over-dramatized stories, such as the cyclist=terrorist article a while back, and the "Let's Behead Those Horrible Stuck-Up Cyclists" article by Parris.

I'd like to put the record straight, at least for me. It is my opinion that for every stupid cyclist, there is a stupid driver, and a stupid pedestrian. Every single person in this country has a tendency to make bad choices, act before thinking, be in a bad mood, or whatever at some point in their lives. We all hope that when this moment comes for us, it won't be a fatal mistake, either for us or for anyone else involved.

I fully admit that I've made bad choices and I've lost my temper and I've done things that aren't so smart. Fortunately, none of those mistakes have led to any serious injury.

I guess the point I'm trying to make is that we all can be stupid, and we all can be smart. It's really counter-productive to just sit and point out everyone else's mistakes to the world while failing to acknowledge that we have made our own share of them. I spent my ride to work this morning waving and smiling at cars that gave me plenty of room when they passed. I waved to children in the back seats, smiled at pedestrians as I cruised by on the street, chatted with folks waiting to cross at the lights, and I also spent my ride being perfectly predictable, and as perfectly legal as I could. I get a lot less lip from drivers when I ride than I've seen folks who ride on the sidewalk or through stop signs get.

I hate to put it this way, but "Can't we all just get along?" It's really not all that hard. Cyclists - realize that not all drivers are horrible (except in Colorado - Just kidding!), and watch for them to be stupid and plan accordingly. Listen to your gut. If it tells you that the lady talking on her cell phone while putting on makeup in her Ford Excursion behind you is going to do something stupid, get out of the way, or be prepared to take evasive action. I always ride so I have lots of room to get the heck out of the way when someone does something stupid, and I've never been hurt. Don't play chicken with cars, don't ride unpredictably, don't force the car to take evasive action. They're bigger than you.

Drivers - realize that not all cyclists are horrible (except in San Fran - again, Just Kidding!), and watch for them to be stupid and plan accordingly. Listen to your gut. If it tells you that the 300 pound guy in head-to-toe spandex on the italian racing bike in front of you is going to do something stupid, give them a little more room to make their mistake. Remember - bike v bumper - the bumper always wins, and the bike pretty much always gets hurt. You don't want a human life on your conscience, do you? All it takes is to give 'em some space, and pass carefully. Don't speed right up on their backsides and blare your horn. That just guarantees they'll do something stupid, if not right away, perhaps at the next stop sign. You don't think rationally when you're pissed off, either, do you? And here in Oregon, with Shall-Issue Concealed Handgun Licenses, you never know just how pissed off the cyclist is going to be.

We're all trying to get from point A to point B as efficiently as possible, so be good neighbors and give each other some slack.