You know that bicycling is becoming a big deal when it gets a front page above the fold in the Sunday New York Times Style section. Sure, it’s not the front, front page, but still.
This particular article focuses on the growing tension or conflict between automobile drivers and bicyclers. It leads off with a story of a guy that started biking to save on gas and maybe lose some weight but after the dude basically gets purposely run down by some jerks in a car (according the bicyclers version of the story) he’s done riding, at least for this season.
I got to say. I don’t blame the guy.
Of course, this happened in New York City. If I lived there I’m not sure I’d try to ride my bike to work. I live in a small city and I head to work early enough to avoid most of the morning traffic. And my ride is barely a mile, if that. It is enjoyable for me. The ride home, after work, is little sketchier, which is why I’ve opted to not ride my daughter home on my bike from her day camp. I ride home, get the car, and go pick her up. I probably don’t save much, if any, in gas, but I still like to do the ride. But my concerns are not so much because I fear angry, aggressive automobile drivers who want to go after people I bicycles. It is simply that there is heavy traffic and some of the intersections that I’d have to contend with make me nervous. Alone, I don’t have a problem taking the risk, but not with my daughter on board.
Since I’ve started riding, I’ve noted that most people in automobiles are pretty accommodating. The rare close calls that I’ve had were because the drivers simply did not notice me. And I can understand that. I’ve been unaware of bicyclers myself at times. This was before I started riding. Now, I seem to notice them everywhere. My strategy is to assume the people in cars do NOT see me. I ride defensively. Look, I’d rather lose my stride than get plowed by some guy in a hurry talking on his cell phone.
Of course, the Times article is highlight conflict because it makes for a better story. And stories about all the people taking to bikes to save on gas etc have pretty much been played out. There are conflicts but I think they are more the exception than the rule. Still, as more inexperienced riders take the streets the more problems that will arise as a result. Let’s just hope people don’t get killed.
The article states that
Every year, the war of the wheels breaks out in the sweet summer months, as four-wheelers react with aggravation and anger to the two-wheelers competing for the same limited real estate.
Really? Every year? I wasn’t aware this was an annual thing. But I assume the article is talking about major cities like New York, LA, Portland, Seattle, etc.
Some interesting stats:
This summer, the number of new cyclists has increased strongly across the country. In June, nearly 11,000 first-time riders participated in Denver’s Bike to Work Day. Dahon, makers of folding bikes popular with commuters, reports a 30-percent sales increase from a year ago, with many models having been sold out since the spring. Transportation Alternatives, a bicycling advocacy group, estimates that 131,000 people cycle daily in New York, up 77 percent since 2000.
Check out the one biker is combating increased aggression toward him and bicyclers in general:
Having noted the uptick in aggression, Michelle Holcomb, a cycling instructor in Dallas, now carries a secret weapon. Recently, as she cycled into an intersection at a four-way stop and began turning left, a driver at the cross street revved and shot through, laughing as he missed her front wheel by inches. “Smile for the camera,” muttered Ms. Holcomb, who videotaped the incident with her new helmet camera.
But there is another level of conflict as well, between the bikers and pedestrians:
Last Thursday evening, at the peak of Manhattan rush hour, Howard Savery was crossing Broadway at 40th Street with fellow bipeds. Abruptly he reared back, just avoiding a crash with an impatient cyclist, racing through the red light.
“Well, that’s a first!” remarked Mr. Savery, a banker, who was heading home to Staten Island.
First time he’d nearly been knocked over by a cyclist in Manhattan?
No, corrected Mr. Savery: “That’s the first time one of them actually beeped at me. Usually they run you down silently.”
Well, that’s just reckless and rude. That rider qualifies to be nominated for Jerk Of The Week. I wouldn’t do that. In fact, I make a point of slowing down or even stopping to insure that I do not collide with pedestrians. Of courses, it is easier because I am not riding in a place like The Big Apple.
Here is a good point:
Driver-rider hostility has become worse this summer because legions of cyclists are simply inexperienced. At least according to the drivers. “They say the cyclists are all over the road and don’t know the rules,” said Michele Mount, a spokeswoman for AAA of New Jersey.
The fact is that bicycles have the same right to be on the road as cars, but it is incumbent on those riding the bikes to learn the rules. Fight with motorists isn’t going to help matters. In a road rage incident who do you think is going to be on the losing end? The person the bike or the person in the SUV? That’s a no-brainer.
But it isn’t just ignorance on the part of some new bicyclers. It is downright arrogance:
A pandemic of obliviousness — earbuds, texting — further ramps up the tension. Recently, Scott Diamond, ride coordinator for the Morris Area Freewheelers, a New Jersey cycling club, saw what he called a trifecta of irresponsible cycling: “A guy riding his bike without a helmet, talking on his cellphone, with his kid in the bike attachment behind him.”
How fucking stupid is that?
Although, I admit that I first started riding without a helmet. That is until I started reading articles about people getting knocked off their bikes.
But the ignorance and arrogance applies to automobile drivers who don’t understand that bikes have the right, by law, to be on the road:
In every state, cyclists have the same rights and responsibilities as drivers of motor vehicles. But in the particulars, state vehicle codes and municipal ordinances vary. Consider the frustrated driver who shouts to a cyclist, “Get on the sidewalk!”
Way to be a jerk, and dumb ass!
Perhaps I’ve just been lucky, since I haven’t run into any overtly rude drivers trying to run me down. I don’t really expect to either, not where I ride, but I’m not going to ride obliviously.