miscellaneous commentary

Spring Cycling

leave a comment »

Viet and I took advantage of the fine spring weather last weekend to get out on the trails, cycling through George Wyth and Big Woods Lake. Didn’t make it to Black Hawk Park… next time. I noticed my odometer wasn’t recording miles property. Either the computer that clips to the handlebars is going wonky or the sensor strapped to the fork is going bad. I tried repositioning the sensor, and the spoke magnet, but that didn’t help, so I suspect the computer… which means the only way to accurately record my miles would be to buy a new odometer. Meh.

I’m not sure I care enough anymore about how many miles I log to invest in it. I cared in years past, like in 2010 when I put in over 1,700. Last year was a far cry from that… I probably logged 250 or 300. Hard to tell, as Viet used my bike on occasion when his was left at his apartment. Since he’s not much for long-distance riding, the only way I’ll get in many 20+ milers this summer would be get out the door on weekend mornings.

While decluttering bookmarks these past couple weeks I found some articles about cycling that struck a chord with me. Here’s a description of a situation I know all too well:

I continued across the intersection as the SUV bore down on me, giving the driver a hard stare; he responded by braking momentarily, then he simultaneously accelerated and swerved toward the curb, squeezing by me with a half-dozen inches to spare and nearly clipping me with his rear-view mirror. I got an up close and personal view of a middle-aged driver in a button-down shirt, his face contorted as he screamed for me to get out the hell out of his road. I hollered back with succinct instructions involving his junk and an adjacent orifice.

Most motorists in the Cedar Valley are polite enough to stop and allow cyclists and pedestrians the right of way, so this is more the exception to the rule. But when it does happen, it tends to nag at me for a while.

What bothers me is how cyclists are expected to either restrict themselves to only riding on trails, or if they must ride on roads, to hug the curb. This is dangerous, as Peter Walker of the Guardian details:

There are all sorts of reasons for taking the lane. Often, a cyclist might ride centrally to keep at least a car door’s width from parked vehicles. … It could be to pass the message to those behind: this is a narrow (or twisty) road, there’s no space to squeeze past, you’re going to have to overtake me as you would a car.

It’s pretty simple stuff, but it’s amazing how many drivers cannot grasp it. … I can just about forgive some drivers for not knowing the rules and reasons for cyclists taking the lane. … What I can’t forgive are the dangerous maneouvres that sometimes follow. Squeezing past a cyclist carries a clear message: not only do I believe you are in the wrong, but I believe my righteousness is justification for putting your physical wellbeing in danger. I believe my right to reach the next red traffic light about five seconds earlier than I would have otherwise trumps the rights of your loved ones to welcome you home tonight in one piece. It sounds dramatic, but that’s what it amounts to, and it appalls me.

I found that article on Jake Mohan’s blog, who has previously written with wit and eloquence about the frustrations cyclists face from the general population:

I might also point out, as a corollary, the complete absurdity of the hypothetical bargains that I’ve heard people (in newspaper comment sections, social media, and real life) express a magnanimous willingness to strike with us monolithic, uniformly miscreant and socially aberrant cyclists:

How about we stop using our tax dollars for cycling infrastructure like bike lanes until all bikers [always BIKERS] can follow the rules of the road and ride safely

I’ll start passing bikers with three feet to spare and giving them the right-of-way when they extend the same courtesy to me.

If bikers are going to get special treatment like bike paths, we should make them get licenses and pay user fees, just like motorists. 

To which I always reply, silently, in my head, my cerebral arteries threatening to occlude with impotent rage:

1. By that same logic, we should not spend another penny on motor-vehicle infrastructure until all MOTORISTS also follow all the rules of the road and ride safely.

2. You get to decide whether you put my life in danger because you have the advantage of weight, horsepower, infrastructural privilege, and state-of-the-art automotive safety technology. I don’t have any of those things. Even if I wanted to somehow hurt or kill you on my bike, I don’t see how I possibly could without the aid of heavy artillery.

3. Licensing programs and user fees don’t exist for cyclists in most cities because they flat-out don’t work. They don’t really work for motorists either, in practice: licensing is designed to keep dangerous and unlawful drivers off the road, but so pervasive is our belief that driving is a god-given right that a person has to do a hell of a lot of drunk-driving, maiming, and killing before they get their license permanently revoked. And again, bicyclists aren’t capable of doing that kind of damage.

4. For the billionth time, cyclists pay more than they should to maintain our transportation infrastructure, seeing as how a) many are also tax-paying home and car owners; b) they pay sales, state, and federal taxes, which heavily subsidize our roads; c) they aren’t even allowed to use interstates, which are among our nation’s most expensive and maintenance-intensive infrastructure, but they still pay for them; d) their vehicles inflict an infinitesimal amount of wear and tear on the roads compared to cars. How many of the potholes now emerging from the melting snow and ice on our streets do you think were caused by bikes? Whole thoroughfares are out of commission for months at a time so they can be upgraded; do you really think cyclists are the ones causing that inconvenience?

5. I strongly doubt that if, starting tomorrow, cyclists miraculously and monolithically started being perfect human beings and following all the rules of the road and riding perfectly safely, the people who hate us would begin showing us even one iota of respect. After all, they’ve amply demonstrated that they barely understand the “rules of the road” and have such a warped perception of reality already, why should we expect that to change?

Right on cue, my blood pressure has been successfully raised… time for a jog.


Written by camcarlson

April 27, 2014 at 3:40 PM

Posted in Bicycling

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: