Most days that I ride my bike there are good things that happen. But some days, there are things that just make me a bit awestruck about the human condition (and not necessarily in a good way).
Take today for example. I’m riding along on my electrified Big Dummy in the nice sleepy town of Carrboro, NC. I’m doing a reasonable clip down a two-lane road (no bike lane), around 20 mph, because I’m late for a meeting. I’m coming up to an intersection, and this big dude comes flying out on his bike, without stopping at his stop sign (my direction had no stop sign), and proceeds to turn right then take the lane in front of me. Ok, slight bonehead move, but no problem, I cruise around him to avoid slamming into him. A few blocks later, I stop at a red light. Here comes “the dude” again, this time cruising right through the red light I am waiting at.
It always makes me a bit angry when I wait at a light and some other cyclist cruises through. My reason for this is that I think it is important for cyclists to give a good impression to drivers, because if we act like regular vehicles, we are more likely to get the respect that other vehicles on the road get. The number one complaint I hear from non-cyclist drivers is that cyclists never obey the rules and do stupid things. In many drivers’ minds, that is an excuse for doing obnoxious things back to cyclists. I’m not saying that it is right, I’m just making an observation. And in a war of obnoxiousness, the cars are going to win – they are a lot bigger and more deadly. So, I try to counter that, by showing that cyclists can actually manage to follow the rules and act like a regular vehicle on most occasions. I find that I get far more courteous treatment from the drivers around me, when I do that.
So, back to the story. It is not long before my light turns green and I catch back up to “dude.” In the past, I’ve on occasion made some comment as I went past people about their red light running. However, I’m not perfect. I make mistakes. So these days, I’m trying to not be “holier than though,” so I just keep my mouth shut. I figure that yelling at people or lecturing them is not going to be conducive to them seeing my point of view. (So instead, I write on the blog, where there’s actually opportunity to discuss my point of view without it being a yelling match). Anyway, I cruised past the guy, by moving into the main traffic lane (he was in the bike lane), and I thought, that was that. Hopefully he’ll figure it out someday.
Now, get this. After I go past, he yells a lecture at me: “let other cyclists know when you’re passing!”. Ok, dude, come on. Do you expect every single car passing you to yell? It’s not like I went past him inside his bike lane with 2″ to spare. No, I was at least 3 feet out from him by going into the main traffic lane (there were no cars, I checked before entering the lane). I think he was just angry because a woman on a big cargo bike was passing him for the second time. But anyway, that was enough to set me over the edge. I yell back “don’t run red lights!”.
I figured we are fair and square. He lectures me, I lecture him. Enough, right? No. I get to the next red, where I stop, then turn right. As I get going, he pulls up to the red and again says loudly: “It is common courtesy to let other cyclists know when you’re passing.” Hey dude, I get your point, did you get mine? I yell back “It is common courtesy to not run red lights!”
This interaction has me baffled. Where does this dude get off lecturing me about how I pass him (in a perfectly legal way, like any other traffic would pass him, giving him plenty of room)? This is a guy who ran a stop sign to turn right in front of me (and I would have hit him if I hadn’t moved out into the lane), and he passed me while I was waiting at a red, then he feel justified in lecturing? Sure, it would be courteous to say something to cyclists as I pass, and I often do if I have to pass closely. But if I’m 3-4 feet away in the main traffic lane, I feel no such compunction. But the bigger point is this: here is a guy who violated the law twice, and endangered my own physical health once, and he has the gall to tell me this?
(Shake head). Sometimes I pity our race. It is no wonder we keep getting ourselves into problems like financial meltdown/peak oil/war/whatever. So many people do not have one ounce of introspection. And that’s really all I would hope for. Again, I am not perfect – but at least when I do something, I think about what I did, and what effect it might have on others. And I try to use that to better guide future actions. Why isn’t that one simple skill taught in our families or our schools?