Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Bicycling: Cars and Bikes Are Different

A lot of my posts seem too obvious to bother writing. And yet, people out there don't seem to think the way I do. Or perhaps they've never bothered to cogitate a little about them.

Cars and bikes are different. Cars can go faster and cause more damage than bikes can.

When I'm in a car, and another car does something erratic, I'll lay on my horn and yell at him if I think it'll get the driver to pay attention to what he's doing. If a car is tailgating me for going only 5mph above the speed limit, I'll tap my brakes to let the driver know what he's doing is assholish, and if that doesn't get him to stop, I'll gently brake and make the tailgater suffer even more. On the flipside, if a woman is in front of me and is going 10mph under the speed limit, I'll probably tailgate her.

Why do I do this? Am I a traffic cop? No. I just think that the other drivers around me are even worse drivers than I am (and I know I'm bad). I want to make them aware that they aren't doing the correct things, and that they are endangering me or hindering me.

Drivers need to realize that they can't do the same thing to bicyclists, because cars and bikes are different.

When you're driving and a bike cuts you off, it's fine to honk. At that point, the cyclist is aware of you and aware that you have a legit grievance. Also, since the cyclist cut you off, you are behind her, and thus she is more safe and can handle a honk.

But I can think of no other time when a car should honk or accost a bicyclist. At any other time, the cyclist does not need your grief. It is dangerous enough biking on the road; your anger and your expression of that anger greatly increases the danger you are putting the cyclist in.

Do not pass bikes closely (by law you need to give two feet at least). And do not yell at bikers while you pass them. If you are both in motion, the cyclist is very, very frightened of the possibility that she will crash into you or that you will distract her from the arduous task of biking. This is why I yelled at the guy who almost killed me in October.

Don't honk at a bike when it's going through a red light. I don't do this any more*, but one time last year I did**. I stopped, looked, saw no one coming, started to go through, and midway a car honked at me. I almost fell off of my bike, looking to see if a car was coming at me, but none were; it was just some douchebag*** who felt the need to endanger me even more than I was already endangering myself.

Don't stop short in front of bikes or tailgate bikes or otherwise physically accost bikes. This is totally illegal.

Please, even though you have to share the road with us, please remember that, in your cars, you are much more dangerous than we bikers will ever be.

Drivers, would you wave a machete at someone who cut in front of you in line? Would you point a gun at an unarmed man who simply stood in the sidewalk, (unintentionally or intentionally) blocking your way? Bikes and cars are unequal weaponry, and using your car to intimidate bikers is unethical.

*I am the most non-scofflaw biker I know. It's hard to bike with other bikers, since they all go through the red lights and I don't.
**In my defense, it was the first time I had ever ridden down Wisconsin Avenue and dealt with the entitled f*cks who were nearly clipping me every chance they got. I thought it best to get where I was going in the least time possible.
***Definite douchebag. As he passed me after his light turned green, he said all snidely "You ran a red light back there." Then he stopped at the next light. I went up to him, and tried to have a conversation with him, but he stared straight ahead, would not look at me.

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