It is springtime and the roads and bike paths are choked with cyclists training for all of the various tours and races that are coming up this summer. I am a cyclist. I come from a family of cyclists. I have three brothers, all of whom raced as amateur cyclists at some point in their lives. Although I have never raced a bike I have been riding the roads on my bike for 42 years and I have logged tens of thousands of miles over that time. I have ridden the majority of the total miles of mountain highways in the state of Colorado. All this is to say that what comes next is not coming from the mouth of a rank amateur who has no experience with the confrontations that take place between cyclists and drivers.
Jon Weimer wrote a letter to the Denver Post today in which he took up the common complaint about rude cyclists and the need to give them traffic tickets for their violations of the law. He wrote, "I am all for establishing better protected bikeways in the Denver area. However, along with the privilege of obtaining more access for bicyclists should come responsibility on the part of bicyclists, an attribute of which I see precious little. Coasting through stop signs and stop lights, going the wrong way on a one-way street, riding three or four abreast on a narrow road or street, and riding down a sidewalk at breakneck speed are all too common...there isn't a day that goes by that I don't see at least one motorist being pulled over by the police,while I've yet to see a bicyclist stopped by the police."
I understand Jon's frustration. Cyclists are jerks. All cyclists are totally depraved individuals who are incapable of doing anything but sinning and who believe the entire world revolves around themselves. Add to that the pride that comes along with the sense of being the next Lance Armstrong and we have a perfect prescription for confrontations between arrogant jerk cyclists and motorists. I see cyclists behaving with great disrespect and rudeness for motorists all the time. Cyclists will purposely delay cars by the way they ride and then engage in the practice of obscene gestures when the motorist finally manages to fly past them on the road. Cyclists swear at motorists, and other cyclists, all the time. They are an arrogant, selfish, hate-filled group of idiots for the most part.
That having been said I must hasten to point out that people who drive cars are not immune from the impact of the doctrine of total depravity. Drivers are equally capable of arrogance, anger, hatred and contempt for those they see riding bicycles on the roadways. Given the fact that most drivers fly into an immediate rage when the car in front of them is one nano-second late in accelerating after a red light changes to green it is not a surprise to discover that they also are quick to fly into a rage when they have to slow down and lose precious seconds while attempting to pass a cyclist riding along the side of the road. I have been sworn at, cursed, called unimaginable names about my alleged sexual practices, hit, had things thrown at me and forced off the road by one fellow in a large truck who came completely off the roadway in his attempt to hit me while I stood beside my bike taking a photograph. So when it comes to sinfulness both cyclists and drivers are guilty.
There is one difference between the two groups however. Of the two groups I believe cyclists are the dumbest. If a confrontation takes place between a cyclist and a motorist we all know well in advance who is going to win. It is not physically possible for a car and a bike to tangle and for the cyclist to come out on top, unless you mean unconsciously sprawled out on top of the hood of the car. Despite this rather obvious truth cyclists continue to confront and, in many cases, provoke drivers. I just don't get it. So let me tell you a little bit about my approach to cycling and my relationship with those who are sitting behind the wheel of an SUV weighing thousands of pounds and coming at me at 70 miles per hour.
My goal, whether I am driving my tiny little car at a speed equal to or less than the posted speed limit or riding my bike on the roadway is to get and stay out of your way. I am never in a hurry. You are always in a hurry. I am not an important person. You are a very important person. I get it. The world really does revolve around you and I am satisfied with that truth. That is why I have made it my goal to never, ever delay you, if it is within my power to do that.
When I am on my bike and I have an interaction with a motorist I seek to do everything I can to make it so that the motorist does not have to do anything to react or compensate for my presence. I often ride a bike path near my home that intersects various roadways as it meanders along the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. When I approach those intersections I scan the roads looking for cars and, if I find one, I adjust my speed so that I will arrive at the intersection either before or after the motorist arrives. My goal is to make it so that the motorist does not even know I am there. My goal is to do nothing to hinder the progress of the motorist in any fashion. Even if I am out doing a hard ride and close to setting a personal best for that day I will often stop completely, at least a hundred yards away from the intersection, and allow the car to pass before I enter the intersection. My goal is to be invisible to motorists and I can usually accomplish that goal.
There are times however where I become visible to cars. One day a couple of years ago I had a most interesting ride. I was riding the aforementioned bike path as I approached an intersection. I noticed that there was a cop sitting in his car on the other side of the intersection. The legal thing for me to do at that point, since I was riding on a path and not the road, would have been to stop at the intersection, push the button on the traffic light and wait for it to turn before proceeding. I could see cars coming which would be required to stop for me while I crossed the road but if I sped up just a little bit I could cross the road without having to hinder traffic at all. I sped up. As I crossed the intersection the cop turned on his bull-horn and rather nastily yelled at me for not stopping. He did not issue me a ticket but the fact that I had managed to not impede the flow of traffic was lost on him.
Later that day I was almost back home when I came to a four-way stop sign. The cops words were still ringing in my ears. There was another car approaching the four-way stop. Under normal conditions I would have blown through the stop sign so the car would not have to waste even a second waiting for me to come to a complete stop. Okay, I will admit it. I was mad that the cop had yelled at me so I followed the law and came to a complete stop. That forced the car to have to lose a second or two as he waited for me to stop and start up again. As he came by me he rolled down his window and gave me a fine cursing out for the fact that I stopped and delayed his progress. As usual, I kept my eyes forward and ignored him. After venting his anger upon me he accelerated away.
I have an open comment for Jon. Jon, when I hop on a sidewalk or go through a stop sign or go the wrong way down a one-way street I do it to avoid coming into contact with people just like you. My goal is to avoid you at all costs. So please don't call me a criminal for the fact that I consider you to be more important than myself and the fact that I modify my behavior, to my loss, to make your life easier. Oh, and by the way, I know lots of cyclists who have received tickets for running stop signs or red lights. I have also been the subject of radar while riding my bike and, although not given a ticket, I was pulled over and warned for doing 25 mph in a 20 mph zone. The fact that I was going 5 mph over the speed limit in order to make myself invisible to the cars in the area was lost upon the cop who pulled me over.