Wednesday, July 23, 2014

On Riding A Bicycle

Most summers I ride my bicycle to work quite a bit.  I do that as it forces me to get a bit of exercise, it saves on the use of diesel fuel, and because I just like doing it. This year, however, I got around to that for the first time today.  I didn't get a chance earlier as it seems the City of Casper and the State of Wyoming has determined to rip up every street I might conceivable wish to ride on this summer, simultaneously.  On my way here today, for example, I went through two construction zones.

British Army bicycle, World War Two.

I have noticed more intrepid bicyclists riding through the highway construction zone near my house, so not all have been deterred.  In watching them, and in riding this morning, I've been reminded by some of the odd behavior bicyclists exhibit, and which motorist also exhibit in regards to them.  Only a minority of each exhibit these traits, but still, its interesting.

The dangerous motorist exceptions.

One thing that riding a bicycle causes you to encounter are the dangerous motorist, of which there are two types. The Super Courteous Motorist, and the Super Aggressive Motorist.  This morning, I encountered the Super Courteous Motorist.

People of this type, when encountering a bicycle stopped at an intersection, will choose to yield their right of way even it means getting everyone killed in the process.

That's what I encountered this morning.  I was stopped on a quiet residential street I take that intersects a very heavily traveled street. All I have to do is what a car, or a pedestrian, would do, which is wait for a break in traffic.  It's not a long wait.  Still, some motorist came to a screeching halt on the busy street nearly causing a fast moving car behind her to nearly plow right into her rear end.  She simply parked there in the street, with cars whipping around here, expecting me to proceed out into traffic.  I'm not going to do that, as she's the only party yielding and the same rules of the road that apply to cars, apply to me.  Finally, I had to get her moving again by repeatedly waiving her on, while other motorist went right around her.  I suspect she was probably insulted by my refusal to bike out into heavy traffic to validate her courtesy.  Still, it's not a very thoughtful action in the true sense. She was very nearly injured by the fact that a car behind her had to avoid crashing into her, and I would have been injured had I taken her offer up.

The opposite of this is the person who seemingly takes personal exception to somebody riding a bike.  They're not going to yield an inch, not even to give you a little more room when you are already over the fog line.  Doggone it, if they can't be bothered to ride, you can't either, even if it means blasting by you when they know they're close.

The arrogant bicyclist exception.

Just as there's a Super Aggressive Motorist, there's the super aggressive bicyclist.  These people know they have the same legal rights as automobiles, and they're going to use them. They ride in the travel lane no matter what.

The problem here is that bikes are actually not all that easy to see, and if a motorist doesn't see them, it's bad for the bicyclist.  Some bikers just won't acknowledge that for some odd reason.  As an example of this, the other day on my way to work I fell behind a bicyclist who absolutely refused to yield to vehicles.  We were in a 40 mph zone at the time, and he was riding fast, but not all that fast. Still, I slowed down and simply rode behind him. When the road divided and became two lanes, he kept it up. At that point the speed limit drops to 30 mph, but most people keep on going 40 mph.  I dropped my speed, and a person pulled out to pass me but did notice him.

What's the point of that.  If you get hit by a car, you're doomed. Wake up.

The funky bicyclist.

It's been a feature of American life since the late 1970s that anything the boomers take up comes with a new set of clothing no matter how long people have undertaken the activity.  So it is with bicycling.

Bikes first entered the American scene in numbers in the 1890s, where they were really the vehicle that really liberated people from what they cold do on foot in the cities.  Bikes have been around ever since, but it wasn't until the 1990s that people thought they had to dress like they were in the Tour de France to ride a bike.

If you look at photos from any era prior to that, you'll find a lot of people dressed in every day clothing riding bikes.  Men in suits, students in their day clothes, even soldiers in their uniforms.  Now people seem to think they have to wear a jersey and tight shorts.

Well, being a contrarian, I'm having none of it.  I've ridden a bike to work in the summer for 25 years and I wear my office clothes doing that.  Some days that means a tie.  I'm not going to ride in the Tour de France but I'm just as much of a bicyclist in the traditional sense as those guys.  I can wear what I want, and frankly a lot of people who don't race bikes (I get it for bicycle racers) could dress a little more normally as well.

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