I was on the roads again last night, minding my own business and staying well to the right, when a car passed me within inches and the passenger yelled something that has become all too familiar as of late:
“Get out of the road!”
I must admit that by now this refrain has grown tiresome and I am no longer surprised by it. Instead, I have a retort ready which involves me shouting a suggestion involving human biology and an accompanying gesture which reinforces the message. It didn’t really solve anything, but it did make me feel better while no doubt further increasing the divide between drivers and cyclists.
This is my fourth summer of cycling in suburban Washington, DC (selected as 4th Best Cycling City in America by Bicycling Times Magazine) and there can be no doubt that the amount of rancor sent in my direction while cycling is at an all-time high. In previous summers, the occasional epitaph was hurled my way. Now it is a rare ride when I do not confront some sort of ingrate.
The attitude extends to otherwise rational people. When I mentioned the problem at work, one of my coworkers casually said, “Well, roads are meant for cars, not bicycles.” He categorically rejected my assertion that they were meant for all manner of conveyances, including cars AND bicycles. He was unimpressed by my history lesson, where I explained the first paved roads were actually made for bicycles since cars had not yet been invented. He cared little for foreign examples of bicycle-laden streets such as Amsterdam. He understood the delay caused by an average cyclist was measured in seconds, usually less than ten. He even agreed that cyclists were lawfully permitted to be on the road. He wasn’t terribly surprised to learn that shouting and horn beeping can be a jarring experience for a cyclist and might cause them to crash and injure themselves.
But, my coworker calmly reasoned, a driver could hardly be blamed for shouting at a cyclist. Roads are meant for cars. This was a college-educated, otherwise rational person, living and working in America’s 4th Best Cycling City.
I am doomed.
Mixed Use Path Update!
In related news, I need to alert you to a previously unidentified threat on mixed-use pathways. Loyal readers will recall my handy Field Guide to MUPs and I believe this needs to be added to my list of things that can kill you on a pathway:
Riding Lawn Mowers.
There I was late last week, riding on a MUP (to the delight of suburban drivers everywhere), when I came upon a worker cutting the small strip of grass that separated the MUP from the street. The grass was about knee-high and riding through the clippings was a bit of a nuisance. I noted the workman was wearing hearing protection. Between the headphones and the roar of the engine, it would be impossible to warn him of my approach. Naturally, the workman chose the precise moment that I was passing him to conduct a radically sharp U-Turn. Equally appropriate, he didn’t bother to look over his shoulder to see what was approaching. Why should he? After all, he was on a riding mower, the fastest thing moving on the MUP, faster than walkers, joggers, skate boarders and even roller bladers. He was faster than anything.
Except, of course, for bicycles. Sigh.
So I turned sharply into a lawn, narrowly avoided being hit by the machine, and even managed to stay upright and clipped in. It wasn’t Lance Armstrong cutting through a mountainside field in the 2003 TdF, but it was close.
So watch out for riding lawn mowers, kids. There still doesn’t seem to be a good solution for cyclists in suburbia: it’s either being screamed at by car drivers or risking a collision every few minutes on the MUP. Good luck and stay safe.