Tuesday, October 01, 2013

An open letter to cyclists


I’m not out to offend here, and I want to make it abundantly clear—I don’t hate people who ride bicycles. Some of my best friends ride bicycles. My uncle rides a bicycle. Shoot, I ride a bicycle sometimes. Granted, it’s a mountain bike and I ride it about five times a year to take my girls to the park. I have to attach a separate, covered bike to the back of it that the girls sit in so I can physically drag them to the park, and they fight the whole way there and demand that I go faster or slower depending on their mood. DAD FUN. Most importantly, however, I ride my bike on the sidewalk.*

Listen, I get it. You enjoy riding your bike for exercise, and where else are you going to ride except on the road? You can’t ride it around a high school track because that would be weird and you would get dizzy. And there is no such thing as a stationary bike or a spinning class at the local gym. Okay … that was rude. I didn’t mean that. Believe me I understand your lust for the open road. Possibly you moved to the Valley for the sole purpose of blowing the dust off your Turbo Bike 6000GTS 25-speed Hydro Max 2-Wheeler, draping yourself in spandex, strapping on your aerodynamic helmet, and doing your best Lance Armstrong Greg LeMond impression while experiencing desert mountain views. I’m not gonna hate on that.


But we need to have a conversation here.


There is a lot of open road (for now) where we live, and thus a lot of cyclists. It may technically be true that we share the road since there is an assigned bike lane; however, that lane is quite wide relative to the width of your bicycle, and many of you cyclists insist on riding your bike on the white line that separates the right car lane from the bike lane. May I ask: WHY? Why do you do this? WHY?


When you get together with your biking friends for a Sunday morning ride, why do think it’s okay to ride side-by-side? The bike lane is meant for one bike. Do you realize I am in a car and that car > bike in both physics and ownership of the road? FORM A SINGLE FILE LINE.


Again, I am okay with sharing the road. But I believe that roads, generally speaking, were paved with taxpayer money for the purpose of commerce, not so that you could get your calorie burn on. You should, I believe, show some humility on the road. While it is no doubt hard work, cycling is a leisure activity, and me trying to get home in my car with two screaming kids after spending an hour at Target is NOT a leisure activity, and you should get out of my way.


While I harbor no animosity toward cyclists, regardless of everything mentioned here, I cannot say the same for my wife. You will never see her as annoyed as when a cyclist is affecting her ability to drive, and there is one particular local cyclist who inspires her rage like no other.


He is always shirtless, no helmet, and can often be seen riding on the road that leads into our development. He also has eyes in the back of his head, and if he senses you approaching in the right lane in your motor vehicle, he will angrily wave his hand in a motion that demands you get in the left lane. If you don’t—and we don’t—you will see him shake his fist at you (and sometimes worse) in your rear view mirror. I can tell the second my wife gets home if she’s had an encounter with shirtless cyclist guy because she will scream, "I SAW HIM!" as she walks through the door and also smoke will be coming out of her ears.


I’m not saying all cyclists are like shirtless cyclist guy—again, my uncle is a cyclist, and he is nice—but I think it’s important we reach a common ground here. That common ground is the street, and it’s for cars. Thank you.


*My mom told me, before publishing this, to "check the law" because in New Jersey it's illegal to ride your bike on the sidewalk. I never checked the law, but if that is indeed the case in Arizona as well, GET AT ME, SHERIFF JOE.

Note: This column appears in the 10/3 issue of The Glendale Star and the 10/4 issue of the Peoria Times.

4 comments:

Bill said...

As someone who has been riding his bicycle more of late - though primarliy for transportation purposes (I consider it a bonus that I'm also getting exercise in the process, but if I just want exercise and not, for instance, go to my mother's house in the process, I'll do something else)...I wholeheartedly agree with your assessment of many bicycle riders. I try hard to not be like that kind or rider.

For me, the order of where to ride my bike are...
1) Bike lane - and within this lane, as far to the right as possible. (If there's a bike lane on whatever road I'm on, the list ends here.)
2) Sidewalk. (Illegality would surprise me, given my feeling that bike riders are more pedestrian-like than car-like.)
3) If neither a bike lane nor sidewalk exists, then fine, I'll ride on the road, extremely humbly, and again, as far to the right as possible.

Also, a few weeks ago the wife and I took a drive up north, and I was amazed that on Route 87...or as the locals might call it, "THE 87" as they place a definite article in front of a highway number for no reason...I was amazed to see several pairings of riders going double-file, well into the right driving lane of a curvy, 50-MPH road where you're almost right on them before you see them. So as not to scare them or cause them to crash, I'll wait until I'm past them before honking...but I do honk. They just have to know this is unacceptable, and I have to hope that if enough people honk they'll start to think, "Hmm, maybe I'm actually in the wrong here."

mkenny59 said...

Godspeed with your bike-car justice, my friend. Godspeed. Also, thank you for the comment! You support means a lot considering you are a cyclist yourself. If it weren't for the government shutdown, we could take this fight to City Hall.

GCA said...

I'm a cyclist with all the gear, though my riding has declined over the last couple years. Cyclists are considered the same as motorists in Maryland too. They have to ride in the same lanes and obey the same rules as vehicles. When I ride on the open road, I try to stay right on the line or on the outer side of it whenever possible. (no bike lanes here - shoulder is grass where I ride). I have been in groups where there's one guy who likes to cruise in the opposing traffic lane. But most of them try to call out "Car back!" when traffic is within sight, and then move to more single file formations. Drivers are generally courteous and careful except for the occasional redneck jerk in a pickup truck...

mkenny59 said...

Thanks, GCA, for your comment! I lived in Baltimore a few years, and their traffic patterns and generally road structure is AWFUL so I'm not surprised they don't have car lanes and expect bikes and cars to share the road. What could go wrong? Anyway, you seem like a serious cyclist who shares the road accordingly and I appreciate that. I guess, in the end, my "shirtless cyclist guy" is your "redneck jerk in pickup truck," so we are all the same.