There are so many occasions for spontaneous anger when you live in a city that it is nearly impossible to recall or rank them all or to even remember the reasons for your wrath. But one group of citizens consistently outrages me, all the more so for their moral grandstanding. At times I have to acknowledge that my dislike of them is visceral and perhaps irrational. But it is no less real for that. I'm talking, of course, about bicyclists.
Bicyclists drive me nuts. In Philadelphia, as in cities across this great country, bicyclists routinely flout the law, riding on the sidewalk when it's convenient and holding up traffic in the street whenever possible. I can count on one hand the number of times I have seen a bicyclist at a stop sign or even a red light, or wait behind a car that is correctly stopped at such an intersection. Instead, the man or woman on the bicycle will weave between parked, stopped, and moving cars to gain a fractional advantage. Yet if an automobile so much as grazes a bicycle lane, all hell breaks loose.
Yes, I know that an automobile bears greater mass, velocity, and force than a bicycle and that the consequences of a motorist's mistake almost always outweigh those of a bicyclist's. But come on. Half of these people on bikes are just jerks. I'm especially bothered as a pedestrian, since half the time my sidewalk winds of becoming an impromptu bicycle lane. If my wife, baby, and I are walking two abreast, or worse, walking with a stroller, we wind up getting clipped or shoved aside by some jerk in a bike helmet who won't or can't ride on the street.
And please, spare me the spasms of virtue. I know it feels good to move around the city under your own power, and to tend and care for a shiny object. And you have your own catalogs with gear and shirts and knee pads or whatever. But there isn't anything virtuous about what you're doing. You want virtue? Ride the subway, or the number 13 trolley. D.on't get all holier-than-thou with people who drive or ride in cars just because they've chosen the most technologically advanced form of transportation available to the average citizen. Yes, cars have problems. Yes, parking stinks. Yes, we need to think more about global warming. But you are exactly 2/10 of a nose hair away from the occasional driver in terms of your carbon footprint, so cool your jets, bike boy.
In case you're wondering why I'm suddenly dumping on people who ride bikes around the city, the occasion or pretext is this article in the New York Times. Here are some of the outrages:
Feel free, Mr. Frederick, to be angry at the jerk with a green Ford parked in the bike lane. But, if you swerve at full speed into a lane of traffic, don't be surprised when the automobiles next to you don't immediately stop to let you through. Did you stop and wait and look for a safe way around when you saw, probably from some distance, that your lane was blocked? No, you didn't. That's what the rest of us have to do when somebody double-parks. Which, by the way, happens a lot.
James Frederick was in Manhattan cycling west in the Prince Street bike lane on a recent morning when a green Ford parked in the lane forced him to swerve into the narrow roadway where cars and vans were rushing past.
“It’s kind of scary because the cars next to you just keep going,” said Mr. Frederick, 49, a messenger who lives in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood of Brooklyn. “The city just put this lane in a few months ago, but it’s not respected by drivers.”
In response, some cyclists have handed out fake but realistic-looking summonses to drivers in bike lanes, leading at times to arguments. Others said they have slapped stickers on cars that look like those pasted on vehicles that fail to make way for the Sanitation Department street sweepers.Well, we all love vandalism, and impersonating officers. Only a bicyclist would be so impressed with his or her moral superiority that they wouldn't see a problem with this, or would be so naïve as to be astonished that these practices lead "at times to arguments." I'm surprised they haven't resorted to slashing tires, or kicking cars, which has happened to me on three different occasions when I was trying to park in a metered space.
Ten years later, Mayor Edward I. Koch became frustrated when bike lanes that he had built on main thoroughfares like Fifth Avenue and Broadway, which were separated from motor vehicles by asphalt islands, were criticized by drivers and pedestrians and, even worse, ignored by many cyclists. As a result, he ordered that the islands be removed.There may be responsible safe cautious cyclists out there who take as much care with themselves and their machines on the roadways as I do when I'm a pedestrian, a motorist, or a passenger on public transit. But, when push comes to shove, cyclists are just as ready to flout the law and put themselves in danger as anyone else in this crazy-ass city.
Get over yourselves, cyclists. As Stephen Colbert would say, you're on notice.
P.S.: Welcome, many referred readers. Had I known that so many people would read this post, I would have argued it differently, plugging holes and making needed concessions, but that ship has sailed. I do want to add, though, since there's been confusion on this point, that I don't own or regularly drive a car. My frustration with bikes is mostly borne out in my pedestrian experience, but in the war between drivers and cyclists, have about the same mixture of sympathy and frustration with both. (Maybe I'm just jealous.) So, instead of referring to me as "idiot motorist" or "dumbass driver," if you would call me "that douchebag who walks and rides SEPTA everywhere" I would be much obliged.
Thanks for coming, and if you're at all interested in anything else I write about, please stick around. Otherwise, in one week, I will write about why I hate puppies.