Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Learn to Ride!!!

We (as in, all us cyclists and wannabes) all heard about the motorist in Oregon who followed a bad cyclist and shouted at him not to break traffic laws. Because he, the motorist, was a cyclist and advocate who was tired of lazy riders making him look bad. Word went out that he'd assaulted the cyclist, but I'm delighted/sad (?) to report that in fact, the cyclist assaulted him. And got in lots of trouble. Guess there's bad behavior on both sides.

Given the slightly chilling account of the cyclist using his bike to shatter the man's windshield, I'm glad I resisted temptation the other day. I followed two cyclists down Elm Street in New Haven in my car, and they were striking examples of the difference between riding with traffic and cruising along in the road. One in particular came close to having an irate driver pull alongside and yell at him for making us all look bad.

Just for the sake of context, Elm Street is a long, one way street with three active lanes, bus stops, many many pedestrians crossing, and parking. And the cars fly. In other words, not a place to mess around.

One cyclist clearly felt that lanes only exist for four-wheeled vehicles. He cruised around in his chosen lane on the right. When the bus in front of him slowed down, he pulled around the bus onto the dotted line between lanes about four inches from the passenger window of my car. When cars stopped for lights, he drifted along between so he could run the light. Meanwhile, his spandex twin was far behind due to his dedication to riding with the traffic. You know: staying in his lane, stopping with the traffic, signaling his intentions. He was following state guidelines for safe riding. I hope they eventually found each other. And I hope the annoying one didn't injure himself or anyone else.

The people I see riding on the sidewalk are annoying. But somehow they are less infuriating than this particular rider. Why ride in the road if you aren't going to bother to either ride properly or learn how to ride properly? I'll admit I wasn't that good at riding in traffic when I started, and I had to learn. But this person was too thoroughly equipped to be a beginner, so I can only assume he doesn't care.

I never take it personally when I'm stuck in traffic with a lousy driver. But cyclists are still a small group, and the behavior of one tends to be taken for the behavior of all by motorists. If he annoyed other drivers the way he was annoying me, they'll remember. And maybe take it out on another cyclist.

We need a cyclist version of the Pace car, just so those cyclists who can't be bothered can see that they are not necessarily the only ones riding. If they can't learn, cyclists are going to end up having to be licensed just like drivers. Maybe that's not a bad thing.

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