Me and Jackie O

Let there be no confusion, I am an (well not an) advocate and (but most definitely an) ally (in the most generous definition of the word) of any and every person who decides to take to the streets on a bicycle. The commitment to clean air, the ozone layer, reducing gridlock and personal health are examples to us all. I believe that all major cities that are worth a damn, should have dedicated bike lanes so that bike riders and even bicycle cops can move about the city safely.

So it saddens my heart when a member of the biking community doesn’t feel like I have their best interests and safety in mind. Take for instance this lady I may or may not have almost run into yesterday.

I’m taking a short cut home to avoid some of the traffic of rush hour. I’m cutting through a fairly nice neighborhood by Rice University. It’s a neighborhood, so there’s practically a stop sign at every other intersection. Being the attentive and courteous driver that I am, I note and obey each traffic sign without taking in to much scenery.

So imagine my surprise when I see this Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis wannabe riding some vintage bike, with her big shades, and scarf waving behind her head glide into the intersection with no cares needed. I had to stop short, as I was pulling into the intersection after being stopped at a stop sign to avoid an accident.

She wrinkled her brow and turned right onto the street I was heading down all in one clean motion. I watched her pull to the side and prepared to hear some obscenities hurled at me. My windows were already down, as I was playing something belligerent at volumes not really acceptable for a man my age, but I rolled by and overheard her say something about “YOU HAD THE STOP SIGN!”.

I was emotionally confused for several reasons:

– I could have hit and severely injured and possibly killed this woman.
– I could have just injured this woman.
– My cat like reflexes allowed me press the brake in time.
– I just saved this woman’s life.
– Was this my fault?
– Or did she just roll through the intersection all willy nilly?
– Why is she screaming at me?

You’re right Jackie O, I did have the stop sign, and I had the feeling of wanting to tell her that I might not have seen her due to my inattentiveness behind the wheel, and that I was truly sorry for scaring you and almost ending your life, so when I spoke I tried to be as gentle as possible when I said, “SHUTUP!” and continued listening to whatever belligerent nonsense I was listening to before I almost ran into Jackie O.

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Man vs Machine

I had an idea for a post about a month ago regarding the first day of school.  It was a mildly vitriolic rant against inconsiderate driving, poor planning by school officials and the general stupidity of spoken and unspoken traffic laws that we all throw out the window.  But too much time has passed, and the inspiration to write about that has come and gone.

Bet you’re wondering why that trailer for An Inconvenient Truth is up there?  It just a reminder that we are sending this world to h-e-double hockey sticks in a handbasket.  So in order to combat the further destruction of Planet Earth we must take steps to ‘go green’.

One way to help the environment is to ride your bike to work.  In general I am a supporter of green efforts; reducing your carbon footprint by bicycling to work or wherever you need to go is a great way to be environmentally responsible.  However, as a driver of a minivan with a need to get to places in a little bit of a hurry I need to cyclists to literally stay in your own lane.

Now I don’t know about you, but as a youth I was told that when you ride your bike, you make sure that you are out of the way of all motorized vehicles.  I think  it’s a good rule.  What I like about it is that it takes into the consideration of the safety of the bike rider as well as the insurance premium / manslaughter prosecution / wrongful death lawsuit of the driver.  It’s a classic win – win.

Problem is, bike riders don’t necessarily think like I think.  In fact, avid bike riders, ones who might actually commute to and from work on a bicycle seem to prefer to ride in the street….with cars….as cars.  Obvious environmental benefits and safety hazards aside, let’s get to the heart of the problem.  No, it’s not that these people are doing a good thing for the environment.  And no, it’s not that bike riders need more bike lanes.  (even though they do) The heart of the matter is that you, holier than thou bike rider, are slowing down traffic.  Slowing down myself, and dozens of other drivers as they try to get where they need to get without killing someone.

look at this guy

look at this guy

Look at this guy.  In the street taking up a perfectly good spot from a car.  There’s a sidewalk less than ten feet away from him.  Is he hallucinating?  Does he think he’s on a moped? a motorcycle? or even car?  Does he think that his backpack contains some battery pack that allows his human legs to acquire superhuman strength giving him the ability to keep up with the flow of motorized traffic? Even the most dedicated and expert of bike riders only move at a rate of 20 – 25 mph.  That speed impedes the progress of us car drivers.  It also increases fantasies of senseless sideswiping, random road rage and the occasional vehicular homicide.  It’s not always pretty behind the wheel.  But we don’t live in Amsterdam where 40% of traffic is made up of bike riders, we live in uh-murrka.  And here in the good ole you ess of ay, bike riding in the city streets is not gonna cut it.  So in the meantime let me suggest some safer alternatives: 1) stay out the street 2) use the sidewalk 3) buy a Prius!