The night before last I had a motorist in a big old Ford pickup scream at me as he roared past. I couldn’t hear him clearly over the diesel growl, but it sounded like he said “Get your @#%#$% @$$ on the bike trail!”
I found myself genuinely touched that he cared so much for my safety that he actually slowed his two ton vehicle down and warned me about the dangers of riding on the road. The salty language? I’m sure that was just added to emphasize how dangerous it is to cycle on the street, especially when people like him are out and about.
I don’t spend much time on the bike trail. I know this frustrates a subset of the motoring public who think that tax dollars have been ripped from their calloused, hard-working hands to give me this wonderful bicycle superhighway that leads to, well, nowhere, but there’s not much I can do about that other than explain reality whenever I get the chance, and reality is this:
Bicycling is no longer a hobby to me. It’s not an idle pursuit. It’s transportation. It’s how I get around.
That said, I don’t want to be unappreciative of those who think they’ve done a wonderful thing here, and so I thought it might be worth my while to spend just one evening on the bike trail to see if maybe I’m wrong about all this. I brought the GoPro along so that I could document my experience. Here’s what it looks like, mostly unedited.
If you watched the video, here’s the million dollar question:
Would the drivers of motor vehicles put up with such nonsense?
The answer is obvious. Of course not. Roads get improved all the time. Some thought goes into their design. Safety features are incorporated. Roads don’t suddenly end. If there are blind spots, they are removed. Crossing an intersection doesn’t require going through gates or navigating obstacle courses. Everything is set up to make passage as safe and convenient as possible.
The bike trail? LOL.
Bike trails are recreational playgrounds, not transportation corridors. They could be transportation corriders but they are not and until they are, they should be used for their stated purpose… which is recreation. Ironically, bike trail is a misnomer. Multi-use trail is more appropriate. They are built for a variety of recreational users…just like roads are built for a variety of transportation users.
Unfortunately for motorists, all of this means that those of us who aren’t recreating really belong on the streets. It means they’re going to have to tolerate us, just as they have to tolerate other users like the city bus, the Mack truck and the texting teen who hasn’t figured out that the light has been green for ten seconds.
As a vehicular cyclist, my sole objective is to arrive at my destination safely and with minimal inconvenience. I’m not looking for confrontation. I’m too tired to fight. All that pedaling is hard work.
But for whatever reason, a small subset of motorists is absolutely enraged that cyclists like me have the audacity to get in their way. It is not about slowing them down, for they will voluntarily slow down to tell us what they think of us.
No, what it is really about power and intimidation and bullying…nothing more. When it comes with threats to run us down (overt or otherwise) if we don’t get out of their way, then it descends to the level of criminal behavior. It needs to stop. Right now. Laws need to be enforced. We’re not going to go away. In fact, there are more of us saddling up every day.
I have this vision in my head. I don’t think it’s all that unrealistic. In it, I’m pedaling by an abandoned gas station. The last price posted was $14.95 gallon for regular unleaded. Weeds have overgrown the station. I see a lone cyclist coming the other way. He’s huffing and puffing and as he gets closer I realize it’s the guy who yelled at me. For a brief instant, I think about telling him to get his @#%#$% @$$ on the bike trail, but instead I just smile, wave and wish him a nice day as we pass.