About a week ago, I had some errands to run around town. It was actually a lovely, albeit brisk, autumn day with a small amount of ice on some roadways from snow that had fallen a couple of days prior.
I think that this time of year might actually be my favorite for riding in many ways. It's cool (sometimes cold), but with a few layers on a sunny day it can actually be quite nice to get out on a bike. Plus, as I've mentioned prior, I have found motorists to be far kinder and frequently more aware when the weather turns cold, at least as a general rule.
On this particular day as I pedaled about town, one of my stops was to a store that recently opened in our currently-being-constructed mall. The mall itself is a bit of a hot topic locally, with some residents taking issue with the removal of the former indoor mall in favor of the outdoor one under way, as well as some being disappointed (to put it politely) about the types of stores going in to this new construction.
But, since I'm not much of a shopper anyway (unless it's related to bicycles), this hasn't been of great concern to me. I'm actually happy to see something being built that will hopefully get use and bring some tax dollars into the local economy.
improving paths to this location on heavily motorized travel roads. So, when I pedaled my way through the construction zone to the store I was needing to visit, I was unhappy to see that there were no bike racks anywhere to be found.
I was informed several years ago that bike racks were a requirement for any new construction taking place in city limits, so I was definitely surprised to see that none existed. It was especially disappointing because I was visiting a sporting goods retailer, which one would think would be more likely to push for bike racks outside their establishment.
But, I figured I'd wait to see what happens, as frequently racks tend to get installed at the very last point of construction. As you can see from the photo above though, there aren't a whole lot of options for locking up. So, my choices became a stop sign at the intersection, or one of the light poles. I opted for the light pole as it seemed a bit sturdier, despite it being a bit more awkward because of the cement barrier built up around it.
Suddenly, I was kicked out of my blissful utopia by someone screaming, "Get a car, you loser!" I looked around, wondering who this person was yelling at, only to come to the realization that he was speaking to me. I must've looked confused or lost because he continued his rant, "Yeah, you! Get a car!!" At which point he began to honk his horn like a stark-raving mad lunatic. By this time, the cross signal had changed and I was heading across the street and could no longer make out what this person was attempting to say to me, but I couldn't help but laugh as I crossed the road.
It's frankly not the first time someone has shouted at me about being on a bike, but I couldn't quite figure out what it was I'd done to upset him so much. I was following all the laws and rules, waiting at the red light. I'd pressed the cross button and waited for it to turn before proceeding. I was out of traffic, and honestly not in any way disrupting his day because he was heading in a different direction anyway.
Was it just my existence that had upset him? The fact that I was smiling and actually enjoying my day? Why was I automatically deemed a "loser," and furthermore why did he assume I don't have a car. Why would my not having a motorized vehicle make me a loser anyway?
As I reached the other side of the road and his signal had changed green, I could hear the engine revving and his screeching tires as he made his way around the corner in the opposite direction. I'll admit it was one time I was grateful to have so many cars around me as witnesses in case of some sort of incident, but as is usually the case in these moments, the yelling was about as bad as things became.
Still, as I pedaled (ironically, back to pick up our car which was being serviced) I couldn't help but have an imaginary conversation with this fellow. I always wish that these moments weren't so anger-filled and that I could have a rational conversation with people involved in these run-ins, in hopes of understanding what it is that upsets them, and hopefully having the opportunity to explain to him/her that there is nothing transpiring that in any way disrupts their life.
There seem to be the few who simply despise people on bicycles and the anger seems misplaced, in my opinion. More often than not anger arises due to traffic delays and if anything I am helping to alleviate this problem by being on a bicycle. I understand that there are always going to be those who are not courteous or don't follow the law, but the same can be said for motorists as well. If a car rolls a stop sign, no one rolls down their window to yell at them, but if I were to do the same on a bicycle, even if I look in all directions and am aware that there is no traffic coming, motorists seem to have need to yell at those on a bike because of this.
Perhaps some of this is born out of fear? I know some motorists who worry when they see a cyclist because they are concerned that the cyclist will suddenly weave or dart out into traffic. While I cannot assure anyone that a cyclist wouldn't do exactly that, I think as a general rule, most people on a bike are well aware that those in a car have the size and weight advantage and are not going to ride unpredictably because they do not have a death wish.
People on bicycles often seem to be perceived as second class citizens in many parts of this country as is evidenced through lack of bike parking at establishments, proper/adequate/safe bike infrastructure, as well as lack of laws to protect vulnerable road users from injury and/or death. The pervasive thought that those riding a bike are not paying for the roads has been proven time and again a faulty argument, yet I hear this as reasoning for not wanting bikes on roadways as well.
After many years of writing here and reading in other places, I still find frustration with the lack of urgency and speed in resolving problematic roadways that would allow all road users to get to destinations in peace, with ease of travel and safety for all. There are ways to solve these issues, but the progress always seems slow and at times non-existent, and I frequently wonder if change will take that anger away from some motorists who seem to feel rage for no real reason at all.
What do you view as the problem with your local roads (if any)? Could issues be simply resolved or will it take massive change over many years (or decades)? Have you encountered an angry motorist when you were not impeding traffic? What was your response?
Wishing you all a very Happy Thanksgiving (for those in the U.S.) and safe two-wheeled travels wherever you roam.