Y Marks the Spot: Stay in Your Lane

Assholes.

 

I really like the town where I live now, but there are two aspects of Bellingham that I could do without.  The first, being the difficulty of procuring cheap liquor, is more of a Washington state issue.  The second, being an arrogant dickhead bicyclist culture, feels a bit more home grown.

Most times I notice the schmucks riding their wheels down the dead center of the city’s car lanes and I smile at the audacity.  The broad dressed like a jockey riding her old-timey steed through the left turn lane of one of Bellingham’s busiest and crappiest streets was actually kind of awesome.  Yet when I have somewhere to be in the early hours of a weekend morning and I end up turtling along in my car behind a parade of professional spandex-covered douchebags who have taken up the entire goddamn street, my blood starts to boil.  In these moments I think of a video I saw in which a car plows through a South American bike parade, and that usually gets me through long enough to veer onto a side street.  Still, I do sometimes curse America’s stringent vehicular manslaughter laws in the meantime.

However, my irritation at my new town’s bike culture run amok comes more from my being a bike rider myself.  I don’t really like driving my car, and $4 a gallon gas and expensive insurance makes my tendency to walk or bike if I can get away with it all the easier.

But I’m also an amateur student of science, and my years of armchair research in the field of bicycle studies has led me to the discovery that my bike is neither as big nor as fast as a car.  Add to this my lifelong paranoia about being run over from behind by one of those bigger, faster machines – a fear that, when I was eight, landed me in Bike Court for riding on the left side of the road, where I could at least see the cars coming.  Yes, Bike Court is something that exists.

This combination of science and dread has led to me adopting a simple rule for when I’m on my pedal horse.  If a street doesn’t have a clear, painted bike lane, I usually stay on the sidewalk.  I’m sure the true bicyclists of Bellingham, when they see me riding around in a state of such blatant cowardice, assume that I’m also a grown man who sits down to pee.  Whatever.

Lately, I’ve been hearing a few bike crusaders on the internet calling for a War on Cars, a concept that is pretty fantastically ridiculous even beyond the basic truths that cars are useful and America is a big place.  If this oh so bold stance came from a line of thinking that included (or at least mentioned) mass transit, I’d be more okay with it, but the rhetoric of the War on Cars people just makes them come off as spoiled dickhead bicyclists who think that they’re the center of the universe and think that that cars can just idle along behind their puttering asses.  According to this prejudice, these helmeted revolutionaries would take the interstates if they could.

Sure, I absolutely support the creation of bike lanes everywhere, though the established structures of cities makes universal application impossible.  I’d like to be able to bike wherever I need to go.  I’d like to not be hit by a car, and I’d like to not run over a pedestrian (side note: how many pedestrians are calling for a War on Bikes?).  The thing is that these ideals don’t have to put bicyclists at cross purposes with car drivers.  Calling for a war on competing forms of transportation is both silly and dramatic – unless the form of transportation is a Segway, in which case it’s totally justified.

It’s been an increasingly accepted idea that streets are meant to be shared between cars and bikes, and I agree.  But when I’m driving to work on a bleak Saturday morning and I have to drive 15 miles an hour behind a four-wide bike parade, well, they’re the ones who aren’t sharing.  I have the prejudice that more than a few bike snobs are the sort of people who think that the average car driver is this spoiled and loud creature who could care less about the rest of the world so long as he’s comfortable.  To those fulfilled bike snob stereotypes, I ask this: when your small, slow asses take up the entire street when they could easily and comfortably fit in a much smaller space, are you any different?

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