A few words about bikes.

Thanks to Jim for sending along the NYT story about the escalating war — not in the northern Caucasus, but perhaps right outside your window. It’s the one between cyclists and motorists, and since it’s obviously only going to get worse, I might as well state my manifesto and start the shooting war.

The story starts with the customary oh-my-god anecdote:

It seemed like a good idea at the time.

Save gas money, be environmentally correct, lose weight — just by biking to work. And so after two decades, Dan Cooley, 41, saddled up a silver 21-speed Raleigh in April to make the daily two-mile commute to his nursing job at a senior citizen center in Louisville, Ky. In four months, he lost 15 pounds. Way to go, Dan!

Friday morning, July 25, around 6:50 a.m., he was pedaling on a residential street, wearing his green hospital scrubs, when a Volkswagen roared out of a driveway in front of him. Swerving to avoid the car, Mr. Cooley cursed loudly and rode on.

The driver and his passenger cursed back. As Mr. Cooley pulled over to the sidewalk, the car turned onto a driveway, knocking him off his bike. In Mr. Cooley’s narrative, the passenger, swearing, jumped out and pummeled him. Then he got back into the car, which zoomed away. Mr. Cooley lay prostrate on the sidewalk, bloodied, with a concussion and a torn ligament.

It’s never gotten that far with me, knock wood, although I’ve had that exact same experience — the sudden swerve to avoid a car — approximately a thousand times. Usually I don’t swear. I say STOP STOP STOP LOOK OUT CAN’T YOU SEE ME and maybe that’s why no one has felt the need to pull over and kick my ass, but there’s always tomorrow.

Here are my baseline beliefs when I roll out of my driveway on two wheels:

1) I want to avoid cars in every way possible.
2) In nearly all car/bike collisions, the bike loses.
3) Bikes don’t need to follow every rule of the road that cars do, at least not all the time, especially if a little law-breaking accomplishes objective No. 1, above.

Let’s start with the first two, because they govern the rest of it. If you’re a motorist, I’m going to avoid all contact with you. That means I will choose a quiet residential street over a main artery. If a main artery is unavoidable, I’ll ride on the sidewalk. Of course I go slower when I do. Of course I’m mindful of pedestrians. And yes, I know it’s illegal, but I’ll take the risk of a ticket over an accident every day, because see No. 2, above. I don’t want to die, or spend the rest of my life in a wheelchair, or even a few weeks in a cast. If I always ride in a way that puts self-preservation uppermost in mind.

I also run stop signs now and then. Some of them, anyway. I have my reasons. Rules of the road were overwhelmingly written with cars in mind. Cars are big, heavy and deadly. Cars can’t stop as fast as I can. Drivers can’t see what I can. Even with an iPod, I can hear more. On my residential street grid, I frequently roll up on four-way stops. If I can see deserted roadway in three directions, I run the stop. What is the point of stopping? The intersection is empty. There’s rarely even a pedestrian around. Who can I hurt? What’s the harm? If a car is closer than half a block, I slow down and look for a visual cue from the driver to go ahead, and I usually get it. But trust me on this: I am never going to put myself at serious risk of injury if I can help it. See #2.

Sometimes a motorist is behind me when I run those stop signs, and sometimes I get a glare when they catch up and pass. Damn bicycles! Sometimes the glare comes when the motorist is talking on the phone, which is sort of a hoot, speaking of safe driving hint hint. It’s times like this I recall that while nearly all cyclists are motorists, most motorists aren’t cyclists and just don’t get it. It is to the motorist’s advantage to have nimble, two-wheeled me moving on ahead, rather than stopping for nothing and then starting up, wobbly, right in front of their car. I’m at my most unstable when starting from a dead stop, and neither one of us benefits from my instability. I wish more drivers understood this.

(And yes, I know it’s wrong, but as I said, I only do it when I’m alone on the road. I think of myself as a libertarian whenever I do so.)

I always obey rules of the road in traffic, however. I signal my turns, even, which is more than I can say for most drivers. I don’t text or talk on the phone, either. Here’s something else I do: If I come up to a red light, sometimes I’ll swoop up on the sidewalk and cross at the crosswalk as though I were a pedestrian. Drivers bitch about this, too, but again: I never do this if there are actual bipedal beings on the sidewalk or in the crosswalk nor in anything heavier than light traffic. I only do it if it’s clear, and I only do it to keep myself moving and in better control around cars. I don’t do it to thumb my nose at motorists, who are all less sweaty, better dressed, more comfortable and getting to their destinations faster than I am. The last time this happened, I did it after stopping the way I am supposed to. The last vehicle in line was a garbage truck, with a side-emitting exhaust and a diesel engine. Thought I was going to die. It felt entirely justified.

Also: Sometimes, if there’s a Supremes song on the iPod, I’ll sit up straight and ride no-handed for a hundred yards or so, the better to do the hand motions to “I Hear a Symphony.”

Speaking of music, I’m mindful of the iPod. A comfortable volume still lets in most traffic noise, which is important. But I remember something my friend Borden pointed out about radios, about how often they survive the worst crashes and continue to play. “There’s something so awful about bombing along, grooving to your favorite song, then crashing and having it be the first thing you hear after the glass stops falling. Your favorite song, forever associated with this lousy memory. Mocking you.” So true. If I check out in a bicycle crash, I hope the last thing in my ear isn’t Cheap Trick. This encourages me to keep the volume low.

So that’s me. If you see me out there, you might call me a scofflaw or a problem cyclist, but just know that I have my reasons for everything I do, and I’m not being an asshole on purpose. For what it’s worth, I’ve never ridden up beside anyone and slapped them on the fanny, the way a motorist did with me once. I never drove a golf cart on a bike path, the way golfers constantly do when they play on adjacent courses (hello, Foster Park). And I never was such a crappy golfer that my drive off the tee went wildly awry and came thisclose to hitting a certain middle-aged female cyclist who shall remain nameless.

I wish there were more bike paths and lanes. In Ann Arbor (of course), most of the major arteries that can accommodate one have a designated bike lane, and oh my god is that a wonderful thing. Of course, it wouldn’t help these people:

Will the Hatfields and the McCoys ever be able to coexist? Ground zero for such tensions may be Woodside, Calif. (population 5,600, 14 square miles), on the San Francisco peninsula, tucked in forested mountains. Its famous switchbacks are so narrow they are often unmarked by white stripes.

Woodside is host to hundreds of recreational cyclists on weekends. And on many weekdays, a peloton known as “the noon riders” — as many as 100 cyclists from Silicon Valley businesses riding during lunch break — blasts through.

“Mention the noon riders to anyone in town and you’ll see the blood pressure go up,” said Susan George, Woodside’s town manager. One day, she said, she rounded a bend and came upon them: “I slammed on the brakes and they swarmed around me, screaming and yelling obscenities. My heart was pounding. It was very scary.”

See, that’s just stupid. And wrong. And probably way too fast for me.

So let’s start the battle, eh? Take your shots.

A little bloggage: Laura Lippman will have the Sunday serial in the New York Times Sunday magazine, starting September 7, and boy are we thrilled for her. Also, for fans of her series, because “The Girl in the Green Raincoat” is a Tess Monaghan story, and? And she’s pregnant, Laura reports. That should be fun. Congratulations.

Jon Carroll, with an amusing story about bean burritos and the Perseid meteor shower. A column about farting that never uses the word, but still satisfies. Like a good fart.

This is old, but it’s amusing and has pictures of a lovely actress, so what the hell: Anne Hathaway’s Chic Revenge. (I’ve been looking for some version of that black coatdress my whole life. I guess it helps to have a stylist and a bottomless bank account, not to mention a slender form, long legs and…never mind.

And, of course, what we’ve been putting off reading all weekend: The world edges closer to chaos by the minute. Do your duty.

Posted at 8:20 am in Current events, Popculch |

36 responses to “A few words about bikes.”

  1. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on August 11, 2008 at 8:49 am

    Don’t talk on your iPhone while cycling, Nancy, and i think we can all agree on that. Otherwise, bikes should have presumed right-of-way. Always, everywhere.

    Around here, we have more bike trails than most counties (can you say abandoned rail? sure, sure you can), but a sad and persistent sight are grizzled older guys riding narrow, dangerous shoulders of busy, high traffic roads on very non-stylish bikes, no spandex a’tall on their frames.

    These are guys who have DUI-ed their way to full suspension and are trying to follow the law like few of their peer group bother. I’ll drive slowly, around or do whatever i can do not make those guys feel pressed, and one of them told me once they actually appreciate eye contact and a friendly wave, as long as we don’t expect a wave back (think gravel, dead possums, tires running low). They feel like the whole world knows they’re a three time moron demoted from car world to loser world, and (the reason i asked him) they actually feel better knowing a driver welcomes them on the road than hoping they really are invisible.

    Their numbers are increasing every year, especially in the summer and fall. Anybody else see this in their area, especially around industrial parks and other employment centers, or is it just our judges amping up the punishment for repeat DUIs?

    1332 chars

  2. Dan said on August 11, 2008 at 8:56 am

    I have performed most of the maneuvers you mention (except for the crosswalk thing – that’s just crazy), and I’ll probably do them again, but there are safety issues with all of them. Your best bet is to take the lane and follow the rules. Be visible and be predictable.

    However, the bigger problem is that by taking these liberties in the presence of non-cyclists, it enforces the view held by many that bicycles don’t belong on the roads – we’re not part of the club. Bike lanes and bike paths are meant to segregate riders from the motorized set, but they don’t cover enough of any area to be useful for anything other than recreation. Unless your home, workplace, and shopping areas are located near the multi-use path that runs along the river or lakefront in your town, you will have to use a street or two.

    By following the rules, cyclists can assert their place in the transportation system, and fewer drivers will be compelled to act in the crazy and violent ways described in the NYT article.

    1013 chars

  3. James said on August 11, 2008 at 10:11 am

    I can’t believe you can rationalize not stopping for stop signs. This is one of my pet peeves, as you may know.

    No, the rules are for vehicles on the road, not just cars.

    It’s a matter of respecting the rules of the road or not. Maybe you’re qualified to make these decisions, but if you don’t stop, some idiot’s going to think it’s ok to run a light at a busy intersection (actually, it’s the rare cyclist who stops for lights in this town).

    Following rules are what define us as a society. What you do in private trickles into the public sphere, eroding what little civility we still have.

    Yes, I know this makes me sound like a good little fascist, but when everyone is blatantly ignoring the polite rules that separate us from the lower beasts, obeying the rules actually makes me a mad crazy rebel.

    (whew! I feel better now…)

    939 chars

  4. coozledad said on August 11, 2008 at 10:15 am

    Bush done looked into Putin’s soul and seen..hisself.
    How is Bush like Neville Chamberlain?, Let the Neocons count the ways they can avoid speaking about it.
    There have long been warnings about what happens when the US military is bogged down in a two front war. Now we get to see what it looks like. With a shell of a military plainly struggling to meet logistical demands in theater while Halliburton outright robs it, Putin didn’t even need his intelligence services to help him with this calculation.
    Bush is a paper ass.

    533 chars

  5. john c said on August 11, 2008 at 10:17 am

    I only have a problem with bikers not making stop signs when I almost hit them. My biggest pet peeve is using the sidewalk at a high rate of speed. Our driveway is short and the cars just snug in, with the back ends right at the edge of the sidewalk. I can’t tell you how many times I or one of my children as strolled casually around the back of the car only to be almost creamed by a kid on a bike going, as my father would say, like blazes.
    If everyone rode like Nancy, things would be just fine.
    Now then, I’m waiting for a certain reaction to the above post. I don’t think I’ll see it, but will check in later.

    617 chars

  6. john c said on August 11, 2008 at 10:18 am

    By the above post, I don’t mean mine. I mean Nancy’s.

    53 chars

  7. nancy said on August 11, 2008 at 10:28 am

    Seeing as how James, aka Brother Jim, is a friend of ours, I’ll hold my fire. I even share his belief in what he calls “civil obedience.” Maybe you have to understand what our neighborhoods are like — prewar suburbs of gridded streets, most of them very lightly traveled. At 10 a.m. on a weekday morning after school starts, it’s easy to feel like the only person abroad in this world. Approaching one of these stop signs in a car, of course I honor it. On a bike, pfft. No apologies. It feels like dressing up for dinner at home — a nice gesture, perhaps, but one that just doesn’t matter enough.

    599 chars

  8. brian stouder said on August 11, 2008 at 10:31 am

    If you skipped James’ link, you must click it! It gave me my laugh of the day!!

    ONLY ‘Brother James’ could (essentially) call the Proprietress a bullet-headed lazy goofball, and get away with it!

    205 chars

  9. weepingsam said on August 11, 2008 at 10:44 am

    I will add a word from the third party to this war – pedestrians. Walking around Boston, I find bikes significantly more dangerous than cars (unless the driver is talking on the phone.) They run through stop signs, go the wrong way on one way streets, at the same time, through crowds of pedestrians – and you can’t hear them coming, unlike an MBTA bus, say… bike messengers might be the worst offenders, but they at least know how to handle their machines – some streets, all the bikers come bombing along regardless of people cars buses – I don’t know how they stay alive…

    On the other hand: in Cambridge, which has bike lanes, things seem to be a lot better. The bikes follow the rules – they ride in the street, not the sidewalk, they don’t endanger the pedestrians… car drivers don’t get any smarter though.

    821 chars

  10. Deborah said on August 11, 2008 at 10:45 am

    Interesting article about sharing the streets in NYC. http://transalt.org/files/newsroom/magazine/034Fall/18europe.html

    119 chars

  11. Terry WAlter said on August 11, 2008 at 10:50 am

    Nancy, shouldn’t you have one of those wide load signs when you’re riding? Nancy-thinking how she can get new iPhone to send out daggers via internet. Or perhaps a little white powder in an envelope…

    203 chars

  12. nancy said on August 11, 2008 at 10:52 am

    The pedestrian thing in big cities is a real problem. I always come back to the personal-safety issue. If I hit a pedestrian, we’re both going down, and I don’t want to go down. That’s my bottom line.

    The other thing is the startle factor. When I ride the sidewalks on, say, Mack Avenue, and I’m coming up behind some strollers, I first slow way down. Then I make sure they know I’m coming, usually with my voice. A person who doesn’t know you’re behind them will jump when you pass, and they may well jump into you.

    iPods complicate all this. It’s one reason I ride a cross bike and not a road model with the skinny tires — if I can’t get their attention, I’m going on the grass.

    688 chars

  13. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on August 11, 2008 at 11:04 am

    That’s what a sweet sounding little bike bell is for — my son has a one inch across little brass beauty that sings out fifty feet ahead, but doesn’t annoy (and he likes to zing it often enough i can sit reading on the porch and vaguely have a sense of where in the neighborhood he is.

    285 chars

  14. colleen said on August 11, 2008 at 11:34 am

    Ah, but if you were around, James, I wouldn’t sail through that stop sign. My personal rule is…is anyone around. (In a car, I mean)

    GOOD bicyclists are surprisingly nimble, and can often avoid something stickier by bending and or breaking a rule or two.

    FW is TERRIBLE when people bike on the streets. I once had a COP give me the extra VROOOOM when he passed me on Main St.

    We have a great greenway that’s getting better and better. Now. If I could just go to work on my bike…..

    499 chars

  15. delmer said on August 11, 2008 at 11:46 am

    On May 18 I blogged about a traffic violation I committed. It was out of character for me (I try to set a good example) but I did it because I thought obeying the rules might result in someone hitting me.

    When I re-entered the flow of traffic a guy hung out his window and screamed at me about how the rules of the road apply to bikes too. He was right … I was wrong … and I thought I’d chase him down and apologize. I figured I’d be able to catch him at the next light.

    Of course, the guy driving the car he was hanging out of ran the next light. And I don’t mean barely. He had to creep through it while tailgating the slow-moving car ahead of him.

    I assume the guy who screamed at me then turned to his buddy and yelled about how he shouldn’t break traffic laws.

    778 chars

  16. Michael Roberts said on August 11, 2008 at 11:52 am

    Neil Stephenson says you should ride as though you’re wearing reflective day-glo orange clothing, and every motorist is being paid to kill you. I like that philosophy, because it’s so accurate.

    I used to ride in Bloomington IN when we lived on the wrong side of the tracks (I mean, 37) and was regularly run down by fully laden gravel trucks. It was fun.

    Once I hit a car, though. I was in Filderstadt, Germany, and there was an elephant on the street — gawking, I failed to watch where I was going, and smacked straight into a car pulling out of a parking lot. The lady driving was mortified, and as soon as I could breathe again (this was the only time in my life I honestly had the breath knocked out of me — I’d always thought it was a metaphor) I assured her I was fine.

    794 chars

  17. kayak woman said on August 11, 2008 at 12:16 pm

    Ann Arbor does have some bike lanes but it isn’t perfect and there are places where they end abruptly, etc. We also have our fair share of nasty, aggressive drivers. I certainly encounter them in my little Civic. And lately our police officers have been getting aggressive about ticketing cyclists that slide through traffic signals, etc. You can bet that’s causing a flap around here.

    I don’t bike to work (or anywhere). I’m not good at cycling and my commute is too dangerous for anyone but the hard-core. My bike is rusting in a dilapidated shed at the back of my yard. Nevertheless, I am all for cycling and go out of my way to give cyclists enough space.

    My one pet peeve as a frequent pedestrian is when a cyclist comes silently whaling up the sidewalk behind me at a great rate of speed and startles me with “on your left” or whatever. I need more than a split-second to process which direction “left” is in order to get outta the way! Bike bells too, sorry to say. What *is* that sound?

    Now, if I could only kayak to work!

    1055 chars

  18. kayak woman said on August 11, 2008 at 12:20 pm

    Oops, didn’t see that Nancy already mentioned the startle factor. 🙂

    69 chars

  19. Laura said on August 11, 2008 at 1:36 pm

    Our family got one of those old-timey tandem bikes this summer. The rule while we work on getting our tandem wings is keep to the less traveled neighborhood roads and never stop at a 4-way sign unless there are cars at the intersection. Getting back on those things is a bear.

    276 chars

  20. coozledad said on August 11, 2008 at 2:02 pm

    I tried riding a bike for awhile, and even in a rural area, there seemed to be too many dangers to contend with. In the South, there must be some unwritten rule that if you’re going to go on a bender, at least 75% of it must be spent behind the wheel of a moving vehicle.
    The ubiquitous pit-bulls also forced me make frequent stops, so I could try and prise the saddle from my ass.
    I tried running after that, but quit after an elderly woman with a cell phone crossed traffic, nailed one of my friends, and put him in a year of physical therapy before he could walk again. They’re crazy out there.

    601 chars

  21. Bruce Fields said on August 11, 2008 at 3:43 pm

    The conventional wisdom on sidewalks and crosswalks is that they’re dangerous for cyclists not because of the pedestrians but because of the cars.

    Take an example: you’re in your car on a two-way street, turning left into your driveway. Where do you look? Probably you take a quick glance at the sidewalk (hopefully enough to see a slow-moving pedestrian), but when you start the turn, all your attention is on the oncoming lane. You certainly won’t do a full scan left and right of the sidewalk. And a cyclist on a collision course (even a fairly slow one) is still going to be some distance away at the time you start your turn.

    Drivers have deeply ingrained habits controlling where they look, and one of the advantages to following the ordinary vehicular traffic patterns is that you put yourself where people are already looking for you.

    Roughly the same principle covers the classic parked-car-door accident: if you try to make your own “bike lane” by riding between the parked cars and the car traffic, then you’re putting yourself in a place where people don’t habitually check for traffic.

    The League of American bicyclists has bike ed classes that cover the gap between the “how to balance on a bike” stuff we learn as kids, and what’s needed for adult commuters. They have you practice basic stuff like emergency stops, checking over your shoulder while riding a straight line, as well as how to cooperate with traffic on the road. I took one a few years ago and was really impressed by the folks they brought in to do it–highly recommended.

    John Allen’s Bicycling Street Smarts also covers the same stuff if you just want to read something.

    1824 chars

  22. Kim said on August 11, 2008 at 5:57 pm


    I’m a long term lurker… old time NS reader… (my thanks to Mr. Geoglein for letting me rediscover you) still get both FWA papers delivered. AND former bicyclist… it just got too life threatening… the nuts in cars are more dangerous and inconsiderate at any time than stop-sign-running cyclists.

    Ok, my real reason for writing. A ruling please on “exact same”. It’s everywhere… network news… newspapers… everyday conversations… and now here… forsooth!

    484 chars

  23. kayak woman said on August 11, 2008 at 7:22 pm

    What Bruce said! I live on a quiet little residential street with sidewalks and it is all too easy to check the street and not the sidewalk. I’ve been here for 24 years and I think it was my *kids*, when they were taking driver’s ed 10 years ago or so, who alerted me to the need to check the sidewalk too.

    I was thunderstruck! I grew up in a place where we backed the car out onto an alley so I had never thought about that before. Ever since then, I back out very slowly and stop *before* the sidewalk to double-check for dogs and bikes and strollers and skunks and feral cats, etc. And marvel that I didn’t kill anyone or anything the first 14 years we lived here.

    671 chars

  24. kayak woman said on August 11, 2008 at 7:40 pm

    Kim: I am not Nancy or even a writer (except for web application functional specifications which would bore everyone here to tears) but “exact same” is one of my pet peeves. But then I had junior high English back in the dark ages when the teachers had purple hair and discretely (discreetly?) (or not) pulled their handkerchiefs out of their bras when they needed to sneeze or wipe their noses.

    I have commented here way more than usual today. That bike thing got me going. But I’ll shaddup now.

    499 chars

  25. Terry said on August 11, 2008 at 8:18 pm

    Please–the iPod use is a recipe for disaster. While you might think you can still hear traffic or other noise information, are you willing to bet your life on that?
    I’m as gizmo crazy as anyone else–but get your inspriation from the rhythm of the wheels, the repetitive motion, and the sweat.
    I ride mostly on bike paths along the Schuylkill river outside of Philadelphia. Even on that restircted path, the number of cyclists, runners, and in-line skaters veering about while under the iPod influence is scary for someone trying to pursue a straight line at moderate pace (14-17 mph). Mix that distraction into traffic, with cell-phone distracted drivers–no way. If your brain (and body) is worth protecting, the helmet is not all you need–you need your ears and wits, too.

    783 chars

  26. Dexter said on August 11, 2008 at 8:43 pm

    You are welcome…Dexter is my bloggin’ name but the email shows me as “Jim”. I sent the link to all my biker friends and bloggers.
    I agree with the ideas that keep me alive. Twenty-seven years ago I read an important Bicycling Magazine story entitled “Urban Deer.” That’s what we are . I have been cycling many years and never have been hit by a car. Like all cyclists, I have had many close calls, felt the brush of a car and I have hit a grate so wide-gapped it wrecked me.
    I have cycled Michigan Avenue in the D and urban streets in Chicago, Ft. Wayne, Charleston, SC, many Florida towns, Madison, on and on. I am now what New Yorkers used to call “a stroller”. I ride slowly now , usually on a cross-bike, and I never take chances.
    For my fellow strollers, I offer this: many towns and cities allow sidewalk riding in areas where there in minimal or basically no pedestrian traffic. Ann Arbor was this way a few years ago; I have not ridden there in six years. It’s obviously safer to incorporate little-used sidewalks than to ride amongst the cars. If I see a pedestrian I dismount if I cannot get back into the street ASAP. I NEVER ride a sidewalk full of walkers, that’s rude.
    It’s relaxing to ride for me because I am not out there on main roads at all hours any more, like I used to be. I refuse to let my cycling be a source of stress. I have found peace and joy in my cycling.

    1409 chars

  27. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on August 11, 2008 at 9:25 pm

    Bruce — “Drivers have deeply ingrained habits controlling where they look, and one of the advantages to following the ordinary vehicular traffic patterns is that you put yourself where people are already looking for you.”

    Nicely put, and i promise to steal this at my earliest opportunity!

    293 chars

  28. basset said on August 11, 2008 at 11:00 pm

    and let’s not forget the abuse bikers inflict on each other. I quit trying to ride in the park nearest my house and on a popular bike path near home just because of the amount of shit I got from the other riders… I guess spandex pants and a bad attitude mean everyone’s supposed to get out of your way, but it got to where I was gonna hurt someone if I got cut off or heard “get outa the way, fatass!” one more time.

    I was the local walk/bike group’s volunteer of the year last year, and on award night people kept walking up and asking me to come ride with them, we’d love to have you, it’s such a friendly group, we do a fun century every Saturday morning, we’ll cure you of your pitiful slow-riding ways and have you all hunched over and going flat out on a road bike in no time… I’m telling you, they’re worse than fly fishermen.

    pardon me, fly FISHERS.

    871 chars

  29. Dexter said on August 12, 2008 at 12:46 am

    basset: That reminds me of when I was riding my Giant Simple Seven home from the local bike shop. The Simple Seven, stock, has steer-horn handlebars and is made for people who like to cruise along , carefree. I had only gone a half-block when some local punks started making what can only be described crudely as “re-tard voices” at me.
    “Oh , look at me, I just got a new bi-i-i-ke!” –stuff like that .
    Geez. Ya can’t answer them, ya just gotta let them have their fun.
    Twice, in the span of two days, years ago, I was almost “doored” by a bunch of punks ( I saw them in my mirror approaching with the back door of their old Pontiac open, and I turned off before they got me, and also two days later some kids threw a hot cuppa coffee on me. It wasn’t hot by the time the liquid hit my arm, as the air insta-cooled it, but still…
    Once, I was riding on Packard towards Burns Park in Ann Arbor after an M game, in the bike lane. Some assholes threw a large chunk of ice from their cooler at me, a direct hit on my helmet. It really disoriented me…I wobbled a bit , ears ringing, but didn’t crash—and of course Packard traffic is very heavy after a Michigan football game. I suppose I could have filed assault charges , but I had no license plate number and it would have been difficult to track the offenders down…I just continued on.
    Locally, a punk yelled at me “those tires look a little low!”
    I calmly told him I had just inflated them and to shut the fuck up. Here where I live I see the fancy spandexed road riders fly by, but we fat asses here clearly outnumber them. My town is full of fat ass riders. This is why I feel so at home here.
    While waiting to pick up a pizza for my grandson and great-nephew tonight, a middle aged man in loud baggy shorts and a tee shirt pedalled by on an old road bike with regular straight-up handlebars.
    “Just keep ridin’, ya skinny bastard”, I thought.
    “You ain’t one of “us” .”

    1957 chars

  30. Gasman said on August 12, 2008 at 12:49 am

    While riding my bike I’ve:
    1. been hit by two cars (one accidental, one intentional, fortunately no serious injuries,)

    2. had vast quantities of unknown – often foul smelling – liquids spewed upon me,

    3. had various objects hard or soft tossed at me,

    4. had various cars/trucks buzz by me VERY closely,

    5. usually had same cars/trucks honk their horns when right behind me,

    6. had surly redneck morons instruct me that since I don’t pay gas taxes, I have no right to be on the road (I also cause zero damage to said roads),

    7. have generally had to suffer these and other indignities as I got up close and personal with the homicidal mendicants and dregs of society.

    When car traffic is around, I studiously observe traffic laws. However, to ride in and amongst car traffic you have to practice a kind of passive/aggressive riding style. At times, I will ride almost in the middle of a lane to make people drive around me rather than to let them pass closely. Experience has taught me that this is a lifesaving necessity.

    Spandex seems to piss people off. I’m not sure why. I wear it because it is functionally the best material for long road rides. Why do you think they wear it in the Tour de France? That, and it makes my butt look spectacular. Give us roadies a break and a politely wide berth, and please, lay off the horn.

    1370 chars

  31. jcburns said on August 12, 2008 at 2:27 am

    I’m with the Grumbles guy (as we often call him around here) on this one, Nancy. Remember how, growing up, the cities of Grandview and Upper Arlington required you to get a yearly license for your bike? And with that license came great responsibility (or so we were solemnly told at Grandview city hall.) We had to follow the traffic laws, including and especially stop signs. It was drilled into my head then…it thus remains, today.
    And I’m with la Mujer de Kayak on the exact same thing she commented on.

    596 chars

  32. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on August 12, 2008 at 7:25 am


    8 chars

  33. Dorothy said on August 12, 2008 at 9:34 am

    I was thinking I had nothing to add to this string of comments, but I have changed my mind. Not to be Miss Cranky Pants of Tuesday Morning, but am I the only one who thinks it’s okay to be alone with you thoughts, with no iPod plugged in, as one goes about their daily duties? I can certainly see the attraction to have it on while working out in the gym. But it does seem to be a little reckless to have one going while riding a bike in traffic. The trade off just doesn’t seem worth it.

    To me it’s kind of like driving and yakking on a cell phone. Just concentrate on the task at hand and you’ll have nothing to regret if a disaster (i.e. accident) should happen. There is something to be said for clear headed thinking and giving your brain a chance to rest.

    Okay now I’m officially an old fart.

    814 chars

  34. brian stouder said on August 12, 2008 at 9:41 am

    Okay now I’m officially an old fart.

    Join the club! (all our meetings are in a well ventilated venue)

    And anyway, as Madame Telling Tales has informed us – such things (old or new) are quite satisfying

    216 chars

  35. basset said on August 12, 2008 at 9:48 am

    Tennessee actually has a law that cars have to stay at least three feet away from bikes… not that it’s widely observed or anything.

    some of the public-education effort is at http://www.musiccitymoves.org/, click “video public service announcement”…

    255 chars

  36. LAMary said on August 12, 2008 at 11:05 am

    One more for the old fart list, and hey, Dexter, I have a Simple Seven too. It’s even got big dorky baskets on it and a bell. The household also has a cool vintage Peugeot older son has rehabbed and a couple of other bikes that pretty much belong to anyone who wants to use them.
    I’m seeing a lot more bike commuting these days, but what I find more cheering is all the people on the light rail platform with bikes, taking the train to downtown LA or Pasadena, then riding their bikes for the rest of the trip.

    512 chars