The Other Cyclists

I haven’t been on the bike for almost two weeks. The Thanksgiving weekend turned out to be busier than I thought. So I was really looking to today’s commute in.

The fog was burning off and the morning chill wasn’t stinging as much as I warmed up. I made my planned stop at the post office and started up the 1st hill. Not a big one, just enough to get you fully warmed up.

On the downhill there always seems to be more traffic and less room for bikes. I’ve tried taking a lane on this section many times, but I’ve just decided that this section of road is not worth the risk. So I ride the shoulder. It’s not the best, but it’s much more peaceful than the constant honking and yelling that comes when you use too much of the lane.

Here’s where it goes bad.

The light turns green and we proceed into the intersection. As I’m watching to see if the car in front of me is going to make a right hand turn, a cyclist appears on the left side of the car. The driver was aware that I was there but is startled by this new cyclist. The cyclist is trying to go around her and cuts her off. So she honks, he gives the middle finger and she brakes right in front of me. I grab a handful of brakes and barely miss the cars bumper. Phew. All of this happens in a second or two, seems longer though.

The thing that bugs me is that I was riding in what I feel is the safest place for that section and it was another cyclists actions that almost got me hurt. I shift to the big ring and try my best to catch him. When I do he doesn’t understand why she honked. I tell him about the drama he caused and that he and I are at the same intersection at the same time. He gained no time at all by putting me at risk. He shrugs and pedals off. A little faster this time. Whatevs right?

The rest of the ride in I’m thinking about other cyclists. How this riders actions affected me. How have I affected other riders? What happens if I flip off a driver? Do they get over it right away, or do they simmer and then take it out on an unsuspecting cyclist later?

This is my problem with the Critical Mass. It can be a fun time with other cyclists. Seemingly taking over the city and disobeying the rules. But what happens when a car is surrounded by 100-200 cyclists and has no where to go? All they can do is sit and honk and curse. The cyclists yell and curse back and the mob moves on. The CM riders do whatever they want. Safety in numbers right? Then, when I’m pedaling home from work, the car sees me alone. Do you think they are happy to see any cyclists then? Do they think “there’s one, let’s give him room because we are now aware”? Hell no. They throw something out their window, or they swerve at me. All because of other cyclists actions.

It is hard to do it, but sometimes you have to think about how your actions affect other people. Sometimes it’s better to get to work slowly and more importantly safely. The best part of that deal is you get more time to pedal!

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  • Right on! I had a similar incident a few weeks ago when a guy on a fixed gear (whom I also saw today) passed me on the left then zoomed through the upcoming four way stop, not stopping, and swerved left as he darted in front of a huge SUV that had started to pull through the intersection. I felt so badly for the SUV driver; he could have easily killed this cyclist because the cyclist ran through the stop at full speed (and there were clearly cars lined up waiting to pull through)and the SUV was almost through the intersection when the cyclist just flew in front of him. Here I am, obeying the laws to the best of my ability and safety, and this jackass is making it unsafe for me.

    Sometimes a motorist confronts us and we lose our cool, but we should do our best not to provoke the situation by flipping the bird and throwing out insults and threatening language. In any case, if we do our best to behave ourselves, when the motorist hits us, we can prove that we were civil to a fault and did nothing to approach them.

  • It can be frustrating and slow to stop at stop signs and obey the traffic lights. I get that. But as commuters I think we are more as risk in general. We spend more time on the streets at the worst times, morning and evening commutes.

    If I was only doing late night or early morning rides, maybe it wouldn’t matter as much. However, since we’re out there at the busiest times, we have to be more careful and aware.