Thursday, August 20, 2009

Bicycle Licensing: Maybe it's Not Such a Bad Idea

Bicycle licensing. In the past I have been adamantly against such a thing. Not having any legal structure or paperwork required for riding my bike is part of the freedom and autonomy I so dearly adore on a daily basis. However, having lived the last year in Seattle, a particularly large city, I witness numerous acts of stupidity and cluelessness on my daily commute. I see near misses, blatant law breaking and general disregard for others on the road. And guess what? It mostly involves cyclists.

I now see why angry motorists plague the comments section of online news outlets, spewing their one-sided views towards those who choose two wheels as their primary mode of transportation. It's because cyclists, for the most part, are clueless. There, I said it. Not the cyclists who have been doing this for a long time, or the ones who grew up riding and racing bikes, but the ones new to the sport, or "lifestyle" if you choose.

Running red lights, avoiding lights by "sneaking" through the crosswalks, weaving in and out of traffic, using the sidewalks, bike salmoning ... all of these things I see countless times throughout my work week. As a representative of a cycling publication, I follow the rules of the road, especially when there is vehicle traffic. I want motorists to give us the respect we deserve and are legally entitled to. So I get infuriated when I am sitting in traffic at a busy intersection, doing my part to follow those rules, when someone rides right past me and the cars that are waiting for the signal, gives a quick glance in both directions, and then proceeds to ride through the red light in front of everyone's eyes.

You know what you impatient and clueless cyclist? You are the reason why motorists have such a disdain for us. Not because they have to "share the road" with us, because you aren't sharing the road. You are cutting the coke with baking powder, so to speak, taking more than what you're entitled to. Yet you complain whenever you are cut off or when someone honks at you. Then you wonder why people are such "fucking dicks." It's because you are a dick. A selfish one at that.

I recently had a woman pass me as I was waiting my turn in a line of cars, on my bike. She went around all of us, in the oncoming lane and hooked a left without stopping. I shook my helmet-cladded head then yelled to her, "We have to follow the rules too you know!" No more than 2 minutes later I passed her on the bike path. As I overtook her she said, "You should mind your own business."


"You know what, it IS my business. You represent every cyclist on the road and when you do shit like that, it gives ALL of us a bad name," I rebutted.

Guess what. She didn't say another word. Because she knows I was right. It's not "you" breaking the rules, it's "us." All of us. We are seen as the same body. Motorists see cyclists as one group of people, not as individuals. To them, we are all decked out in tech yellow Performance gear and Nashbar uber-cheese spandex shorts, even though you and I may rarely dress that way. So get off your self-righteous hypocritical ass and start thinking about all of us. As cyclists we have enough to deal with without some asshole making people, namely motorists, look down on us.

Additionally, five cyclists have been hit by cars in the past week, one of them a hit and run, another was pulled into a person's vehicle by the driver and dragged a few blocks (true story, in Portland, near my old neighborhood). Maybe these cyclists were abiding by the rules, maybe not. Accidents can usually be avoided with a higher awareness of things happening around you, and taking a few precautions. And by following the rules.

Therefore, maybe licensing is a good thing. Sharing the roads means just that, not just sharing at your convenience, but by following the rules, especially when automobiles are present; rural country roads and trails are another topic altogether and require a different tactic. But we live in the city. A city with a lot of traffic. So maybe having to take a test to share the city's roads would open a few eyes and hopefully educate cyclists who are new to the game. It would probably save me from prematurely aging due to my desire to scream at you for making things harder for me. Does that sound selfish on my part? Maybe. But at the end of the day, I want get home alive.

Damn if I don't sound like an old man. Aging is a bitch.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Less Than a Month for All Out Mayhem

It's official. I finally have a plan for getting back to my lovely town of Durango for the 2009 Singlespeed World Championships. I am flying! The tickets I hounded down were actually pretty reasonable. There is a 5 1/2 hour layover in Denver along the way there so I get to have lunch with my family. Bonus! A little disappointed because I love the long drive but it will give me more time to hang out with the old crew and ride, baby, ride.

I have to box my 29er and send it there prior to the week I leave, the first time doing so. Hopefully UPS will be kind to me and not destroy my prized steed. Nor lose it in the process.

September in Durango is about as good as it gets too. The weather is usually perfect and the fall colors start to appear, making every pedal stroke that much more special. There is a new section of singletrack above town, on Raider Ridge, that's supposed to be really nice. I can't wait to sink my teeth, so to speak, into its ass. 

It's on! Look at Durango 'cause D is coming home!

Friday, August 14, 2009

Taken for Granted, the Wheels are Still Turning

As I was taking a breather from work yesterday afternoon, reading the latest issue of The Stranger, Seattle's free weekly local entertainment newspaper, I looked up to see a man walking across the street towards where I was standing. As he was approaching I noticed he had a familiar look about him - maybe it was his haircut or the way he carried himself in public. Everything seemed fairly normal about the man, except for a couple of very noticeable characteristics. He had no arms. 

On his right arm he sported a carbon fiber prosthetic with a hook at the end. His left arm was completely gone a few inches below his elbow, and by the way he limped to one side, I am guessing he had a prosthetic leg as well, although it was hard to tell due to his jeans. 

The familiar look I noticed was soon verified. As he walked past I studied the T-shirt he was wearing. It read "Marine Corps Instructor." You see, Marines are identifiable by the confidence they have in everything they do, including "simple" tasks such as walking. For him, walking wasn't so simple, but it didn't stop him from exuding an unmistakable air of confidence.

I wondered about the horrible day he experienced when he lost his limbs, probably in the heat and confusion of combat in either Iraq or Afghanistan. I wondered how he felt when he woke up in the sterile and unfamiliar hospitable bed overseas and realized he would never see his arms or fingers again. I began to wonder, how would I react to such a situation, having no arms, at least below the elbows, and missing a leg? Simple things would no longer be so simple. Things like brushing my teeth, eating, playing the guitar, riding my bike .... all of these activities I take for granted because they are easily accomplished with the tools I have. 

Having experienced war and having "fought for my country" in the first Gulf War, I didn't experience the horrors of what our troops are experiencing now, nor do I ever want to. But what gets me is it seems like no one pays any attention, including myself. When I saw the man walk past I was so enveloped in my own thoughts I forgot to call out to him and say, "Hey Marine, thank you." 

It won't happen again.