Friday, September 12, 2008

Outtathaway Sir Lancelot!

There are many things that annoy me while driving. Some warrant my ire--cell-phone drivers, people who prefer to drive less than four inches away from my rear bumper, Chicago traffic. Some are unwarranted--red lights, bugs splattering on my window (it seems that between the bug and me, the bug had more right to be annoyed), kids who sit backwards in the car and stare at you the entire drive.

But almost nothing irritates me more than when I see a bicyclist riding down the center of the road, creating a dangerous bottleneck, brake-fast situation for the people who are using the road for its intended purpose: driving an automobile upon it.

It's even more frustrating when you look over to the side of the road and see a perfectly clear, neatly paved sidewalk lining a parallel path along the road that the cyclist could rather use. But heavens no! How could we expect a bicyclist to ever face the burden of having to deal with the occasional ramped curb? No, it's MUCH better to make dozens of drivers screech to a 10 MPH pace and attempt a dangerous maneuver to drive around the bicyclist instead!

I understand the need for serious bicyclists to ride on more road-like surfaces to train for professional competition. But if you look on a state map, you will find hundreds upon hundreds of miles of bike paths built exclusively for bicycling. Instead, these bicyclists choose to ride on roads made for cars. And they never just choose any road to ride on. Typically, they choose to ride on the most busy road in the area and seemingly cycle exclusively during peak traffic rush times.

Imagine if you or I took our cars onto one of those bike paths and tried to get around that way? Bicyclists would find our actions dangerous. Our car would take up both lanes, forcing cyclists to strain to get around the vehicle. Our rate of speed with differ greatly from theirs, causing dangerous situations. If you ask me, it's no different than a bicyclist riding down the middle of a lane on a busy road during rush hour traffic.

What's more annoying about these bicyclists: they all appear to believe that they are the second coming of Lance Armstrong. They wear tight spandex shorts and shirts that many have no right to wear in public and those goofy helmets with the aerodynamic point coming out of the back. They're dressed for the Tour De France for a bike ride through Arlington Heights.

But the worst part: these bicyclists have organized in some places and are actually complaining about safety issues on the road, pestering government officials to pass laws and provide means of making their cycling safer. It's the equivalent of a man going into a crowded room to practice his target shooting and later complaining to lawmakers that all of the people are getting in the way of his bullets.

I know that drivers can be unsafe. I'm not justifying dangerous driving. But these cyclists too ignore the rules of the road. I heard a great story about a woman in Chicago who works as a crossing guard for an elementary school located on a busy city street. She's seen it all during her many years of experience at that corner. Bad drivers, bad accidents and dangerous situations and she doesn't approve of any of it.

One day, a bicyclist stopped and asked her if she would start yelling at drivers who are driving dangerously because he felt like his life was in danger from all of the motorists not obeying the rules of the road. Her response was swift. She asked him why none of the cyclists obey the rules of the road themselves? She asked how come all of them zip through the four-way stop signs near her intersection, why they never signal when they planned to turn, why they don't pay much attention to their surroundings.

The cyclist rode away in frustration. A feeling many a driver has felt whenever confronted with bicyclists on the road.

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