The otherwise estimable Paul Levy — he of Blue Ribbon commission and Running a Hospital blog fame — joins the bike-bashing bandwagon with a Universal Hub post describing his encounter with an aggressive biker:
But what is it about beautiful weather that seems to bring out the nuts? Two cases this morning:
(1) Driving in on Beacon Street down the long hill in front of BC, and I see in my rearview mirror an "adult" bicycle rider drafting off of my car -- roughly 6 inches from my rear bumper. I finally get him off my tail and suggest through my open window that he is crazy and that what he is doing is REALLY dangerous. (What if I have to stop suddenly, for example.) He says, "No, it's fun."
Granted, the second case is about a bus driver.
As a biker, I don't deny that there is the occasional moment of rude or intemperate biking, but it steams me to no end that there is a disproportionate focus on those occasional moments, when every day my bike rides are filled with example after example of potentially far more dangerous moments of driver rudeness, indifference, and stupidity.
I rack my (not as big as Paul Levy's) brain for some explanation for the anti-biker sentiment that makes people so sensitive to the slightest biker infraction. Then, on my commute home today, as I got honked at twice (I was in the right-most third of the lane where there was no bike lane or shoulder to ride in), crossed three major intersections where more than five cars blocked the box after the red, and one car cut across me (riding in the bike lane) to make a right-hand turn without bothering with the effort to engage the turn signal, it occurred to me: it's not so much about the sensitivity of the Paul Levys of the world — and he calls himself a biker! — to biker infractions, it's about the callouses we've built up to the never-ending, soul-grinding driver misbehavior that pollutes our roads.
Everyone has a bad-biker story like Paul Levy's. Even other bikers. For instance, every few months, I get some clown trying to do a paceline with me up Beacon Street near the Chestnut Hill reservoir. Dude, a paceline is a tricky thing for bikers who know each other doing a Saturday ride through Dover. Hopping on the wheel of a stranger in rush hour traffic is just stupid.
But, I could get five blog posts a day out of equivalent motorist behavior. Except that, 200-lbs. me (okay, closer to 220 these days) on a 25-lbs. bike poses a lot more risk to Paul and those like him in their at-least-a-ton-and-probably-closer-to-or-more-than-two automobiles than they to me. Whoops, got it backwards.
So, I've decided to stop trying to defend or explain bicyclists. Paul, the community of bicyclists is probably no better or worse than the community of automobile drivers. As the novelty of bikers sharing the road wears off, I expect that you'll get used to the bike community's fair share of nutters.
Actually, I think that more bikers will actually reduce the ratio of nutters. Those bold enough to drive a few inches off your back bumper are probably already biking. They'll be joined by the more cautious and considerate who are discovering the manifold joys of self-propulsion.
So, Paul, ease off the bikers and just be glad it wasn't another car. Though, somewhere along your ride, there probably was one. You just don't notice any more.