Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Let's Talk Bike

I have been baking this rant in my mind for days. Ever since "summer" started.

I appreciate the role of the bicycle in society. I love bikes. My future-in-laws are vehement bikers. They are clean transportation, easy and cheap. And, they provide excellent exercise. I get it. I would bike to work if I could - except that I'm TERRIFIED. In Boston, they are just scary.

Boston has bike lanes. But the bicyclists don't really appreciate them. Or perhaps they simply like the freedom of bobbing and weaving between cars. Of course, in rush hour traffic, that means that bikes are moving faster than cars - and can pop up in your left of right side at any moment. I nervously look over my shoulder 4 times before changing lanes because I could easily hit a bike going 30mph while I'm going 5.

Bikes are plentiful in Boston, so they often like to ride side-by-side. Bike lanes aren't made for that. 2 cars don't squeeze into 1 lane on the road, but for some reason, 2 bikes feel comfortable leaking 1 foot outside the edge of the bike lane, making them impossible to pass. And often, chatting the entire way.

Unlike in third world countries, where bikes are the transport of those without cars, most bicyclists in Boston have a drivers license. That usually implies they should be aware that cars cannot stop on a dime, make sharp evasive moves, or otherwise react to their shennanigans. And yet, they behave as though we should be as agile and nimble as they are - which means I'm always slamming on the breaks as a bike makes an abrupt lane change. This morning, a professional man (in a suit) on a bike, cut across my lane in front of me without a moment's notice to make a right turn (he was riding between the 2 lanes of traffic, to my left). I swear, I was terrified. I don't think he even noticed.

Let's talk gear. Only about 50% of bike riders wear helmets in Boston. I saw that movie - that means I not only injure them if I hit them, but I kill them. Vehicular homicide is not on my short list of things to do. And another large percent have headphones in, so I'm not even sure they are aware of their surroundings.

Some scenarios:

Every day, I cross an intersection on foot at a crosswalk with a walk sign. And every single morning, just as I get the walk sign, the bikes from across the street, who hitherto behaved like cars in their lanes, opt to collectively make the turn into the group of pedestrians. They have a red light. We have a walk. And 4-6 bikes literally mow us down. And scowl if we don't scatter.

The other day, my fiance was making a left turn at a complicated intersection and pedestrians were jaywalking across his target street (they had a Don't Walk signal). A bike rider mounted his bike and opted to slowly jaybike across that same street, in front of my fiance, who couldn't stop fast enough to avoid hitting him. Our car swerved to effectively "cut him off", since the alternative was hitting him square on, and he launched into a series of words unfit to print. He was acting like a pedestrian, jaywalking across an intersection illegally, even as pedestrian, and putting himself in front of a moving car - and WE got insulted. And I couldn't help but think - that guy only had to put his feet on the ground to avoid a collision - we had to stop an entire vehicle.

Again. Love bikes. But please, for the love of cheese, let's take the "share the road" to heart on both sides. And stop acting like idiots. It's going to get you killed.

** P.S. To those who know I have a domestic dispute with a bike happening at home, don't think it hasn't crossed my mind that the fury is transferring a bit.


Priya said...

as they say - critical mass or critical mess?

Capt. BS said...

Boston was built for horses, some perhaps drawing carts. Bicycles and cars rely upon overly sophisticated technologies that are ill-supported by the municipal infrastructure, are condemned to a fate of eternal rust and failure. Segways and hoverboards will likely fare no better.