Last week, I had an interesting ride on my way back from my latest Project Bike Smart school. Being able to ride 13 miles each way, teach, then get home to be a functional parent takes a bit of juggling. Our electric bike has been a life- (and energy-) saver for me. The biggest downside to riding an e-bike that I've found is that it seems to attract some (in my experience) male riders who think they can catch my wheel and draft a free ride as I pass by. Now, this might not bother everyone but I think it's pretty creepy to suddenly have some stranger inches from my back wheel without asking permission. It's like someone hovering over my shoulder. Drafting takes a lot of trust and skill anyway, I don't know who these people are and I don't like them in my space. Usually, I either try to ignore them for awhile or I'll slow down carefully to get them to pass and give me some room. This time, I had just pulled onto the road and passed Mr. Tri Guy who was all decked out, huffing and puffing on his 12 lb bike. Sure enough, as soon as I pass, I hear "Don't brake!" and he was right behind me. Not in the mood, I turn around and just say "Well, don't draft." Instead of backing off, he calls me a crybaby and tells me to go F myself while he pushes past. He pedals away as fast as he can but obviously can't keep up at that pace (my bike is capped off at 20 mph). He eventually has to slow down pretend to talk with a woman so I give a cheerful "On your left!" as I breeze by.
Shortly after, just blocks from home, I'm taking my right of way at a four-way stop, having stopped first, when a woman pulls up in her car and rolls the stop sign, turning right at me. I scream and wave to get her attention and she stops her car a foot from my bike. I continue riding past to the next stop sign with her behind me. She suddenly starts yelling from inside her car that I had run the stop sign and she was going to do a citizen's arrest. I counter back with the fact that she didn't even see me in the first place, how could she have known I hadn't stopped. She proceeds to lean on the horn for a minute and yell that I'm in her way now. Luckily, we turned separate ways but I still left shaky and annoyed at these interactions.
These incidences have really stuck in my mind over the past week and make me think about how we view others. There isn't much we can control in life but I'm trying to do a better job at letting these things go. I often hear how cyclists always break the law and we're all so entitled. My experience with Mr. Tri Guy could obviously set that stage but I also hate the idea that we have to all behave perfectly so we don't give cyclists a bad name. No one says that about car drivers. Every light cycle I see a number of red light runners but I never hear anyone lament how these drivers give everyone a bad reputation. In my classes, I often talk about how drivers of cars and of bicycles tend to break the law at roughly the same rate. It's not the vehicle that causes someone to make a bad decision, it's the person driving it who does. Recently, this article popped up about the Myth of the Scofflaw Cyclist. It's so easy to get wrapped up in our own confirmation biases and only see what we want but in the end, it's the individual making their own decision who should be held accountable.
More often than not, my rides are uneventful and mundane (but still so much more fun than driving). Writing about riding after five years of doing this every day has become tricky because things aren't as new and exciting. I love riding my bike more than anything else (I said anything, not anyone, in case my kids are reading this). These days, I feel it's especially difficult to write because of all the scary things that are happening in the world on a regular basis. I usually feel like there are so many other things that need attention, how can I still be focused on riding? How does life go on as usual when nothing about these times should be considered "normal." But life keeps moving on and it's more important now than ever that we make kind, positive decisions toward one another. I don't know how those two drivers were feeling that day or what they were going through to cause their rudeness. While I'm not excusing this behavior, I'm not going to take it personally or change the way I treat others. Kindness and empathy goes a long way and we need these now more than ever.
So, this post doesn't necessarily have any where to go, it's just what's been on my mind lately and where I've been emotionally. As Einstein once said, "life is like riding a bicycle, to keep your balance, you must keep moving." And with that, we just keep rolling forward, wherever life takes us.