GET OUTTA MY LANE

Bike Rage.

Just read this great post from 2008 over at Momentum: http://momentumplanet.com/articles/bike-rage

(Momentum, by the way, is *really* great at representing a variety of bicyclists in their magazine. Including women! When I saw an issue with a pregnant woman just hanging out on a bike no big deal, on the cover, I was sold. Also, the editorial board is heavy on the ladies, which supports the no-duh idea that the marginalized getting into positions of power = a changed-for-the-better media landscape)

Anyway, bike rage. Nowadays when car drivers whiz past me or do something dumb like turn in front of me or almost hit me, I just tell myself that they are in total emergency/crisis mode. Their partner is dying, their kid is super sick, they just got a call from Jesus and Mary at the same time–I just make up stories so I feel compassion rather than rage. It has seemed to work out ok. Plus yelling at people in the winter up here is pretty pointless. “Hey you! With the window rolled up and the heat blasting! Lemme tell you onaauuhhhhhahhh” *falls on black ice*

BUT

Back in the day, I was one righteous cyclist. I remember biking downtown Milwaukee using one of the few bicycles lanes we had at the time. Some car driver decided to double park IN the bike lane (which makes me think of this amazing video of a cyclist getting a ticket for NOT riding in the bike lane, and then showing what would happen if he really DID ride in the bike lane all the time:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bzE-IMaegzQ).

I wasn’t having the double-park thing. So as I rode by (with a fellow cyclist who is as skinny as me, male-bodied, and fairly shy) I smacked the side view mirror with my hand. The car driver then followed us shouting “hey don’t touch my car!” When we got to a red light I started yelling at the driver so intensely that a) my companion didn’t even think to add anything and b) it shut the driver up real good. Ok, the story was way better in my head. You had to be there! But anyway, in my old age I have really toned down the righteousness only because I cannot handle anymore anxiety in my life, unless my doc ups my anxiety meds. “Hey doctor, can I have more anxiety meds so I can yell at car drivers more? Hey, thanks!”

The above piece from Momentum argues, through a smart guy who studies this stuff, that yelling/road rage/bike rage doesn’t do anything to stop poor driving habits. I on the other hand, as a smart woman who studies this stuff, am pretty sure that driver who I confronted thought twice before parking in a bike lane again. Managing behaviors through yelling is not the best tactic but when you are armor-less up against vehicles that could kill you in an instant, our rage is a bit hard to quell.

The article also hints at the idea that one should redirect their rage to changing the urban landscape we all commute on. I am actually waiting for a confrontation with a driver (which THEY will start, by the way) so I can remind them, “hey dude, don’t yell at me for taking up a lane which is my total right, call the city and ask for better bike lanes so I can stay out of your way, you freedom-loving American!”

Alas, I am off to an area of town known for drifters into bike lanes (I think they are trying to park?). But what the drifters really are doing is cutting me off while in despair over their lost  loved kitty cat. And I am ok with that.

Helmets, M

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