Nearly every morning, in what is for me a supreme effort of willpower, I put on my helmet, unlock my bike, and ride to work.
I’m generally allergic to excess movement, but there’s something about bike riding that gets me going. I’m very liberated by the notion that I can convey myself to work with nothing but some aluminum between my legs. And then there’s the ever-present (and ever-unfulfilled) hope that so much cycling will give me long, lean gams. But above all, there’s that rarely mentioned companionship among riders and drivers and cyclists. There’s the sharing of the road.
So it irks me whenever the Fort Greene pro–bike-lane, anti–bike-lane conflagration flares up — again. The issue’s been a hot potato since July, 2006, when the community board chose not to support a plan that would add five new miles of bike lanes along Carlton and Willoughby avenues and Cumberland Street.
At the meeting, drivers tore into cyclists, cyclists skewered drivers. Pedestrians were occasionally deplored, too.
The kvetching continued this May, when the city went ahead and painted the bike lanes anyway. And now, after merely five months, the partisans are at it again, this time on the local message board brooklynian.com.
A local blogger named arZan lit the fire this time, when he began a thread by recounting two incidents in which he had “literally been blindsided by cyclists who are traveling in the opposite direction of traffic.”
Seems like a legitimate complaint. But then arZan extrapolated that “bicyclists are the worst offenders when it comes to traffic rules. They do not stop at stop signs or lights, cut in and out of traffic at their will and then when someone cuts them off, they throw a ruckus.”
Then, a third commenter kindled the flames, retorting that, “There are just as many idiot pedestrians.”
A commenter named Daver responded by listing the offenders in order of worst to best: pedestrians, cyclists and then drivers. (I wonder which one he is.)
Sorry if this sounds misanthropic, but yes, folks, there are jerks out there. There are driver jerks. There are pedestrian jerks. There are cyclist jerks (tons of them). There are also stroller-pushing jerks, skateboarder jerks, and Vespa jerks. There are even (gasp!) wheelchair jerks.
That said, the lovely thing about bike riding is the civility it so often induces.
On my way into work today, as I was riding down a bike lane, the truck driver behind me patiently waited for a wide enough space to pass. When I reached a busy intersection and stopped at the red light, a driver moving perpendicular to me reached the same intersection, began slowing down for a yellow light, and waved at me, indicating that I was safe to go. On my way up the elevator at work, as I was toying with my loose seat, a fellow rider offered me a tool with which to tighten it. All that civility in a 15-minute ride!
Sure, I could bitch about the vans blocking the bike lane on Carlton Avenue, the drivers passing so close to me that my heart stops, the pedestrians apparently unaware that crossing on red in front of a speeding bicycle is dangerous, and the cyclists who seem to think that a commute its actually a race to the finish line. But what’s the point? They’re jerks. Screw ’em.
Dana Rubinstein is a staff reporter of The Brooklyn Paper.
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