Don’t worry – I’ll stop with the pretentious post titles soon. Â But I had an interesting encounter today (several, actually) that I wanted to write about. Â So here goes.
Dear woman who yelled at me in Chickasaw Gardens,
As you might have guessed from the way I turned my head when you yelled at me, I did hear you. Â And I understand your concerns. Â At least, I think I do. Â I’m really just guessing at what those concerns are.
But whatever the case, when you yelled “That’s a stop sign!” or something like that, I heard what you said. Â And I think I understand where you’re coming from. Â After all, it is a nice, quiet neighborhood, Chickasaw Gardens. Â And certainly, many cyclists use your neighborhood as a short-cut – a rather circuitous one at that – to get from east Memphis to points in Midtown or downtown. Â Heck, if I had a dollar for every time I’d biked through your neighborhood, I could afford one of these.
Or maybe not. Â But you get my point. Â I bike through Chickasaw Gardens a lot, as do many of my bike-commuting or sport-biking comrades. Â And who could blame us? Â The lovely winding streets, the shade from the many mature trees, the lack of aggressive automobile traffic … it’s practically a cyclist’s heaven, you know?
Also, please forgive me for assuming that you live in Chickasaw Gardens. Â I never really got a good look at you or your car (if I had to guess, I would say that you were driving a late model Toyota Camry, which is great, as I used to drive a Camry myself, although an older model that was a compact car, as opposed to the newer mid-size version), but given that you turned right from Arawata Lane onto Lombard Road, which doesn’t lead to any exits from the neighborhood in that direction, I assumed that you were a resident of the neighborhood. Â But maybe you were just visiting a friend and felt particularly offended when I sailed through the stop sign at that intersection, when our paths diverged, as I turned left on Lombard on continued on to S. Fenwick Road.
OK, you’re right … that wasn’t the first stop sign I sailed through. Â A few blocks back, at the intersection of E. Chickasaw Parkway and W. Goodwyn Street … yeah, I completed pwned that. Â But the two SUVs that were approaching from both directions on the cross street made it to the stop signs well after I did, and given the PITA that is coming to a full stop and resuming one’s ride, I felt it OK to slow a bit and continue riding. Â Was that rude? Â Sorry if it was.
But look … I completely get where you’re coming from. Â I totally ignored those stop signs. Â Broke the law. Â Deserved a ticket really. Â Although it would probably not make you happy to know that if I had gotten a ticket for running those stop signs, I totally would have scanned it and posted the image on my blog. Â It would have been awesome. Â In fact, that only thing better would have been if I had gotten a speeding ticket. Â On my bike! Â How cool would that have been?! Â Only if it was not in a school zone, of course.
Plus, we cyclists are always out there demanding special rights and privileges and all that, right? Â Like our own lanes, signals, and the right to ride in shared lanes with you and other drivers. Â Apparently we fully expect to be treated as equals on the road, but then one of us goes off and flagrantly violates the law! Â How offensive is that?!
Except that it’s not. Â I mean, really? Â Am I a car? Â Do I weigh 2000+ pounds? Â Does it take me 27 feet to stop if I am biking at a comfortable 10 MPH? Â Could I kill someone if I collided with them at that speed?
The answer to the above questions, expect maybe the last one, can only be no. Â And here’s the difficult things to understand: bicycles are not cars. Â Cyclists are not drivers. Â It’s just different. Â We’re just different. Â So when a cyclist runs a stop sign, it’s just not the same as when a car does the same.
Don’t believe me? Â Have a look at this article. Â OK, yeah … I don’t agree with everything she wrote either. Â But the point remains. Â As much as cyclists demand equal rights on the roads, as we very well should, we’re not cars. Â Fully loaded, with all the crap I tend to carry on any given day, my bike and I probably weigh about 10% of what you and your car does. Â Plus, I don’t have any blind spots. Â Nor does my bike insulate me from the sounds around me like your car does.
In short, biking is much safer for everyone except the cyclist. Â Plus, there’s the issue of momentum. Â If you, in your car, approach a stop sign, come to a complete stop, then proceed to your destination, the only extra effort required by you to do all of this is to gently press on one pedal or another. Â For a cyclist, coming to a complete stop and then resuming a normal speed is much more taxing.
But if you don’t believe, ask your friends who bike around town. Â You know, those weird people who hog the food station at cocktail parties – gotta replace those calories somehow – and who seem abnormally aware of local roads and traffic. Â We’re good people, I promise. Â Maybe a bit insular, but hey, that’s a scene for you.
In summation, please don’t think that I’m pissed at you for your comment. Â I’m very protective of my neighborhood as apparently you are too. Â I just hope we can get along and share the roads.
Would you like a little insight as to what it means to be a commuter cyclist? Â Here’s a link to a map of my ride today. Â It’s kind of pretty, isn’t it? Â The loop that I followed? Â From my home to my job, then to the Poplar Plaza shopping center, then to Otherlands Coffee for a meeting, then home again? Â Did you ever map out your driving like I do my biking? You should give that a try sometime. Â It’s very informative.