Monday, October 4, 2010

This has nothing to do with the fact that I didn't learn how to ride until I was 14.

In the past two weeks I’ve almost died five times. Not from subway muggers or falling cranes, or any of the other exciting ways my mother warned me about when I first moved to the city. My wannabe executioner? Bikers.

I want to love them. I really do. Cyclists are environmentally friendly, they’ve got excellent quads, but crossing the street is hard enough without the threat of being taken out by a guy (it’s always a guy) who thinks red lights are for wimps. This is not the Tour de France and you, dude, are no Lance Armstrong.

It’s not like they don’t see me. More than once I’ve been yelled at by an overtanned thirty-something in wraparound shades for freezing in terror as he barrels towards me. Apparently I’m supposed to do – what exactly? Run? But in which direction? How do I know that they’re not going to swerve the same way I’m trying to go? And did I mention that I HAVE THE RIGHT OF WAY? I once got clipped by a hipster speeding the wrong way down a one-way street. It took every ounce of strength not to kick his customized tires. I’ve seen bikers riding on the sidewalk, messengers acting as if they owned the road. (Don’t get me started on the delivery guys.) Sometimes it’s hard to remember that bikers are supposed to be a force for good in this world.

I have several friends who are avid cyclists. They are smart, conscientious, and generally concerned about the welfare of their fellow man. But not one of them stops at red lights. When I reminded them that they are required to stop – like, legally - I was met with blank stares. I can’t really blame them. It’s hard to think of bikes as moving vehicles until you get mowed down by one.

I’m not saying that pedestrians are saints. We dart out in the middle of the street and dangle off curbs. We rarely pay attention to what’s around us and take up an inordinate amount of space in intersections. Bikers often say that they have just as much to fear from pedestrians as we do from them, and that’s probably true. Of course, we’re much less dangerous to people who don’t run red lights.

We’re all in a hurry. Everybody cheats the light a little. But there is an expectation that vehicles – even ones with cute little baskets – will respect the rules of the road. I don’t need you to stop every single time, but if you see me hauling my stroller, Speed Racer, could you just slow down a little? Because if not, next time I might see what happens if I stick out my foot.

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