This Saturday five of us went for 60 miles through Maryland, a ride I hadn't done since April. Normally, the ride is something like Disneyland for me: trees, fresh air, chatting, forgetting the stress of the work week, being in harmony with the world for a while. I sometimes sing a bar or two of "It's a Wonderful Day for Pie," to myself.
There were few thoughts of harmony or pie this Saturday.
It began with a small child pointing to us and saying to his mother, "Look, Mommy, l***ers." We wondered whether he had said "lawyers," "losers" or "lovers." Someone suggested he said "killers," but the attorney among us insisted it was "lawyers." The prouncement was punctuated by the bilious visages of his parents pushing their stroller, giving us a unanimous, familial stink eye.
Cars began veering dangerously close. One driver stuck behind us for a few moments let loose with an unbroken stream in the Hitlerian style. He didn't even bother to roll down his windows, so confident was he in the volume of his lusty baritone. Even his diction was good--not only did he project, he enunciated well enough to make each word clear through his windows and over the roar of his engine. He was not only speaking for himself; he was giving voice to the many frustrated drivers who swerved around us. I suppose, in his own way, he was longing for the days of auto-philia (as opposed to auto-eroticism), a tacit inclusion in the agenda of the "Restoring Honor" crowd.
I have to conclude from this, as Glenn Beck concludes about everything, that things are getting worse. There are more cyclists on the road, and this means there are more angry motorists. Our local roads have become so clogged with cyclists that we seriously slow down motorists. For once, I understand the frustration of drivers.
To be clear, cyclists are not at fault, nor is riding a bike illegal (although we often are guilty of lawbreaking):
Cyclists die when we're hit by cars, and much of the time, the motorist is not cited for violating any laws. When you're dead, you don't care if a driver is ticketed.
I bring this up because I'm concerned by what I saw on Saturday. It was particularly ugly, with cyclists on both sides of the road, loads of Freds sprinkled everywhere, group rides two-abreast, and loads of impatient motorists struggling to restrain the inner Hitler. It seemed dangerous.
Thankfully, this problem will end when the temperature drops or rises 10 degrees and the Freds put away their gear.
I find it harder to argue for increased rights out in Maryland. It's a difference situation. Most cyclists are Saturday joyriders, not everyday commuters. They're not freeing up city spaces originally designed for pedestrian and horse traffic; they're clogging up suburban lanes designed for cars. Cyclists make DC more efficient, beautiful, and better for motorists; it's not as easy to make that argument for the suburbs. That's a significant difference.
Near the end of our Saturday ride, after we'd calmed down by riding through the car-free Rock Creek Park (God, isn't that a great place?), a taxi deliberately swerved into me twice. When I caught up to him, I halfheartedly berated the driver.
"I've been driving a cab in this city for thirty years," was his reply.
I didn't know what to say. Oh, I didn't know that! In that case, by all means swerve into my path twice. Instruct me how to ride my bike by crushing my body with your 2,000 pound instrument of death.
Lance was smart enough to take a photo of his license plate:
I haven't done anything with the photo, and I'm not sure what to do with it. I'm sitting on a legal case against a driver who, in June, ran a red light and nearly killed me. My brother is sitting on a similar legal case. Yesterday, I couldn't stop thinking about the tragic death of Natasha Pettigrew at the hands of an irresponsible driver.
What should I do? What should we do?
In the end, I hope we can live long enough to respond, "I've been riding my bike in this city for 30 years."