I swear to you, one of these days I’m going to hit a cyclist. NO — not on purpose! Good grief, what kind of person do you think I am?
The people I’m talking about aren’t the real cyclists who wear helmets and gloves and those Lycra shorts that fit soooo tight that you can see the outline of every, ah, bulge and muscle and, uh ….. um, where was I? Oh yes, sorry. Lycra — those really tight-fitting shorts. The real cyclists wear proper (or perhaps not so “proper”) attire. No, I’m talking about the (insert word here … the ones I’m thinking of refer to diminished brain capacity) rider who:
- ride on the wrong side of the street, facing traffic
- wear a tee shirt and ball cap; no protective clothing or helmet
- have no lights or reflectors
- seem oblivious to cars around them.
My little subdivision opens onto a larger, not main, but well-traveled street, and that street connects with a major boulevard. And that is where I swear I’m going to hit one of these brain-dead people.
Case in point: Yesterday I was getting ready to make a right turn against the light. (That’s perfectly legal, you know, after you’ve come to a complete stop and checked for traffic. Yes, of course you knew that.) Anyway, the road was clear — no traffic coming toward me off the freeway exit, no cars to my left and, of course, cars coming from the right would’ve been on the other side of the boulevard and I could easily see there were none. As I started out, I caught movement out of the corner of my eye, and here was this person (again, insert word here …) pedaling steadily along, not three feet from my right fender. I jammed on the brakes and he continued past me, head down, apparently oblivious. By the time my breathing returned to normal, the light was green and the car behind me was honking.
Unfortunately, that has happened more than once. Sometimes it’s kids but usually it’s a 20ish male. And now that I think of it, never a woman. I wonder if that means women are smarter or just not so willing to put their butt on the line. Well, let’s not even go there.
It isn’t just the people riding against the traffic, it’s also the ones who ride in the middle of traffic just as though they were a car. Thank goodness I don’t see this often, but one evening just at dusk when the light was fading but the street lights hadn’t come on yet, there were two young men riding down the street in the traffic lane. This in spite of the fact that the Nevada Department of Transportation has spent thousands — okay, hundreds of thousands — of dollars to re-pave and re-stripe the roads to make specific “bike lanes.” In some cases this lane is painted green just so everyone knows it’s for cyclists. So there these guys are, trailing a whole line of cars behind them and then, as we got to the intersection, one of them peels off to the right and pulls his bike onto the sidewalk and the other pulls into the left turn lane right in front of me, just as if he were a car. No lights or reflectors. Just a guy on a bike. I was so peeved that I actually got out (this is a long red signal so I knew I had time) and yelled “You need a light on your bike. I could barely see you!”
“I have a light!” he yelled back. He motioned to the back of his bike — there was no light until, oops, he realized he’d forgotten to turn it on. With a cocky grin and a devil-may-care shrug, he flipped it on and hopped back on his bike. What a numb-skull.
I got back in my car and when the light turned green, I followed as he pedaled across the intersection and met his buddy who was waiting for him. I followed them for a block until they turned off. I was tempted to yell something spectacularly clever like “see you in the morgue!” but I didn’t. They were already brain-dead.
But the most common — and more often than I’d like — I’ve seen bikes at night with no light and perhaps a small reflector that is noticeable from about 20 feet away if the headlight catches it just right. I’m behind them going 30, they’re going — what, 10, 15? Not good. I now carry bike reflectors in my car and the next time I encounter this, I’m going to stop and give them one. And watch while they put it on.
When I was learning to drive, my dad wanted to impress on me the necessity of being alert behind the wheel and trying to anticipate what other cars were going to do. He told me, “it’s not enough to drive your own car; you have to drive everyone else’s, too.”
So not only do I have to drive my car and the other cars too, but now apparently I have to ride a bike as well. At least I don’t have to stuff myself into those impossibly form-fitting Lycra shorts. There’s an upside to everything.