When I moved to Portland, I knew I was moving to one of the most bicycle friendly cities in the country, but I didn't really know quite what to expect.
What I didn't expect that instead of truly sharing the road, I'd come upon one of the biggest culture wars I'd ever seen. No one truly sharing the road, inconsiderate cyclists and bad drivers making it a bad experience for everyone.
As a relative newcomer to a place such as this, where bicycles and cars clash on a daily basis, I think I have a fairly unbiased perspective. Even though I've yet to be brave enough to ride my own bike on the busy streets. To be fair, it's both the cars and intense cyclists which scare me.
I came across an article the other day, which I now can't find again, in which this exact subject was discussed and comments went crazy on both sides. Either cyclists were pompous and entitled or drivers were reckless and determined to kill cyclists. No one gave a shit about pedestrians.
But there were a few comments that gave me hope. Some people actually recognize (gasp!) that bad cyclists AND bad drivers ruin it for everyone. Someone said the only place he'd seen bicycles and cars reside in harmony was in Amsterdam, proving yet again that Amsterdam truly is Utopia.
Back to me, though (as always). This is what I see: both factions are fighting a war against each other. When it should be against the assholes who give us a bad name, whomever "us" is.
I've seen plenty of cyclists behaving badly. I think you aaaall remember the douchecanoe from my birthday.
I see why drivers get pissed off. Bicycles will dominate the roads riding 2 and 3 side by side, blow through red lights, cut off pedestrians, and ride sans any lights at night. There has to be a sense of entitlement that makes these people ride so recklessly, that makes they drive like they OWN the road instead of sharing it, but mostly I have to wonder if they're masochists.
As a driver, I'm just afraid of hitting these people! I don't want to hit them out of spite or something. And they're likely to die whereas my car is unlikely even to dent. But I don't want them to die, lard no. But how am I supposed to drive when I'm constantly dodging cyclists with an apparent death wish? Then they call drivers assholes.
Well, it won't be my fault when they die under my car, but I'm sure the police won't see it that way. Nor will my sensitive conscience.
However, I see considerate cyclists too. These are the people who should be pissed at the asshole cyclists. And, so far, these people seem to be more the "use a bike just to get around" types. The types who it might be an inconvenience to actually stop at a stop sign because they're not pro and it sucks to stop the bike and put their feet down and then get going again. BUT! They do. They stop. And wait their turn. And have lights on their bikes. And make room for cars on the road as well.
To be fair, there are asshole drivers too. Obviously. They piss everyone off, not just the bicycles, trust me. The asshole drivers are a huge part of why I'm scared to bike myself around this city. I know it's frustrating to deal with so many forms of transportation, but I think it's worth remembering that cars can mow over bicycles. This doesn't mean cyclists should use this knowledge to own the road, knowing no one really wants to kill anyone. But human nature is fragile and road rage real. I know. I lived in Los Angeles.
I would be more careful if I rode my bike. Just sayin.
So what's the answer? Fuck if I know. But dudes, does it really hurt to just obey the rules of the road? Why can't both the bicyclists and cars be considerate? The rules apply to everyone and behaving like as asshole just makes everyone else behave like assholes.
Maybe by spring I'll get brave enough to use my bicycle. At this point? Too scary.
2 years ago