It’s getting crazy out there. Twice in the past two weeks I was riding along in a clearly marked bike lane minding my own business when I was harassed by aggressive motorists. One time it was someone shouting obscenities at me for no reason, and the other time it was someone spitting on me for no reason. In both cases I’m pretty sure it was not personal; more likely, it was a symptom of the growing tension between motorists and cyclists due to the large influx of bike riders to hit the road this summer as a result of rising gas prices.
From the Brentwood doctor who was charged with assault for slamming his brakes in front of pair of cyclists (injuring both riders), to the Portland man who sped down a street with a cyclist on the hood of his car (made famous in this video), it seems like a new, over-the-top cyclist/motorist clash makes the news just about every week.
These excerpts are from a story in yesterday’s New York Times titled “Moving Targets”:
“Every year, the war of the wheels breaks out in the sweet summer months, as four-wheelers react with aggravation and anger to the two-wheelers competing for the same limited real estate.”
“We’ve had a car culture for so long and suddenly the roads become saturated with bicyclists trying to save gas. No one knows how to share the road.”
“… the newbies are lured by improved bike lanes as well as the benefits of exercise, a smaller carbon footprint and gas savings. But talk about a vicious cycle! With more bikes on the road, the driver-cyclist, Hatfield-McCoy hostility seems to be ratcheting up. Cycling: good for the environment, bad for mental health?”
“In this dogfight, bigger’s impact is always much, much badder. But smaller is hardly better-behaved. It’s especially true in city traffic, where pedestrians add a third volatile element to a compound already wildly unstable.”
Hopefully, as motorists become more accustomed to sharing the road with cyclists, cooler heads will prevail and things will settle down. In the meantime, remember that a cyclist on a 30 lb. bicycle is no match for a motorist in a 2500 lb. SUV. Stay safe out there!
Read the full story in the NYT →