I flipped someone off on my bike … more than once.
I know it was neither a kind nor an incredibly intelligent thing to do. It didn’t solve the problem or communicate my grievance effectively. Seeing as how a bike provides little protection against physical assault, it probably put my safety in jeopardy.
Perhaps most unfortunately, it reflected negatively on the cycling community.
A friend—to whom I give a lot of credit for my prior commitment to bike commuting—suggested that I dedicate a NCG post to discussing the commonly-held perception of cyclists as rude, rebellious, and even radical. He said that many car-drivers and other supporters of the status quo feel threatened by these qualities. He went on to say that this perception, and its accompanying fears, may be inhibiting efforts to create real community around cycling and other forms of alternative transportation.
So, my middle finger is to blame for the scarcity of bike lanes in this country?
Not solely, but I’m sure it’s not helping our cause. I’ve heard people—friends, loved ones, and strangers—talk about cyclists: how we go too slowly, how we’re just in the way, how we don’t belong on the streets.
I’m not proud of flying off the handle, but they’re our streets too!
Yes, that was an angry exclamation point. You don’t need a motor to have road rage, and in fact, I could make the case that we cyclists have even more cause for rage than car drivers. Every time a driver parks in the bike lane, forgets to look before opening the car door on the street, neglects to use a turn signal, passes too closely, or cuts us off, our very safety is on the line.
So, yeah, we’re going to get a little angry.
My afore-mentioned friend channels his anger more constructively than I. He pulls up next to motorists at the first opportunity and informs them of their infraction. Sometimes the motorists apologize and promise to pay closer attention in the future. Sometimes they deny any wrong-doing. Sometimes they tell my friend to get away from their car window.
Sometimes my friend replies, “Do you have any concern for my safety?” That’s what I was really trying to say when I jabbed my middle finger in the air. I was trying to say:
Hey! Listen up! I’m here, limbs exposed, with as much right to the road as you.
Unfortunately, I don’t always share my friend’s ability to react to insult by engaging in productive communication. Next time, I’ll try harder—promise.