The first mile or so of my trip home is on a relatively busy road. It has two lanes in each direction with a center median but no bike lane, or even a shoulder to speak of. I typically ride on the sidewalk until I reach the Upper Tampa Bay Trail. Once on the trail, it is quiet enough for me to call my wife to let her know I am on my way.
This afternoon, I made it a few blocks from work and noticed several people walking on the sidewalk so I waited for the traffic to clear and then got on the road to go around them. There were two or three groups of people on the sidewalk so I decided to stay on the road until I passed all of them. The traffic was light because the bulk of the traffic was stopped at a red light about a block behind me.
That is when a car came up behind me and slowed to my speed. As it approached, I notice the window was open and a young man was sitting in the passenger seat. A young woman was driving and she leaned over to say something to me. I have had several people comment about my bicycle because, believe it or not, there are still people who have never seen a recumbent bike. I assumed I was going to hear a comment about how she liked my bike, but instead she yelled, “Hey! You need to be riding on the sidewalk!”
I was a bit shocked. I wanted to say, “Are you kidding me?” but she sped up past me before I could reply. I actually wanted to say something much worse and then I wanted to ask her why she had the right to be on the road and I didn’t, but the moment had passed and all I could think to do was yell “Thank You! and wave so she could see me in her mirror. Then I flipped her the bird. I know I shouldn’t have done that but she just irritated the hell out of me.
The funny thing was, I was not slowing her down. She had plenty of room to go around me. It was as if, in her mind, she was doing me a favor by letting me know bikes are not allowed on the road. Can people really be that stupid? And it wasn’t just her. Her boyfriend, or whoever he was, opened his window and went along with it.
I have always been amazed at two things: The height of human intelligence and the depth of human stupidity. These two fell into the later category. For much of the rest of the trip home I felt irritated by what happened. I was listening to an audio book on my iPod and had to keep rewinding it because my mind was wandering.
I am well aware that a cyclist can slow down traffic and I try to do my best to be respectful to drivers and minimize that as much as possible. In this case, I knew that I could pass all the pedestrians and be back on the sidewalk before the heavy traffic arrived. It didn’t matter. It seems there is always going to be that ignorant asshole that thinks the world revolves around them and nothing you do will make them happy.
I try to empathize with drivers, which is not hard to do because I am one, and I honestly don’t remember ever being upset because a cyclist was on the road, even before I rode my bike on a regular basis. The only exception would be when my wife and I came up behind a bunch of cyclist on a group ride. We were on a back road in an industrial area. There was no traffic so the cyclists had spread out across the entire road, including the oncoming lane, making it impossible to pass them, so we had to follow them at ten miles per hour for several minutes until we could turn. If there ever was a reason to roll down the window and yell at a cyclist, this was it, but we just patiently waited for our chance to turn and went on our way.
Sometime I think about moving to a small town in Wyoming where everybody knows one another and nobody is in a hurry, but then I would miss all the drama.