Monday, December 12, 2011

Psycho Bicyclists

Back when I lived in Austin, bicyclists were the bane of my existence. Well, not really, but on more than one occasion, I would have a sanctimonious hippie preach to me about the virtues of bicycle riding while chastising me for my decision to wait for the bus to get coffee. (On both counts: the fact I wasn't riding a bicycle and the fact I was a caffeine addict.) In fact, over the years, my choice to not drive a car (or even get a driver's license) wasn't applauded for the corresponding support of public transportation systems but rather was seen as an opportunity to "convert" me to the ranks of bicyclist. An effort, I should add, I resisted, with great determination.

Really, I just didn't want to learn how to drive. I liked taking public transportation. And, at least before I developed chronic foot pain, I liked walking. I still don't know how to drive and am somewhat proud of the fact that I not only am forty with no driver's license but that I managed to live five years in Detroit without a car. Okay, okay, so my husband has a car. Still, much of the time we were in Detroit, he worked from 9-5 and I typically would either walk to school or take the bus.

A couple of summers ago, bikes became really trendy in Chicago. I started noticing because, where previously there were only occasional bicyclists, seemingly over night the streets became full of them--the telltale sign of a hipster fad. Since moving here, I've started to wonder if bicyclists aren't just preachy, but may, in fact, be insane.

My first encounter was in my building. A woman with a bicycle made a snide remark about my clothes as I walked up the street. I drew attention to the rudeness of her remark. I then went inside and learned, as she trailed behind me, that she either worked or lived in my building. I collected a few packages waiting for me in the mailroom, including one that was very large and bulky. I then got to the elevator, with one of them nearly dropping out of my arms. It took three attempts to reach the button. She screamed from the other end of the hall, "hold the elevator!!"
I was struggling to hold onto the package with the five ceramic coffee cups in it (replacing ones that were broken by movers) and did not hold the elevator.
She screamed outside the elevator door, "Really?!?"
The door shut. I was going to the second floor, and since she had her bike with her and since there are only six floors (and the elevator is relatively new) assumed she'd just wait for it to come back down. No such luck. As I got off the elevator, she was lugging her bicycle up the stairs.
"That was a total BITCH thing to do!" She screamed at me.
"I'm carrying a bunch of packages !" I retorted.
"That's NO excuse."
Really? I think not wanting to risk breaking $75 worth of merchandise so someone doesn't have to wait five minutes is a pretty good excuse, but that's just me. If positions were reversed, I don't think I would have asked her to hold it for me. Anyhow, I didn't say anything else, just went inside my apartment. She was still screaming at me when I shut the door.

Since then, I've noticed a lot of what can be described as kamikaze bicyclists. Just zipping in and out of traffic, flagrantly disobeying traffic rules. I've seen a lot of "share the road" stickers, including ones attempting to "raise awareness" for bicyclists who were seriously injured by cars in various neighborhoods.

Today, I was going to a nearby coffeehouse when I ran afoul of another bicyclist. I was crossing the street. I had waited for traffic to clear a little, as the foot pain was really bad today. Once it cleared a bit, I began to cross. Cars stopped for me. A bicyclist was coming full speed towards me. I wonder, I thought to myself, are they as considerate of pedestrians as they ask cars to be of them? So I hobbled across the street as Mad Bicyclist Guy(tm) made it abundantly clear that he was not going to stop. Thankfully, I managed to get out of his path in the nick of time. He flashed me a maniacal grin as he pedaled down Racine at warp speed.

Huh. Apparently, sharing the road doesn't apply to pedestrians after all.