Monday, January 27, 2014

Hateists . . .

I'm not quite sure what it is about bikes that brings out the worst in certain people, but I never cease to be amazed at the aggression (passive or otherwise) and derision targeted at me and my fellow bikeists for, seemingly, no other crime than being on two wheels.  The only group I can think of that is more unfairly targeted for their choice of transportation would be all those young punks on their damned skateboards (just kidding skateboardist friends, regular followers of this blog know that I am hooked on long-boarding).  Now, I'm not talking about negative reactions to illegal or dangerous behavior -- if you get honked or yelled at for running a red light, or buzzing baby carriages on a sidewalk you deserve the negative reaction.  And, I simply don't buy the notion that the sins of lawless bikeists should somehow be visited on poor, law-abiding, me.  First, I find it to be massively hypocritical for those who prefer motorized, four (or more) wheeled transportation to condemn another group of road-users for their failure to universally obey all traffic laws everywhere and at all times.  Look at yourself in the mirror driveist -- can you honestly say that you obey 100% of traffic laws at all times?  You never so much as creep over the speed limit?  Even on the freeway?  Even when you're late?  You always keep right and pass on the left?  You signal every turn and lane-change?  You always keep two car lengths between you and the vehicle in front of you?  You get the picture.  When it comes to disregarding traffic laws, bikeists have nothing on driveists.  More importantly, though, it is simply illogical.  If I get cut off by someone in a Prius (even, though, another thing that amazes me is how many complete pricks drive Priuses -- aren't they supposed to be friendly tree-hugging types?) do I hold it against the next dude who happens to come along in a Prius?  No.  Despite the fact that so many of his holier-than-thou cohorts are huge schmucks, I give him the benefit of the doubt.  You probably do to.  

Not so with bikes.  Whether it's a bus on Broadway trying to see how close it can get to me without crushing me like a bug, drivers revving their engines or honking behind me after I signal and take the lane where there's no shoulder or to avoid the door zone, or the ignorant, angry, old lady who went out of her way to lower her passenger-side window to yell "Bikes belong on the sidewalk!" as she passed me last month -- we don't get the benefit of any doubt with certain people -- just senseless hostility. 

Check out this video of a British bikeist getting schwacked  by an impatient driver to get a taste of what I'm talking about:

I'm not sure what was worse, getting hit, or the verbal tirade he was subjected to for having the audacity to impede the progress of the impatient driver with his bike (and vital organs).  

I guess some of this is just a product of humans being humans.  For as long as there have been tribes, clans, etc., there has been a natural hostility, mis-trust and irrational hatred of "the other."  Those who are not like me or part of my tribe pose an existential threat.  So, to a driveist, the person pedaling along on two wheels is to be reviled simply for being on two, non-motorized wheels as opposed to four combustion-propelled ones.  "Look at that freak, Martha! -- Biking along the side of this busy road -- who the hell does she think she is?! -- Damned bikes!!"  I'd like to think that humans should be above such base, irrational, attitudes, but if that were the case, the world would be rid of racists, sexists and homophobes by now, right?  

Beyond the base, unevolved, unenlightened, driveists amongst us, though, I think there are many who are simply jealous of us.  That I can understand (a little).  There's a lot to be jealous of.  As they are trapped behind windshields, fighting congestion, rush hours, construction, constant accidents, and each other, they look out and see us doing something fun, healthy and free.   I, myself, feel a twinge of jealousy any time I'm trapped doing an errand in our car and I see a fellow bikeist out on a ride.  Of course, my jealousy doesn't translate into anger, though -- it just takes my mind to its happy place -- my next ride.  So, I do what my dad taught me to do any time I approach a bike traveling in the same direction -- get (at least) my two left wheels across the median as I pass, or wait until it is safe to do so, and then pass giving a wide berth.  The self-loathing types, though, aren't as charitably inclined.  The bike rider represents what they wish they could be and a reminder of how miserable their sedentary existence is.  They don't like their jobs, they don't like their commutes, they don't like themselves, and they wish they exercised more, ate better and had more fun.  So, passive aggression gets the better of them.  Rather than give the bikeist some leeway, they drift toward the rider just to let them know they are there.  Why should they be alone in their misery when it can shared and cast upon an unsuspecting, defenseless, bikeist?  Misery loves company, right?  Uggh!

Then there's the lady who got in my grill at Underbelly after my Saturday ride last week -- just bat-shit crazy.  After I finish my long Saturday ride (60-80 miles that always requires me to catch the ferry from Broadway back to Coronado afterward), I like to stop in Little Italy to reward myself for my efforts with a hearty lunch.  My favorite post-ride treat has to be the ramen at Underbelly (corner of Kettner and Fir).  Besides the facts that they have a fantastic beer list and creative, delicious food (Belly of the Beast is the bomb!), this is a great spot to stop after a ride because of its on-sidewalk seating.  Since nobody wants to lug a heavy u-lock on a long ride, it's nice to find a place where you can easily keep an eye on your unlocked bike while ordering/eating.  Even nicer is that Underbelly participates in San Diego's Bike Commuter Discount Program -- offering generous discounts to any patron who arrives on a bike -- look for this sign at participating businesses:

Most Saturdays my bike fits nicely along the wall adjacent to the walkway leading into the entrance.  Last Saturday, though, there must have been a hipster convention in Little Italy, because the line extended the length of the walkway and out onto the sidewalk.  Because I do my best to be polite and courteous at all times (unlike certain driveists I encounter every Saturday on my long rides) it didn't even cross my mind to try and get the hipsters to move out of the way so I could stow my bike in its usual spot.  No worries -- there's a tree adjacent to the sidewalk, near the curb, that provides a fine alternative to the wall for propping up the bike.  So, I leaned my Secteur against the tree completely out of pedestrian traffic.  I then took my place on line with the hipsters, patiently shuffling every few moments toward the ordering counter and noodle nirvana.  About twenty minutes later, I was sitting at the large open window facing the street (to keep an eye on the bike) happily slurping a huge steaming bowl of noodles.  The communal nature of the seating at Underbelly, invariably leads to me getting embroiled in conversations with my neighbors, and this Saturday was no exception.  So, whilst engaged in a deep conversation of the relative merits of the microbrews on tap, somebody managed to come along and tie their hyper-active labradoodle to the very same tree that was holding up my bike.  This offended me on several levels:  (1) as a life-long dog owner/lover, I bristle at anybody putting their dog in a situation where they can get hurt (stay-tuned for my future post on dog-walkers/joggers/riders who don't keep their dogs short-leashed and to their right on bike-paths); (2) the owners of this (awfully cute) bouncy, energetic, mutt clearly had even less regard for the property of others than they had for their own dog; and (3) it's just stupid to tie your dog up next to something he's more than certain to knock over (probably on himself).  

So, while still engaged in deep conversation with my neighbors, I involuntarily glanced toward the street - just to make sure my bike was still there.  It was, but, so was a labradoodle?  How did he get there?  He was whimpering and bounding back and forth on the other (street) side of the tree focused upon getting the attention of his masters (presumably, somewhere inside the restaurant).  Instantly, I knew this wasn't going to end well.  Just as I was excusing myself from my new friends to go move my bike away from this unexpected threat, the labradoodle managed to get his leash caught on one of my pedals, knocking down the bike (of course) and eliciting a yelp from himself.  I hurried out of the restaurant, quickly untangled the leash from my pedal, picked up my bike, and then looked up expecting to see the owner(s) rushing out as well.  Nothing.  Have to admit I was a little pissed off at this point.  Not only did these folks have complete disregard for their (beautiful) dog and my (beautiful) bike, they were paying no attention to him whatsoever.  Still, I kept my anger in check (really).  I called into big the window - "Does anybody know whose dog this is?"  That's when she came charging out -- all 5' 3" of her.  

"That's my dog, asshole!  What's your problem?!"

"Well, it seems that you found it a good idea to tie her to my bike . . ."

"It's a him, you idiot, and that's no place to leave a bike - you cyclists think you can just leave your bikes wherever you like -  you should lock it up somewhere!"

There you go good readers.  Regardless of the disregard displayed by the the driver, pedestrian, dog-walker, jogger,  roller-blader, dog-tyer-upper,  etc., it's always the bike-rider's fault.  In this case, simply by brazenly propping up a bike against a tree that was clearly designed to be a dog hitch.

Speechless, I disengaged, moved my bike to the wall (which was now free) and moved back into Underbelly - with her at my heels.  She felt the need to follow me back to my stool and berate me for making a big deal out of nothing, with a continued barrage of expletives.  At that point, the bartender, Blaine, cut her off and simply pointed out that my bike had been there first.  She then turned her ire on Blaine.  That went on for about ten seconds before Blaine asked her to leave the restaurant. (How's that for bike-friendly?!)  She, angrily, grabbed her bag from her stool and stormed out.  As I headed over to Blaine to apologize for the commotion, the guy who had been occupying the stool next to hers came up and said "sorry about that" and headed out after her.  A middle-aged guy occupying a stool next to where they had been, turned to his friend and said "How'd you like to be married to that?" -- with hearty laughter resulting from all within earshot.

The laughter helped.  Adrenaline still flowing, though, I thanked Blaine, accepted the condolences of my new friends for the unfortunate altercation, and immersed myself in the comfort of my half-full bowl of, delicious, noodles.  Not easy being a simple bikeist in the city these days -- you never know when a hateist might randomly set upon you . . .

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