Last week was the perfect storm of sorts in Boston. The weather was beautiful and there was this whole bike to work stuff going on. Now I'm all for riding to work, I do it all year long, however when you get a bunch of people on the roads/paths who have not ridden in a while, it can be downright dangerous. I am going to start my own lobbying campaign with this post. I am lobbying to change the name of Bike to Work Day/Week/Month to the Most Dangerous Day/Week/Month to Bike to Work.
My commute to work is 98% bike/pedestrian pathway, which is both a good and a bad thing. It is good because I do not have to deal with motor vehicles much, but on the downside I have to deal with other cyclists, pedestrians, dogs, birds, squirrels, the occasional rat, and yes, even a regular on a Segway. I try to ride a bike like I used to drive a car - defensively. I think there is little to gain from riding aggressively. Riding a bit defensive likely saved me from several possible trips to the emergency room last week. I will describe three brief episodes.
Episode I - There is a blind corner on my commute and it is not uncommon for pedestrians or runners to go two or three abreast. I was approaching the corner early last week and two side-by-side runners began to emerge from around the bend and a guy on a fixie was blasting past them with little regard to the fact that he could not see what was coming at him. What was coming at him was me. I am very happy that I recently tightened my brake pads, I slammed on my brakes and came to a complete stop and the guy on the fixie swerved and almost took both one of the joggers and me out.
Episode II - There is a very narrow corner near a cross walk and in order to let people pass, anyone who is stopped has to angle their ride. A woman had stopped in the narrow corridor, however she left not an inch for other riders to pass. She was happily staring at the light, not paying attention, and I slowed down and chimed my bell. Because of traffic and or headphones in her ears she could not hear me and upon slowing down I heard a loud squeal and the dragging of a shoe. A guy had been following me and he almost rear-ended me.
Episode III - A woman is riding toward me and is obviously enamored by something in the adjacent river. How do I know? She is riding on the wrong side of the path - straight at me. I slow down and ring my bell and she finally looks ahead at me and starts swerving madly. I guess her hands were not stretched over her brake levers because she does not slow down at all and starts screaming. Fortunately she was composed enough to ride around me, barely.
One thing I have learned during my time on earth is that I cannot control other people. The moral of these stories is to ride defensively, especially during Bike to Work Month. Also, I suddenly have found myself longing for the days of sub-zero commutes where the path was much more desolate . . . and safe.