Yesterday, I was commuting on Levy Road trying to get from Tacoma to Puyallup. Levy road is good and bad. Good because it has light traffic that goes slow. Bad because there is NO shoulder. I was hugging the right edge of the road and looking as submissive as you can on a bike. The few vehicles that passed me gave me plenty of room. All in all, a good day. A good day until a large pick-up truck drove alongside me with his window down. (Why are all pick-up beds empty?) I saw that the driver's lips were moving. I thought, "here we go." But, the driver did not look particularly pissed. I thought that maybe he was lost and asking for directions. I decided to do something other than ignore him, which is my usual practice, and here is what he said to me: "You give bike riders a bad name."
Hmmm. Ok, I'll bite. "How do I give 'bike riders' a bad name?" Now, to engage this man in this conversation, I reach out and am hanging on his open window of his truck. We are literally driving along Levy Road at about 20 MPH debating his world view. (Don't try that at home). I asked him if he has ever ridden a bike and he claimed that he rides bikes and it was people like me that made it harder for guys like him because I - you guessed it - give bike riders a bad name. His argument was that my route selection was bad. He thought Levy Road was too dangerous and I should ride on River Road. I told him I thought River Road was dangerous even for cars and I sure as heck would never ride a bike on River Road. Back and forth. I concluded by saying: "Thank you for your input. I am doing the best I can and just trying to get to work."
Here is what bugs me. What is it about riding a bike that makes everyone feel like they need to express their opinions. I am 45 years old. I am an attorney by trade, have two kids. I served in the US Army for several years. On and on. In all of my other realities, guys like that don't come up and tell me they think I am wearing the wrong suit, or playing the wrong game with my kid. I know it sounds arrogant, but in my other, non-cycling life, bloated, pickup driving men between the ages of 18 and 55 know better than to debate with me. Yet, on a bike, everyone has an opinion and they express it. I hate that! Another thing, they treat us like we are kids. Hear is what I have heard while riding my bike: "You riding too fast. You are riding to slow. Get off the road. Get off the sidewalk. Don't turn left."
The other thing was this. I actually let the guy get to me. I tried to find a different route home. I ended up on a creative combination of Pioneer Ave, side roads and even River road. I am lucky to be alive. I ride my bike continually. Nearly every day. I knew darn well that Levy road was the only road and yet, I was trying to be accommodating and almost orphaned my kids. Levy road is the ONLY way to ride to Tacoma and every reasonable bike commuter knows that.
I realize I am preaching to the choir and I do feel better. From now on, I am going to ignore all motorists who try to say something to me. I just hope they don't express themselves through mass and the velocity of their steel wrapped frames.