Tuesday, January 24, 2006

You knew it was coming

Hey old bike guy, what's your take on the now infamous bike rider/bus driver/bus passenger incident and lawsuit in our fair city? Is it still safe for us youngsters to ride in this town?

—The kids are Albright?

Hey Kid,

Was it ever safe? I doubt it's less safe now; just don't ride alone at night, when cover of darkness and consumption of substances lower inhibitions and increase vigilante impulses all around. [Update: City government seems to have recognized the menace of balkanization on the road and has launched a campaign for decency and civility. Good on them.]

But since you asked, here's my take:

When the cyclist left the bike lane approaching the Hawthorne Bridge and rode in the right-hand part of the traffic lane, he showed bad form. If you're gonna take a lane, then throw down a traffic-speed interval, get out in the middle, and take the damned lane. By weaseling along on the right-hand edge of a narrow, high-traffic lane (see for yourself), the cyclist invited the close encounter with the bus.

But what if traffic speed is too fast to match? That's a clue to stay out of the lane altogether, unless you're from Manhattan and you're comfortable with such close quarters. Obviously he wasn't.

Ostensibly the cyclist left the bike lane because the gravel from recent snow-control efforts made it unsafe. But he put himself in much greater danger with his non-committal lane position and pace. He could have just negotiated the bike-lane gravel at an appropriate speed for a few hundred yards, then been home free. As I've said before, there's no need to be a martyr; this is supposed to be fun.

So the cyclist makes a bad decision, invites a close call, then goes postal when it happens—breaking at least three laws in the process. And he gets an equally brutish and unlawful reaction from the bus driver and passenger. That's fine; arrest all three, cuff 'em, throw 'em in a holding cell and let 'em hate on each other for a few hours. They deserve it. Too bad the cops didn't see it.

Sadly, though, we all pay for their shared caveman complex now. Balkanization accelerates and we cyclists—who also drive cars now and then—get hated as a class. Meanwhile, we taxpayers have to pay for a boneheaded abuse of court time. Thanks a lot, law-suit guy. Nice advocacy. Nice riding.

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