Thursday, May 19, 2011

Under the Veneer

At the moment, the most read and commented on story in the Seattle Times, is an opinion article on bicycling; asking what's the big deal about bikes sharing the road with motorists. It leans towards the bicycle side, so brewed up a fury of the anti-bicycle crowd. You can read the article and comments here.

For being such a bike crazed area, or maybe because of it, anytime a bicycle related piece runs in the paper - it unleashes a torrent of hatred towards bicyclists. The comments run the gamut of complaints. Some of it true - yes, a percentage of us run red lights, ride like idiots on the sidewalk, and generally have no clue how to ride in traffic. Some of it ignorant - like we're not paying our share of taxes and use the road for "free". These people have no idea how roads are actually funded. Some of it moronically funny - the hang up about bike shorts, or how we're dangerous to motorists.

From the comments section, you'd think the Seattle area is pure chaos in the streets. Bikes careening out of control at every intersection, motorists on the verge of running down cyclists in defense. In real life, far from the case.

I've lived in the Seattle area for 22 years now. Been on and off bike commuting the entire time, almost full time for the last 6 years or so. That's thousands of commute and recreational rides. Many miles have passed under my two wheels.

Sure, occasionally someone will pass too close for comfort or cut me off. I've seen incredible acts of stupidity from motorists and fellow bicyclists. But overall, that kind of scene is hardly measurable compared to the zillions of hours of everyone getting along. Or maybe I'm just lucky or feel comfortable riding in traffic. For the most part, in my experience anyway, people tend to give each other room as needed.

The folks who spew their ignorance anonymously behind the veil of the Internet are either a minority, or it's just the thin veneer of social conformity that keeps it all together in real life. I think there's elements of both in that answer.

In any case, I'll be enjoying my ride home today. The closeted bike haters can tap away on their keyboards or fume while sitting in traffic. I'll get home with a sense of accomplishment, plus an hour of being outside. You don't know what you're missing. Jump over the fence, give it a try.