The cars were pressed bumper-to-bumper in both lanes of 300 South in downtown Salt Lake City between State and Main streets. That’s typical weekday traffic at 5:15 p.m. And then, from straight out of the shimmering heat waves on the asphalt he came—Mr. Fixed Gear Bicyclist, all mad and free with no bike helmet, the de rigueur nylon messenger bag flapping against his back. He zipped all the way through the two-foot gap between the idling cars, splitting the lane and then running the red light at State and 300 South.
I watched him from the sidewalk. The last I glimpsed him, he was pedaling eastbound, weaving through traffic simply because he could. Such a nihilist, this guy. With his bike cobbled together with grease, spare parts and bailing wire, he will selfishly continue to enrage people who drive cars and make it harder for cyclists trying to dent the motorized world to be taken seriously.
Are you this asshole? Why don’t you stop it? Why don’t you realize the more people ride bikes to save gas money and the environment, the more your lens needs to be trained on safety? You’re giving everyone on a bike a bad image. People have been lobbying the Legislature for bike safety laws and raising money for bike lanes and signage to make life better for you. The rest of us who ride bikes are fed up.
On July 25, I tapped out a post on this very topic on Salt Blog, which you can link to at SLWeekly.com I had witnessed a cyclist in Sugar House nearly get wiped out while making an illegal left turn in traffic. It’s easy to lob blame at cars, but this was an example of one very stupid biker.
Our sweet little City Weekly blog may not get the hits of the Huffington Post. Heavens, we’re not even Dooce. But my post titled “Stupid, Stupid Bicyclists,” apparently hit a few readers in the solar plexus. Creaky knees forced me to cut back on running years ago, and I found cycling. I’m hooked. So, even though my boss, John Saltas, thinks bikes belong only in Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure, I’m going out on the high wire here. I figure I can rant periodically about this topic with a sliver of expertise.
Utah law requires drivers to give a bicyclist three feet of space when passing them on the road. Drivers still have some learning ahead of them. But today, I’m going after bike riders.
From one of your own then, basic observations on bike riding idiocy:
Riding on the sidewalk. While not illegal, it’s stupid and dangerous. Sidewalks are for pedestrians (unless you are a 7-year-old with playing cards clacking in your wheel spokes and a little bell on your handlebars). A cyclist also risks clipping objects on the sidewalk like trashcans, planter boxes, baby strollers, signs and random sleeping homeless people. Also, stop riding against traffic.
Riding without a helmet. Not much worth lecturing about here. Ask anyone who has survived a headfirst spill about it. I did—on the Bonneville Shoreline Trail earlier this summer. My helmet took an inch-long gouge to the right front, which saved my brain from becoming mashed yams. If you want to ride sans helmet, I’d suggest filling out an organ donor pledge before hopping on the bike.
Riding in sidewalks. Stop it. Utah law treats bikes like cars. You have to follow the same rules as the average driver—stop for red lights and use left-hand turn lanes. When was the last time you saw a car on a sidewalk? It’s counterintuitive for riders out there who haven’t been on two wheels since the third grade, but you can do it. Riding a bike in traffic can be scary, yet the more you do it the more nerve you grow and drivers will begin to see you. Get out and claim your piece of the road.
Speaking of nerve, San Francisco and a few other super bike-friendly cities are considering amending a few road rules to ease commuting headaches for cyclists, including allowing them to treat stop signs like yield signs (provided there’s no cross traffic to endanger them, of course). Maybe we could get to that point in Salt Lake City.
More people are using their legs to get around town. Props to all. Mickey, a sales associate in the bicycle department at the East Millcreek REI store, told me last week most of the store’s commuter bike inventory is long gone. He was happy about that for the bottom line but lamented the fact he’ll get no more bike shipments this year. The store is already turning its attention toward ski season.
Meantime, we’ve got months left of good cycling weather. You’re making the time and effort to save money on fuel and to shrink our carbon footprint. Why not learn the rules of the bike world in the process?
Too many boneheads can’t figure out the rules, or think the rules don’t apply to them. You’re wearing the rest of us out. Ride big and brave or get off the road.