Thursday, April 20, 2006

An Open Apology

To all the pedestrians crossing lawfully in the crosswalk who I have terrified, I apologize. I try to convince myself that cycling to work on the city streets is a healthful, pleasant way to get to work. And while it's true that it has its benefits, it is a stressful undertaking. A cyclist has to constantly avoid death by motor vehicle. One must always assume that the cars, trucvks and vans of the road either do not see you or do not care if they hit you. It is an exceptional ride when some driver dies not at least give you a mile terror.

Unfortunately, I all too often turn this aggression to pedestrians. Like the abused boy who beats his dog, I berate unwary pedestrians wandering into bike lanes or jaywalking. And I am impatient. I do not like to stop at all. Momentum is king, and the ride is the best at top speed. But I have gotten too aggressive I fear, zooming through crosswalks when pedestrians are moving through, unaware. I have little empathy when I startle someone who does not have the right of way, and I should maybe have a little more compassion for people who are behaving much like myself when I am on foot. But I should be especially careful not to interfere with people legally crossing the street. I know I am not going to hit any pedestrians, but I forget how startling it can be to have a cyclist race by you within inches when you are not expecting it. By zooming through crosswalks and buzzing people, I am not merely being rude, but giving all cyclists a bad name, and earning the hate so many pedestrians have for us.

The above was brought on by a confrontation I had with a pedestrian who sort of tapped me on the back as I swerved around him in a crosswalk in Brooklyn Heights. I spun around, said "Who did that?", saw a guy grinning at me, and said "Was that you did, you touch me?" He said he did, walked up to me and we started arguing. The details of the argument are unimportant. I was mad that he had invaded my personal space, which he had done because I scared him. I think we were each at fault, though the initial provocation was mine. Incidentally, about 20 minutes later, on 6th ave. in the village, as I was still turning the event over in my mind, a van driver scared the crap out of me by honking hs horn at me because I had the audacity to be in the road, in his way. There is a reason I ride in the middle of the lane: I have a right to the road, and if I ride to the side of the lane, people like the van driver will zoom around me within inches and, invariably, cut me off.

So the incident with the van provided me with a similar jolt to the one I gave the pedestrian. Treat others as you would be treated. It's pretty simple.


187Corporate said...

Screw that. Shit rolls down hill and so does fear. If you treat everyone like you'd like to be treated the terrorists win. You wouldn't want that would you?!! HUH? What's that?...are you a terrorist?!!

beckett said...

Yes. Yes I am.

vacuous said...

I never had the courage to ride down the middle of a lane, except for short distances. It is usually safer to do it, and I have had cars cruise by me on my bike without making any allowance for safety, such as slowing down or making space. My current solution, not applicable in your situation, is to stick to side roads. The problem with this solution is that it limits the distance I can travel.

koslovskysmith said...

As a car driver, I've often behaved the same way--aggressive, sometimes self-righteous: "Hey, it's my right of way, get out of it, stupid!" but your point is well taken. Following the old-fashioned Golden Rule is damned tough in the rough-and-tumble of New York. That's why bullies like 187coprporate like to think (if you can use that word for what he does) like they do. It takes a little effort and rational thought to make distinctions between terrorism and civilized behavior. I'll try to keep this in mind next time I start to deliberately scare a stupid pedestrian who's crossing against the light obliviously chatting into his cellphone.