I've been filling in for a fellow Borderstan contributor who writes an Urban Etiquette column every couple of weeks. The first column I wrote was a re-purposed Seat Hogs (one of my personal favorite posts), and this week I wrote about people who ride their bicycles on the sidewalk.
I've found writing this column both enrages and empowers me. I was especially excited when my editors, before publishing this last one, warned me that cyclists despise being talked about and I would surely get a rainstorm of nasty comments. I was so ready to take them on (nothing can be worse than the comment war of New Year's Eve 2009).
The day it was to be posted I could barely focus on my work I was so giddy. At noon, when it posted, I braced myself for the barrage of comments. I got one. And it wasn't even mean. In fact, it was disappointingly civilized, bordering on classy. Provocative writer I am not, but I'm working on it. And please, if you have a gripe, tell me about it and let me be your voice to the people! ("I think I may be the voice of my generation. Or at least a voice. Of a generation.")
And now, here's my un-comments-war-worthy post:
Bicyclers…we need to talk.
I know everyone and their tourist mother have complained about people riding their bicycles on the sidewalk,
but I want my voice to be heard as well. As a fellow bicycler, as well
as pedestrian and driver, I feel I have a unique point of view on the
I’ll admit, when I first moved to D.C., I rode my bike on sidewalks.
Ever the goodie goodie, I did my due diligence and researched bike laws,
which state that I can legally ride my bike on the sidewalk outside of
the central business district, defined as 2nd Street NE and SE, D Street
SE and SW, 14th Street SW and NW, Constitution Avenue NW, 23rd Street
NW and Massachusetts Avenue NW.
Since it was legal in most places, I thought the responsible thing to
do was ride on the sidewalk, the safer place to be versus the scary
streets with the road ragers and hardcore cyclists whose shoes clip into
their pedals. I ignored the scowls from pedestrians and rang my bell
happily to let them know I was behind them and that they should get out
of the way.
I was wrong (and not just about that annoying bell).
Turns out the streets are the much safer place to be when you’re on
something with wheels — except a wheelchair, people in wheelchairs can
go wherever they want and the rest of us can deal with it. Drivers are
used to going around slow or stopped vehicles, and enough people ride
bicycles that drivers have learned to share the roads.
When I’m driving it’s an inconvenience, for sure, to get stuck behind
a cyclist, but I much prefer that to being a cyclist stuck behind
pedestrians. It’s the safer and easier alternative, and you will avoid
having random people develop rage anger against you, as I did the other
day when a cyclist almost hit me on the sidewalk and then had the nerve to say, “Watch where you’re going!”
Of course he was gone before I could do anything more than shake my
fist at him, which is why I wanted to take this opportunity to remind
you not to be inconsiderate and keep your bike on the street.
That also goes for Segways… don’t even get me started.