Dear everyone –
I’m sorry I have disappeared. I think that moving is a mild, mild insight into what it must be like to have a baby: it’s your one priority, you lose track of what day it is, and you don’t call your friends except to say, “Come see my new ____,” (fill in “baby” or “house”) or “Can you come over and help with ______?” (fill in “holding the baby so I can shower,” or “holding up this fixture so I can repair the shower”). Anyway, the rest of the world has pretty much disappeared since my vision has narrowed and all I can see is our apartment and all of the boxes.
As you might imagine, wedding stuff and/or planning anything that doesn’t involved cleaning, painting, or sorting boxes feels quite overwhelming, so I will deviate from my usual wedding discussion and talk about something else I feel very passionately about:
Here are two recent updates from facebook friends of mine:
(oops, I spelled Acquaintance wrong, sorry)
(but I did not spell “hardcore” or “friend” wrong! stupid computer.)
Please excuse my crappy screenshots.
Here are my thoughts:
First, Acquaintance who I’m not still in touch with enough to say this to for real (sorry!): I “liked” your status because I was really, really happy that you got a ticket for breaking the law. Yes, it may have seemed harmless to you, and in a lot of cases it probably is harmless to just roll on through a red light. In fact, in a lot of cases it would be harmless for cars to roll through a red light – but you wouldn’t be nearly as surprised or angry about getting a ticket running a light in a car as you would on your bicycle. And that is frustrating to me.
I am a bicyclist, and I stop at red lights.
I have been riding the streets of Boston for almost three years, and I have ridden most parts of Boston and several surrounding towns. I have been nearly hit by many cars, and even hit one car myself when it turned left and stopped suddenly in front of me while I was riding at a nice clip down the street in the bicycle lane. She did not look down the bicycle lane before making the turn. Anyway, one time that I got in a fight of sorts with a driver was when he pulled into the bicycle lane, cutting me off. “HEY!” I yelled – this is often the most clever thing I can think of to yell when some giant metal machine nearly runs into me – “WATCH OUT!”
To which he responded, “Well, you run stop signs and red lights, why should I watch out for you?!”
And here’s the thing – I get his point. If I’m not going to follow the rules, why should he?
But here’s the other thing. I do follow the rules. It’s you, Facebook Friend/Acquaintance of mine, who don’t follow the rules, and it’s people like you that friendly Guy Who Almost Ran Into Me sees every day when he is out driving his car, and it is seeing people blatantly ignore the laws that makes him feel okay about more subtly ignoring other laws, like the one where drivers should not stop in the bicycle lane.
I used to consider starting a blog just to rant about bicycling in Boston. Thank you, Acquaintance, for reminding me to finally talk about this.
I used to say to myself that bicycling on the road is like falling in love: you try to keep your eyes open for whatever might jump out at you, but you pretty much just have to take a deep breath and trust that you won’t get hurt.
And sometimes you will. Sometimes it will be a driver who doesn’t look when they open their door, and then your face looks like this:
even though normally it should look like this:
Sometimes it will be a pothole that throws you off of your bicycle, and then you look like Hardcore Friend up there.
But look, people: until bicyclists start following the rules, drivers are going to feel like they have as much of a right to ignore/disrespect bicyclists as the bicyclists feel they have a right to ignore the rules.
Stopping at a stoplight takes about thirty seconds. Really, and often it takes less than that. You can still break ahead of those cars after waiting, and not only do you lessen your chance of getting hit, you way lessen your chance of someone seeing you and instantly hating you. And while I would never honestly wish pain on anyone, I do find myself thinking, “maybe a car will come screeching out and really scare that bicyclist who’s running the red light that I am stopped at.” Inevitably, this does not happen. But the light changes, and I ride on, and I almost always pass the rider who ran the light. Seriously, guys, you’re not saving yourselves much time.
If you are riding in Boston, and you run a light, and someone yells, “Bicyclists have a red light, too,” it might be me. When I started riding around here, I ran lights for about a week after I’d seen lots of other riders do it, and I thought, “It can’t be that bad, everyone’s doing it.” And then I almost hit some little girl (who should have been using the crosswalk, but wasn’t – but it still would have been my fault) when she was crossing the street with her mother and passed through some cars stopped at the light. And her mother said, “You had a red light! Bicycles have red lights, too.” And I have not run a single light since then. That one sentence changed the way I ride. Do you want to hit some little girl in front of her mother? Gosh, that would ruin your day. Not to mention hers.
Tell me what you think. Do you ride? Are you afraid to ride? I could say a whole lot more about this, and maybe I will. Do you drive and hate bicyclists? Will you join me in reminding them that there are laws they should follow, too? And is anyone interested in hearing more about this, or about how I have pulled over and had a conversation with every driver who has hit me? Tell me, please.