Here’s the thing: I’m well aware that bicyclists have a right to the road, that using a bike as one’s mode of transportation reduces one’s carbon footprint, etc. However, being aware of moral superiority in one aspect of life does not make you morally superior overall…and sadly, it seems, too many bicyclists give off this attitude as if they’ve formed some sort of Moral Superiority League, and those of us who (sniff of disapproval) drive hideous cars (even small ones that get good gas mileage) ought to cringe in shame at the mere sight of doughty bicyclists saving the planet in their colorful spandex outfits.
See, here’s the other thing: any vehicle on the road ought to do what it can, within the bounds of practicality, legality, and overall efficiency, to not interfere with other road users’ ability to use the road (again, within the bounds of practicality, legality, and overall efficiency). Thus it is that (as was our case the other night), a vehicle towing a loaded trailer, which cannot reach the speed limit on a lengthy slope, should move over to the right lane, so other vehicles that can move with the prevailing traffic rate do not queue up behind the slower-moving vehicle. And so it is with bicyclists – who, however, far too often have this tendency to ride abreast one another, clotting the lane as they move slowly, even when it’s completely possible to ride in a line (even – as happened this afternoon – when there’s a dedicated bicycle lane for them). And several times, confronting this situation with the lightest, most polite possible tap on my tiny little car horn, I have been met with a haughty middle finger held aloft, at my arrogance for (presumably) imagining that I have more right to the lane than they do. But (as my trailer example should suggest) in fact – when I’m moving with the prevailing traffic, and there’s a perfectly reasonable way for the slower traffic (in this case, a line of bicycles) to not interfere with that prevailing traffic – I do…in that situation. Anyway, what happened today was what usually happens – I had to merge into the left lane (as did all the cars behind me), thereby multiplying risk factors for all of us. Sure, I could have been all zen calm and driven slowly behind the cavalcade of buddy-buddy bicyclists…but I couldn’t have controlled the cars that would have then been queueing up behind me – many of whom inevitably would have merged. It’s predictable behavior, that is: create an impediment in one lane, and you will create merging into the other lane. Doesn’t matter much which cars end up merging and which (if any) end up staying in the slow (less than 20mph) lane. (In this instance I did not tap my horn, flip my finger, or roll my eyes while passing – the BMSL effect making me believe it’d be useless in any event.)
Then again, certain automobile drivers, without pretending any claim of moral superiority, behave equally obnoxiously. As also happened to me today: I was on the freeway, in the middle lane, going pretty much the prevailing speed in that lane…but at that particular moment, I had found myself surrounded by two trucks, one in each surrounding lane, temporarily boxing me in. And there was a car ahead of me, which I couldn’t get any closer to without reducing my following distance to a dangerous closeness. In other words, for the time being, none of us was going anywhere fast relative to one another. None of which prevented some clown in a black Escalade (smoking a cigarette, too) from attempting to drive up my tailpipe, clearly irritated at my failure to get out of his way. I wasn’t sure, really, where he expected me to go: I am not the Houdini of the roadway, and under the circumstances, we all had to simply wait until one or the other of the trucks cleared the surrounding lanes. And of course, as usually is the result in these situations, once the momentary jam-up cleared, and Mr. BFEG roared off in a fit of pique, he ended up all of ten yards ahead of me, heading off onto an exit ramp.