There’s alot of bike stuff happening in Austin, Texas. Woom Bikes, which is a company that makes bicycles for children, is having a big event this weekend. The City of Austin is starting a roll-out to provided dockless bikes and scooters with special parking “boxes” to try to get them out of harm’s way. Next weekend is the Texas Bicycle Advocate Summit organized by Bike Texas, with people coming from Dallas, Houston and San Antonio. Yours truly was offered to attend as a representative of Bike Austin. The next day is Cyclists in Suits, where riders go to members of the Texas Legislature to promote better safety for bike riders. That night will be the Pedicab Parade, with a marching band playing from the pedicabs. Check back here for news and views you can use next week. But meanwhile, I want to talk about an important subject: jerks.
Jerks Don’t Care & Are Everywhere, So Beware
The other night I was going to the grocery store when I saw a pedestrian walking the wrong way in a bike lane. This was despite there being a perfectly fine sidewalk. I didn’t really notice but in my peripheral vision I saw several other people. One of them yelled, “Bettah watch out for my son, or I’ll knock you off, you homey bitch.” It’s not racial profiling to say this was an African-American male. Which is only germane to the discussion because I’ve had two other black men say this to me. Also, because I’m including a picture of Steve Martin from The Jerk, who thinks he was born “a poor black child.”
There were several things wrong with this comment and I was going too fast so didn’t say anything. Since I live in the neighborhood I didn’t want to get put on a list. First, a Latino man of similar age to an African-American speaker is clearly not the latter’s son. Second, you don’t walk in the bike lane unless you’re a lazy person or you’re looking for a fight. Third, what is going on with threats to knock me off? I’m just minding my business, and I have no intention of hitting anyone, or letting anyone knock me over. I got the impression that it was a gang or at least thug wanna-be’s. It’s sad and more than a little frustrating.
That’s just one jerk. I mentioned a jerk University of Texas police officer blocking my lane in my post about bike fatality #1 for 2019, Anthony John Diaz. Other jerks abound, too many to recount here. But a few examples: 1) Those texting on their phone, stopped at lights, backing up traffic (including me on a bike). 2) Someone coming too close to or even driving in the bike lane. 3) People who stop and yield to a biker when it is not my turn at a four-way stop or at intersections with signals while traffic comes at them from behind.
There are simply a lot of jerks on the road. Scads, oodles, tons, shitloads of jerks — as far as the eye can see. It’s like that Seinfeld episode “The Comeback,” where George eats too much seafood and somone says, “Hey George, the ocean called; they’re running out of shrimp.” George replies, much later, “Well, the Jerk Store called, and they’re running out of you!”
Are You a Jerk? Get Help and Stop It!
Do you get mad at pedestrians and bicyclists for no good reason? Do you check your cell phone when stopped at lights? Have you ever plowed through an intersection or charged out of a business or driveway without looking both ways? Didn’t signal a turn? Came so close to a cyclist that they could touch your car? Well, if so, you might be a jerk.
I’ll be the first to admit that sometimes I do jerk-like things. I lose focus waiting at a light and jump it thinking it’s green when it’s just a left turn. Or ride on the sidewalk. sometimes in the opposite direction, because the road is unsafe, only to have cars not expect me and nearly collide. Or I may take the lane and ride in the middle so I don’t have to go through a big pile of glass or rocks in the bike lane, which slows drivers down. So yeah, I can do jerky stuff, and most of the time it’s accidental.
But I think that’s the difference. Someone who IS a jerk is just that way unconsciously. Maybe they can’t help it, it’s genetic, they were shaken as a baby, or were coddled by parents and society a bit too much. They just figure “Well, I’m in a car and you’re on a bike, I win, so get the hell out of my way.” They may have a point, but that’s not how sharing the road works. Some of them are downright hostile to cyclists, and may even go out of their way to pursue a road-range inducing cyclist. But even intentional or genetic jerks hopefully don’t really want to kill bike riders. (I’m convinced that some jerks do.)
Be a Jerk Less, Save Lives More
The point is, if you drive a car, your main goal really ought to boil down to this: Be less of a jerk. Believe me, if we had fewer jerks, we’d have fewer car v. bike crashes, and more riders, and it would be safer. Sure, there are plenty of cyclists who will continue to be a pain, and who don’t follow all the rules. I however am an assertive rider who has never had a crash with a car, and who is now a League Cycling Instructor (LCI) to boot. But every ride could be my last if someone is jerking around in their car. Don’t be that guy, or woman! Pay attention. Slow down. Yield right of way. And maybe create a little good will betweeen cyclists and drivers. The life you save may be your own.
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