It's not unusual for me to get ticked off on my daily ride to or from work. Bad/ignorant/distracted/antagonistic drivers abound. Generally, those rides end with me calming down by rationalizing "At least my bike still works and I'm not in the hospital."
It's days like today, however, that can leave a lasting p.o.'ed pit in my stomach.
It all started when I stopped at a four-way intersection. The car next to me went left, I made to go straight. That's when I saw a cyclist approaching from the right. I had the right of way and continued on, but he blew through the stop sign, realized I wasn't stopping, swerved to avoid me, and then made a wobbly turn to the right. Only a few feet in front of me and struggling to stay on his bike and regain momentum, he completely ignored me as I rolled up beside him.
"You know you had a stop sign, right?" I said, holding back a lot more. He responded by turning slightly and with a smirk said "Yeah." Then he rode off.
Now angrier than before, I wanted to throw a stick in his spokes (the same feeling one might have if you were cut off on the highway and wanted to just give the offending vehicle a nudge with your own car). Then I started to laugh. Here was a big, pudgy guy on a mountain bike running stop signs and proud of it. He didn't fit the usual stuck-up-sponsored-cyclist profile that I usually see doing the same thing. He reminded me of the grinning buffoon in the Enzyte commercials. And then it hit me: maybe that's why he's doing it.
"Other ED pills not packing your suitcase of courage? Having trouble even attracting a podium girl of your own? Put a shove in your chamois by Running Stop Signs! Yes, that's right, the high of this meaningless display of living dangerously is also a natural enhancement--not to mention it's good for the environment!"
That wouldn't be the only incident of the day, however. After watching this jerk ride (not even roll) through a couple more stop signs, I saw a car beep its horn at him. I then stopped at an intersection only to have some silver-haired roadie in a Stagecoach Century jersey fly right past me and the car that had just beeped at the big mountain biker with the little gear.
That driver has now seen two cyclists blow through stop signs, he probably drives through that neighborhood often and will undoubtedly forever associate me with them.
In an interesting coincidence, when I finally boarded the train for the ride up to Sorrento Valley, I flipped open the May issue of Bicycling magazine to find Bob Mionske 's new column, Road Rights. In it he addresses the issue of cyclists running stops.
What stood out for me is this: "If you are injured in a collision, and your own negligence-for example, failing to stop at a signal-contributed to that injury, your ability to be compensated for your injuries may be severely curtailed, even if the driver was also negligent. In some states, you may not be able to recover damages at all. In short, the legal consequences for failure to stop can be quite severe, so it's in your best interest to stop."
That made me face facts. If I saw a cyclists get in an accident after blowing through a stop sign, my report to the cops/insurance company would begin "I watched him/her ride through the stop sign without stopping..." What choice do I have? That's not out of malice toward the offending cyclist, but out of respect for the law that would protect me as a driver should I be on the other side of the wheel.
The bottom line is: Drivers, please don't lump me in with flagrant riders. I don't do the same with you and drunk drivers. And cyclists, having a leg to stand on when confronting government about improving cyclists' rights means obeying the law.