Saturday, March 30, 2024

Close Encounters With the Not-so-kind

   I was out on a ride the other day, for a short time paralleling the Perkiomen Trail on Route 29. I was planning to turn left on Rt. 113, cross the bridge and ride up in the back roads above the creek on the east side of Collegeville.
   As I hand-signaled and eased over to the left at the light, a nice gentleman pulled up alongside me with his window down, I nodded a hello, and he asked if I had been riding on the trail. I answered that the skinny tires on my Cannondale wouldn’t do well on the coarse gravel, and I was sticking to pavement today. I also mentioned that I had ridden north on the trail a couple days ago with a more appropriate bike.
   The light changed, and he waved with a “Have fun!” I returned a “Thank you,” and sprinted across the road before the oncoming traffic could get off the line, feeling good about this exchange, which was much better than I usually experience with drivers.

   A few years ago, I met some of my regular riding crew just a couple of miles north at one of the trailhead lots to do a combined road and paved trail loop of about 40 miles. This particular event was probably more memorable for the dude who tried to pass all seven of us with nowhere near enough room to avoid the oncoming traffic. Incredibly, it just ended with screeching brakes in each direction and not with the offending driver taking us all out as the “lesser of two evils” to avoid a head-on collision. Happily everyone came out okay, though we cyclists were a bit shaken and VERY angry at the reckless driving display!
   Anyhow, not more than a few hundred yards into this ride, some pick-up driving menace had yelled “Get off the roads!” at us. His timing was bad as we were approaching a red light, so we each had something to say at the intersection. Someone offered, “You don’t own the roads,” and our collective mouths dropped to hear him respond with, “My truck does!” I’m not sure if we were more shocked by how inane this sounded or how the smirk on his face made it seem he thought this was the cleverest retort ever made.
   Anyone who thinks the five or six square feet of asphalt I occupy on my bicycle is ruining their day really needs professional help, but it is amazing to me how many drivers will yell out some inference to road “ownership”. I would offer, if they ever stopped to listen, that the early improvement of roads was very much due to bicycle use. Cars were very rare back then, so if anyone can claim ownership, historically it would be cyclists.
   I laugh when someone says something about their paying taxes for road maintenance, as though none of us also drive or pay taxes! As to the suggestion that I pedal somewhere else, I would mention that drivers going on a long trip don’t have turnpikes and interstate highways starting right at the end of their driveways. Similarly, I don’t have bike trails – or even a measly bike lane – that lead right to my home!
   I never appreciate when drivers honk as they are passing – we know we are sharing the road with vehicles and can usually hear them coming. All it serves to do is startle us, and we can certainly leave that to the morons who unnecessarily rev their engines when they blow by. Yes, you are impatient and might be intending to sound a bit threatening with your noise, but none of us need a reminder that your vehicle is more powerful and faster than our two legs!
   I was pedaling along with some slowing traffic in a school zone when some in-a-hurry Mom actually accelerated around us in a left-hand turn lane to reach the school lot. I’m sure the rest of us were going slightly over the lawful 15mph at the time, so I can only imagine what she was doing! It would do my heart good if, just once, a policeman was around to witness such responsible (add sarcasm) parenting!
   One of the sorriest occasions of “inconvenience” to drivers I have ever experienced was last spring, again out with some of pals, when a woman in the opposite lane was screaming at us because - get this - she had to wait for the few of us to clear the entrance to her driveway. We were stunned by her language, let alone the stupid situation, but we shared a laugh at the idea that she didn’t know any of us, but we all knew exactly where she lived.
   We all need to leave more time to get where we need to be, slow down and be courteous to one another, especially because a driver in a multi-ton, gas-powered vehicle is much more dangerous to me than my sub-200-pound body/bike combination,  is going to be to them!

   Last time around, I had mentioned doing an interesting retro-modern build that involved transferring some parts between a Wilier carbon bicycle onto an older Torelli steel frame. I'll say good-bye with a couple photos of the completed project: