Parked at the Wilson Street entrance to Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory, I glanced up to find a cyclist dressed in an Army kit waiting for the light to change. Without stopping him to ask about his connection to the military, I cannot know whether it was his own service that engendered the kit, or one of his progeny.
But I did think that his kit was a good idea. At least a veteran or military person might get respect on the road. That’s all I wish for anyone. Basic respect. To be given, and to be returned.
My own riding habits have grown more cautious as the years have gone by. Certainly, I respect the rights of other cyclists on the road when it is me driving past in a car. I give them three feet of space as our traffic laws demand. I separate hazards ahead on the road if necessary, pausing if it appears that a vehicle coming from the other direction will arrive at the same time I am about to pass the cyclist.
These are common sense actions. But what I see out on the road when cycling is entirely different. I see drivers refusing to separate hazards at all. Instead, they hug the center of the road and speed up as if cutting down the moment of conflict is somehow a better resolution to competition for space on the road.
That’s what it’s all about for some people. They’re competing for space on the road, and they don’t want to lose. Which makes them look at cyclists as interference, an interruption and an affront to their road sensibilities.
This is how our culture has devolved. It’s not about the lack of people attending church or the teaching of evolution in schools. It’s not about being Republican or Democrat or Libertarian. It’s not even about being military or civilian. It’s about people being selfishly competitive to the point where they cannot even bear to expend three seconds of their day pausing to respect another human being on a bicycle.
There are probably other socio-cultural issues that feed the reasons why some people hate cyclists. Perhaps the lycra shorts on our Army friend in the photo above seem offensive to some. After all, we had an entire kerfuffle about the suitability of women wearing yoga pants in public. And those bright-colored kits preferred by cyclists? Some people consider them less than masculine when worn by men.
But those are distractions. For this is the cyclist’s lament: the fact that riding a bike legally on a public road is considered a massive affront to people too impatient and selfishly competitive to slow down, separate hazards and show respect to another human being on this earth.
It’s a sad fact, but the man in the Army kit illustrates the attitude of too many people on the road these days. It’s a war for space out there, and some people are not willing to give an inch. Not on their life.
But maybe yours? That’s not their concern.