The Normal Commute

This morning I “slept in” and woke up in order to hit the road at 7:00, rather than the usually 6:00 am. For those of you that don’t know, I commute to work daily via bicycle. My trip takes me across the entire city of Philadelphia and out to the suburbs. It can sometimes feel like a long hike everyday especially when there is inclimate weather/strong winds but I rather take either of those options than have to sit behind the wheel of a car. For some reason when some people get behind the wheel of a car their mentality changes… this happens to me as well for some odd reason. I’ve noticed people become annoyed/flustered/angry about little things, and always in a rush. As a commuter I see this a great deal as no one likes bikes… I get it, people on their way to work don’t like to be inconvenienced even in the slightest, especially when they are “in a hurry.”

Today I was hoping just to make a random picture post from the commute and continue doing so, but today like many days I ran into another driver who just didn’t “get it.” What I mean by that is many drivers are ignorant to the fact that bikes are considered “motorized vehicles” and have to abide by the same laws (even though many don’t, especially in the city) and have rights to the road similar to those of cars. This ignorance became apparent today when a driver came behind my brightly flashing bike and proceeded to honk vigorously. Mind you this is a four lane road with shoulders on both sides, (that usually filled with parallel parked cars on both sides) so they could have easily passed me in the left lane. Instead, the driver’s action was to beep then pretend to side swipe me by getting inches away from my bike while speeding past. Now I am not sure why someone would do something like this, but I was intrigued to find out. Right after the driver pulled this stunt the light turned red nearly 100 feet ahead but in order not have to stop and deal with the situation they just caused they blew through it. I threw a little shuffle in my step and caught up with them at the next light. I was certainly surprised when I rode to the drivers side window to see an older woman, roughly 60 years of age. Unfortunately I wasn’t quite as composed as I should have been, but when someone deliberately puts your life at risk, its hard to be calm.

As we exchanged words she unfortunately was under the impression that I had no business on the road and should take my cycling to the sidewalk. For those of you who don’t know, riding on the sidewalk many places is illegal and truth be told, VERY, VERY dangerous. This is because as cyclist coming off the sidewalk into the cross-street, cars are only expecting pedestrians who move at a slower rate of speed, not a cyclist moving at a faster rate of speed. Studies have shown that a cyclist riding on the sidewalk is 2.5x more likely to get hit crossing the street rather than in the road.

Anyways I digress, my only suggestion is when you see a cyclist give them a break, even if it inconveniences you slightly.

Quick photo during this mornings ride as the sun was coming up, cruising on some back-roads outside of the city limits.

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16 Responses to The Normal Commute

  1. Sara says:

    I wish I could bike to work… I’m impressed that you do. I really like riding, but Dallas is so not cyclist friendly AT ALL… and there’s no way… but I do enjoy riding, so I wish I could commute via bicycle.

    Do you change your clothes though? That would be my concern, lol.

    • Eric says:

      Not much better than being able to ride to work :) Yeah, riding in Dallas is tough unfortunately. I leave a good amount of clothes at work and change when I get in and make myself presentable.

  2. Stephanie says:

    Oh my. As a courteous, understanding rider and driver, I would like to apologize for the all the assholes. Portland is very bike friendly, but the drivers are not so much and I see this stuff happen way too much.

    • Eric says:

      Haha its part of the fun, thanks though! I bet, I was amazed when I was in Portland at the lanes/boxes, ect. Im very jealous!

  3. LG says:

    Eric, never ever ride your bike to work again. Instead drive your fine auto. Thanks in advance. Words of wisdom from your worried mother.

  4. YUCK, sorry to hear that. Stupid, stupid people.

    I have a good friend who gave up his car about 8 years ago and has biked exclusively ever since. (He’s even cycled from Kansas City, MO to Dallas, TX in one go – SOLO.) He’s the only person I know who’s diligent about following every law and cycling convention, from helmet to lights to hand signals to traffic laws. Last week, he was hit by a car. His bikes was snapped to pieces and he rolled off the windshield. He was cut up and bruised severely, but thankfully, no broken bones or worse wounds. He was extremely lucky. I hope the drivers in Philly start being kinder to you!

    • Eric says:

      Wow, sorry to hear. Tell him to heal up quick and Im glad hes alright considering the circumstances. Also hope he gets his new bike paid for. And any long distance solo is wild… good for him!

  5. jackie says:

    I know how that goes. Drivers in Austin are really starting to get more aggressive towards cyclists (Critical Mass seems to have monthly incidents of people getting hit, someone was shooting at cyclists for a while, and just other stupid bullshit) and at times I get so scared but I think cyclists need to stop riding on the sidewalk b/c it is dangerous and it furthers this mentality that we can be bullied on the road and that we don’t actually belong on the street. Sorry about your incident. Some people are just stupid morons.

    • Eric says:

      Yah… I understand the point of critical mass and all but sometimes it seems like it just does more to aggravate drivers than anything else. All you can do is run a helmet, good lights and hope for the best. Can’t not do something because there is a possibility of getting hurt :)

  6. Adam says:

    Wild dude. I’m sure you see that a bunch with the amount of miles that you do and it’s gross that it’s typical for Philly. I even get that crazy agression towards me when I’m on a motorcycle. You’re right, there’s a weird agression that comes out of people when they’re get behind the wheel.

  7. RhodeyGirl says:

    I read this whole post thinking it was Lauren, so I had to go back and read it again!

    I ride my bike to do all my errands in Center City. We live in Fairmount and I love being able to cruise around on my bike rather than waiting for our shuttle and then walking where I need to go. Anyway, I had NO IDEA we were obliged to follow the same laws. I have definitely gone through red lights and such before- I assume that is a big NO NO! Thanks for letting me know.

    Anyway, when cars get annoyed with me on my bike I just bike slower. Quite passive aggressive and awful, yet I continue to do it! I NEVER bike on the sidewalk, but I hate how mean the cars can be- especially when another lane is open!

    • Eric says:

      I agree and I definitely don’t always follow the law, but sometimes its safer as a cyclist not to, at least in my opinion. Haha thats a good idea, might have to try it out some time :)

  8. Jamie says:

    Yes, but most importantly.. the female driver.. did you ‘hit’ that?

    If not, I hope you at least blinded her with your HF 3 LED 3xAAA Bike Light, like a Hobo in the Central PA tunnel.

  9. My biggest cycling pet peeve are cyclists who ride on the sidewalk, especially those who don’t warn pedestrians when they are coming up behind them. And cyclists who run red lights. And cyclists who ride around in the dark with no lights or helmets while wearing black.

    Okay, really, it comes down to cyclists who don’t follow traffic laws. They give the rest of us cyclists a bad name, so some drivers end up annoyed with all cyclists.

    Since I work from home, I don’t need to commute, but my husband rides to work every day in the summer and at least 80% of the time in the winter, and I occasionally ride with him. We are very lucky that the roads on the way to his office have HUGE shoulders to bike in, so he doesn’t have to deal with angry drivers. We’ve definitely lived in places where that wasn’t the case!

  10. Lou says:

    Sorry I missed this post way back when, and sorry for your unfortunate encounter. I’ve found that when confronted with their idiotic behavior, drivers like this get VERY defensive. Either they know they did something messed up and dangerous and don’t want to hear about it, or they are totally ignorant to the rules of the road and out to “teach you a lesson.” Naturally that lesson involves putting your life at risk. Sigh.

    I try to remind myself that for every jerk out there on the road, there are probably 50+ drivers who just drive by without incident, and another driver who goes out of his/her way to treat me courteously. It’s tough not to lose my composure though and fume for the rest of my ride about what I could have done/said.

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