“People assume I’m going to do something stupid”
By Scot Hinckley
A couple of weeks ago I went out and met a friend for birthday drinks (his, not mine). He’s a like-minded cyclist which means he rides for fun, for utility, and when he doesn’t feel like catching the bus to work. A bunch of his work colleagues were there, which meant they were talking about work/customers/coffee/rain/etc. and since I don’t work with them I was kind of just observing the ritual of a barista after-work-unwind.
After a pint or two of Manny’s, he and I got on the subject of riding. It’s been awhile since we took a ride together, but we did manage to do the Seattle to Portland ride and that counts for at least 10 rides or so. He was talking about heading downtown to go somewhere by way of 2nd street and I interrupted him.
“2nd street is a fucking nightmare with that left-side bike lane and all the people getting dropped off. That’s where I got left hooked, I won’t ride there any more. I’d rather trudge uphill on 5th.”
“Yeah, but the whole thing is downhill and it’s way more direct for almost everything.”
“Way too many people opening doors and turning left, no thanks. The only way to ride there is to just take the entire right lane and deal with the busses honking.”
“See, my trick is that when I’m riding my fixed gear I figure most people assume I’m going to do something stupid. That way they’re more cautious around me.”
I have to admit I was struck with the possibility that he was right, which is a sad commentary on my car-going brethren and maybe an even sadder one on the state of “fixie culture” whatever that means. The reason I found it at least a little compelling is that I’ve seen a study that concludes drivers are more cautious around cyclists who ride without helmets (the same goes for cyclist who dress in normal clothing and not TRON outfits). Since I like riding without a helmet and I wear my everyday normal clothing while doing it, the study seemed like a lovely little pat on the back.
When I drive, I’m extra cautious of cyclists and give them lots of room, whether they’re on an annoying recumbent trike, an even more annoying bakfiets, or some ultra-annoying monstrosity that belongs in a velodrome. I assume they recognize me as a distant tribal relation by my bike rack and my proudly displayed Rivendell Bicycle Works sticker, and so probably give me just a tiny bit more respect on the road. Having said that, I usually assume they’re idiots and will inevitably do idiotic things. To paraphrase George Carlin, “Think about how stupid the average person is. Now try to imagine that half of all people are stupider than that”. Judging by the lack of lighting, reflective gear, signalling, or even adhering to the direction of traffic, George has a point. Even though I assume they’re stupid, most of them prove me wrong and everything works out great.
Point is, take full advantage of drivers’ assumptions; be visible, give them just a hint of stupidity, and you’ll be riding safe and sound. No one hates a slightly “special” puppy, so go out and be that puppy.