Yesterday (8/22/2001) was the first day of the semester. As such, Las Cruces streets were a lot busier than usual, including the one which I take for my bikeride between home and campus. On my way home, a big SUV filled with college kids pulled up beside me, and a bunch of the kids hung out the window and shouted "FUCKING TAKE THE SIDEWALK!" at me and then sped off before I could respond.
This was wrong on many levels.
First of all, in New Mexico, it's illegal to ride a bike on the sidewalk.
Secondly, it was very dangerous for them to pull their gas-guzzling SUV so close to me just so they could let me know how inconvenient it would have been for them to go around my fuel-efficient mode of transport. (There was PLENTY of space for going around.)
Third, they did this RIGHT NEXT to a FUCKING "SHARE THE ROAD" sign! (They're road signs that are posted about once a block which remind people that bicyclists aren't blocking traffic, they are traffic. It shows a car driving alongside a bicyclist, with plenty of space between them.)
Fourth, the sidewalks around here aren't very safe to ride on anyway. Cars parked so that they're hanging out onto them, cars not stopping quickly enough and looking to see if anyone's on a bike (I've almost been hit a few times like that, and being on the street gave me a precious extra half a second to react), the sidewalks are normally covered in sand and sharp rocks and are pretty bumpy and badly-maintained, not all corners have a handicap-accessibility ramp (or it's about 5 feet in, rather than at the corner), and so on. What some drivers see as a "minor inconvenience" is a hell of a lot more dangerous than them simply FOLLOWING THE GODDAMNED LAW.
People like this make me very afraid. They'd take their convenience over even minor respect for others, not to mention the planet. (One other time I was riding and a bunch of kids laughed at me for riding my bike, since I "obviously can't afford a car" - which is untrue, I have not only a car but I own a house, but I choose to ride the bike! Amazing, isn't it? I want to get exercise and not waste fossil fuels! I must be some kind of moron!) They also make me afraid that someone might sometime try to "teach" me to take the sidewalk (by, say, actually causing an accident).
People like this also piss me off. I can't help but imagine that the kid driving this SUV didn't pay for it, but that it was his rich mommy's and daddy's, and that they pay for his gas and rent and tuition, and that he wants to flaunt it or something. At least he was driving a lot of his buddies around, but I'm guessing that the conversation in there was something like this:
Driver: Ooh, there's a bicyclist on the road. I'm going to have to swerve around. I hate doing that! I wish they'd take the sidewalk or something.I'm not an eco-warrior. I'm not out to convert everyone to the One True Path of bicycle commuting (and in fact, if everyone did it, that'd probably cause its own set of problems - crowding on the roads, more food consumption which trickles down to more industrialization of the world etc., and so on), but by the same token, I'd hope that people in cars wouldn't try to "convert" me to their One True Path of bowing down to make things ultimately convenient for the people driving cars at the expense of my own safety!
Friends: Let's yell at 'em!
Driver: Please do.
The bicycle laws (and I've read up on them) are like this: If there is a bike path, then bicyclists must stay in the path except for making left turns. If there is no bike path (which is how it is for most of Las Cruces), then there is a "virtual" bike path defined as "riding as close to the edge of the road as is possible." In the case of no bike path, it is required that the cars make room for the bicyclists - NOT the other way around.
What everything really boils down to is that people should show some basic respect for others. A "minor inconvenience" like having to swerve around a bicyclist is hardly as difficult as it is for the bicyclist to stay out of the car's way. I do what I can to respect the cars on the road - I don't take major streets, I stay as close to the side as I can, when I make a left turn I make sure the coast is clear rather than surprising people by suddenly going in front of them - and it'd be really nice if drivers, as a whole, were to respect the bicyclists.
To those people who would shout at me: Most drivers have no problem with me on the road. If you have a problem, then it's you with the problem.