Bicycles are making a comeback as a potential mechanism to solve the oil crisis. Put everyone on a bike, the adherents say, and we will be healthier (because of being in better shape); wealthier (because bicycles use very little gasoline); and wiser because … I'm not sure why, but we will be.
As I might have mentioned once or twice, I live in a section of Alexandria, Virginia known as "Old Town." The street I live on is next to the Potomac river and, for a little over a mile, also doubles as the bike path which runs from Mount Vernon in the south to the Key Bridge (across the Potomac from Georgetown) in the north, which means … many bikes on my street.
I don't mind the bicycles. I mind the bicycle riders.
They have a sense of virtue bordering on holy righteousness because they are pedaling a 35-pound bike instead of driving a two-ton SUV. Ok. Fair enough. You are doing your bit for the world and I applaud you.
Bike riders want to have all the rights, privileges and protections of a motor vehicle on the road, but, at least coming through Old Town, they routinely ignore the sorts of things most of us in cars - or on 50cc motor scooters - take pretty seriously such as: stop signs, traffic lights, one-way streets, and the fact that there is a reason sidewalks are named that; it is because they are for WALKING not for biking.
One of the major intersections in Old Town is where Union Street - which runs parallel to the Potomac River - intersects with King Street. On a summer's eve it can take five minutes or more to get through that intersection in a car because there is a four-way stop sign and the pedestrians have the right-of-way.
Not for bike riders.
It is not at all unusual for riders to whip past the waiting cars and charge through the intersection, ignoring the stop signs and making pedestrians jump out of their way.
I have been known to chase these vehicular villains to discuss with them the whole stop sign thing which almost always degenerates into unbelievably childish name-calling, punctuated with unbelievably adult finger gestures.
Another thing about bike riders is they come into Starbucks wearing their bike outfits. I think they think we will be in awe of their attention to fitness. I - and I suspect many others like me - would much prefer they pay a little attention to fashion.
If the regular police will not make them obey traffic laws, perhaps we should employ the fashion police to demand that they not be permitted to wear a spandex outfit which was designed for Lance Armstrong around a body which was designed for Ethel Merman.
There ought to be a category series for bicyclists' spandex wardrobe malfunctions.
If one of those babies lets go as a category V, it could take out several blocks of riverfront property and cause the city clean-up crews to spend weeks picking up shards of polyurethane (from which spandex is made) and finding Starbucks wooden stirrers stuck into trees like darts in an Irish pub.
Then there are bike messengers who, I believe, have to take a weirdness test. If they don't look like at waiter at TGI Friday's on LSD then they can't have the job.
I have a bike. It is in the garage, right where I can hop right on it and ride it to work and save money and get healthy.
If the tires aren't flat. And the chain hasn't rusted completely. And the brakes still work.
And if I can find my spandex biking shorts.
On a the Secret Decoder Ring page today: A link to the International Herald Tribune article which got me thinking about this, a link to a "history of the bicycle" web page, a link to the Wikipedia entry on spandex, a Mullfoto showing my actual bike in my actual garage poised and ready for action, and a pretty clever Catchy Caption of the Day.