Grampa Simpson and Kent Brockman Need to Calm Down

Share the Road

I like biking to work. Obviously, it's good exercise. It's cheap, faster than the train (in my case, at least) and it's not killing Mother Earth much. I'm sure the production and transportation of new bikes and tires does a little damage--you always have to consider the whole process--but not nearly as much as a city-dweller's usually-unjustifiable SUV.

On the way to work, I was going through an underpass that has no bike lane. See, Chicago claims to be oh-so-bike-friendly, except for all the places where the bike lanes just disappear for a few blocks, usually in the kind of busy places where you'd need one the most (I do appreciate the gains made on this front in recent years, but there is much more to do). So this guy in a van is inconvenienced by my presence for literally 8 or 9 seconds, but he can't handle it gracefully. As we emerged from the underpass, I moved to the side, and he swerved around me and squawked nasally, "eeeee-Yaaa, I'm thinkin' maybe the sidewalk?"

This type of situation is where my near total lack of machismo really pays off.

I caught up to him at the next light and stopped at his window. If I were a macho manly man I might have shouted at him, insulted his genitals, made fun of his uncanny resemblance to Grampa Simpson, and perhaps even kicked a noteworthy dent into his door. But no, I turned to him and said, "You're not allowed to ride bikes on the sidewalks here," and rode along.

Sometimes, I'm too nice. Or am I? That sentence totally stumped the guy. His jaw dropped and he couldn't think of anything to say back. So maybe it was the right thing to say, and maybe got him thinking about how crazy he was acting.

Later, on the way home, I was again on a street with no bike lane. As the bike safety rules included on the official 2007 Chicago Bike Map recommend, I was riding just to the left of a right turn-only lane (since I was not planning to bike on the highway). A guy with an uncanny resemblance to Kent Brockman rolled up in some kind of Canyonero and boomed, "nice spot!"

I just kept riding, but couldn't resist flippin' him the bird as he turned onto the highway.

Sigh...

I just wonder what's so damn difficult about slowing down briefly to allow a biker to ride safely and without undue stress? Are you in such a hurry to reach the next red light? Is your love for traffic jams so great that you can't wait an extra 5 seconds to get into that line of cars stuck in the on-ramp?

People in cars, please calm down. And get over yourselves, OK?

(And stop looking like Simpsons characters, while you're at it.)


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