I’m playing with the anthem that Cyndi Lauper created… but really all bicycle riders just want to have a good time doing something they enjoy.
That’s why, during my commute home last week, I was dismayed to encounter the stereotypical asshole driver that all bikers hate (yep, hate – I’m going there). This woman, who I suppose was feeling ultra-confident in her gigantic black truck, honked long and loud as she swerved around from behind me and then promptly cut me off. I was startled and immediately struck with anxiety – there’s no way a lowly bicycle can stand up against a huge metal box easily going 30km/hour faster. But, over the years I’ve learned that I need to try to see the fun in an otherwise frustrating situation; for example, I know from experience that one failsafe way to annoy angry people is to act completely oblivious to their anger. So I smiled and waved. To this, she gave me the finger. It was a very grown-up confrontation.
This sort of encounter annoys me on the one hand because it’s just plain rude – would that woman have yelled and given me the finger if she wasn’t behind a “safety net” of metal and glass. This sort of thing is cowardly and akin to internet trolling, but I digress.
On the other hand, I’m also appalled because this behaviour is incredibly unsafe. Particularly since my car accident, I’ve become acutely aware of the very real dangers that cars pose to one another, as well as to the rest of us on the road. It’s a shame this woman felt that risking my life was worth saving 5 seconds of travel time.
Over the last week, I’ve realized that I just can’t let myself be bothered by this because jerks will be jerks, with or without provocation. If this woman hadn’t taken out her anger on me, she undoubtedly would have done so on some other poor soul she encountered that afternoon. So I was quite proud that I was the bigger person and didn’t react with anger in that moment (because I sure can be a hothead sometimes). I suppose I should pity that woman, for what a stressful and/or boring life she must lead to behave in such a childish fashion; but for being reckless and taking out her stress on others she’s still an asshole.
I encountered yet another asshole today. This was again on my way home from work, on another gloriously sunny day. And it was another enormous black truck (I’m pretty sure this is how stereotypes start…). This guy didn’t swerve dangerously, nor did he give me the finger, but he did honk about 6 or 7 times as he sped past me. I smiled and waved, though inside I can’t help feeling disheartened.
Sometimes I miss my old job, not because of the job itself (which was a nightmare, aside from some of the folks I worked with), but because of the commute it offered. It took me mostly through quiet residential streets where I could bike on the road and nobody cared. I could relax and enjoy the sunshine and the wind in my hair. It gave me the perfect setting to wake up and get energized for the day, and also a peaceful commute home when I could be with my thoughts and de-stress from my work day. I didn’t realize how lucky I was.
Commuting downtown, on the other hand, forces me to bike as fast as I can in an attempt to keep pace with the vehicles and not get run over. It’s not as dangerous as some might think (the many traffic lights help to reduce the overall speeds that motorists can go), however it’s still stressful to ride alongside drivers who think I’m an inconvenience and show me so by their complete lack of regard for my safety. It’s hard to focus on the awesomeness of biking when I’m forced to bike so defensively. Such is the atmosphere of a car-centric culture I suppose. Happily, I don’t bike for the moments I’m forced to be on the roads with vehicles… I bike for the river valley.
My commute is great because my bike ride takes me through Edmonton’s river valley trails. I get to go down a big hill twice every day! (That also means I have to go uphill twice daily as well, but let’s just focus on the positives here, mkay?) I get to weave in and out of all the people on the trails, which may seem annoying but just makes me happy to see all the people outside as spring finally seems to be coming to our city. As an added bonus, I don’t normally get honked at or cussed out by people who make the effort to get out and enjoy the trails! (Oh the benefits of fresh air and exercise!) The river valley is just a small part of my overall commute, but it’s so awesome and it makes me happy.
I get to have so much fun commuting to work! How many motorists can say the same?