I Bike Therefore I Am

24 Jul

This post’s title is the mantra of many bicyclists. There’s even a T-shirt that trumpets it to the world. But, as we’ve learned, there are bicyclists and then there are the others, more properly described as rogues or idiots on bikes.

When I first say a guy wearing this T-shirt, it was shortly after I got the snarky pingback from Urban Scrawler Schneider (see my earlier post, Tips for Pedestrians). The link again is

http://urbanscrawldc.com/2014/06/06/will-the-district-bar-bicycling-on-sidewalks/

And, after all the fuss in the last couple of weeks about bicyclists’ behavior, it seems a good time to discuss the difference between good bicyclists and the rogues and idiots. Saving the best for last, let’s start with the latter.

The Bad and the Ugly

The T-shirt quote sent me back to Descartes’ original saying: “I think therefore I am.” Of course, Descartes, being a great philosopher as well as a mathematician, did not stop there but added: “It is not enough to have a good mind. The main thing is to use it well.” As Shakespeare said, “ay, there’s the rub.”

Bikers who don’t use their minds well, like Urban Scrawler Schneider, bike recklessly and try to use high-end
words without fully understanding their meaning. You know that your blogger learned early in life to never guess, but look it up. So, when he threw “crotchety” at me, I looked it up and found it fits him more than me. A “crotchet”, it turns out is “a highly individual and usually eccentric opinion or preference.” And someone who is crotchety is one who is “subject to crotchets, whims or ill temper.

And what is more crotchety than to think that, based on one personal incident when he ran into a pedestrian on a sidewalk, pedestrians are never hurt when hit.?

Or that people who recognize safety and quality of life issues for pedestrians and bicyclists alike when bicyclists ride recklessly on the sidewalk are NOMS (“not on my sidewalk” types), instead of being concerned about all of us? “Everyone is a pedestrian”, as the opening to the DDOT Master Plan Pedestrian section reminds us. Most of us are going to work, pushing our kids in strollers, often with a toddler also in hand, getting groceries and sometimes stopping to have a friendly talk with a neighbor.

Or that pedestrians have to wait until this Urban Scrawler gets a bike lane on every street and no cars in his way before he allows pedestrians to live without fear of being run over by bikers like him?

On the other hand, he did give your blogger a great quote that I’ve already used in correspondence with DDOT and others. After failing Research 101 on biker/pedestrian accidents resulting in serious injury or death, he goes on to say what your blogger and others have said all along:And any one who’s ever ridden on the sidewalk with any frequency has probably run into a pedestrian at some point…” But in Scrawler Schneider’s crotchety fantasy world, the pedestrians are “fine” after being hit. If you check past blog posts here, including links to other sites, you will find ample evidence of injuries, including one to your blogger, and even the death by a hit and run bicyclist that was a major reason for starting this blog.

Finally, the Good

I Googled the bike mantra to see where it came from. That how I found out about the T-shirts. Although I didn’t find the origin, I did find a wonderful post from last summer by a good bicyclist on the Crazytownblog, which is a blog for the NYC artistic community. Here’s the link:

http://www.crazytownblog/crazytown/2013/08/i-bike-therefore-i-am.html

In it an actor, singer and writer named Sam Perwin advises a novice NYC female bicyclists on how and why to bike in Manhattan. He says, although scared at first, it took him only 6 weeks to become confident and happy bicycling in a much tougher bike environment than DC. Although you’ll enjoy reading the whole post, I’ll highlight below his basic points without his added explanation in most cases. I’ve also put a few comments of my own in brackets.

Sam, whom Descartes would love, says:

7 Simple Rules for Biking in NYC and not killing yourself or someone else

1. For God’s sake wear a helmet.
2. Ride in the direction of traffic. Yes, that means in the bike lanes too.
3. And, on that note, use the bike lanes when they’re there.
4. Obey traffic signals…most of the time.
[I disagree with “most of the time”, but here’s Sam’s excerpted comment: “OK, so we’ve all crossed against a light when no cars were coming… But, for the most part, it’s dangerous, and no one likes that guy who’s trying [to] jam his bike through a perpendicular throng of pedestrians[my emphasis added here] Wait for the light.”
5. Buy a lock long enough to get through your frame and your wheel.
6. Choose non-major cross streets. [Sam’s excerpted comment, which is definitely applicable to streets like Corcoran Street in Dupont here]: …Most are tree-lined and even if there’s no bike lane, there’s usually plenty of room.”
7. The West and East Side highways are your friends.[These have dedicated bike lanes, like 15th Street, NW, in DC]

And Sam concludes:
“So take the plunge! Citi Bikes [NYC’s version of Capital Bikeshare] makes it easy for sure, but don’t be one of those drunk idiots riding on the sidewalk. Those people are the reason survival of the fittest exists, and they will be roadkill soon enough. Don’t be like them. Get out, get on a bike, and enjoy the end of summer.”

And, as a former Manhattan bicyclist myself (when there were zero bike lanes), I say–Sam, I couldn’t have said it better. And, to paraphrase the song "New York, New York"–
If you can bike the streets there, you can bike 'em any where!

Back at you next week with a few facts gleaned from the WaPo columns and stories. Meanwhile, STAY ALERT! DON'T GET HURT! DO THAT MOVE DC SURVEY! And, like Sam, I hope you enjoy the end of the summer.

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