A small portion of my commute home, I do on 17th Ave.
There are alternatives to 17th, and I have investigated or used each of them:
- 16th Ave is one block south and it technically has a bike lane. But in actuality, that lane is packed uncomfortably tight between traffic and parked cars, and, part of the year, is underneath snow and muck, and is altogether an unsafe and unpleasant cycling experience. I actively avoid 16th Ave. What I'm saying is, I don't like it.2
- 19th Ave is two blocks north, and used to be my go-to. Loved it. Nice wide lanes. Good lights. You know how some roads are just kind of faster than others? This was a zippy road. But as you get closer to Downing, the road goes to hell. Potholes, torn up asphalt, cracks in the road, and general nastiness. Riding it eventually just felt unsafe, like I was going to bounce my panniers right off my rack or something.
My point is that I know what my options are, because I consult google, and bike maps, and I've ridden most roads in Denver. Several, several times. I'm a careful, deliberate, mindful, and intentional cyclist.
Which means that when a pickup truck buzzed me about halfway along that six block stretch of 17th, and the driver yelled out the window, "BIKE LANE ON 16TH," I felt angrier than I believe I would have if he'd given me a simple "GET OFF THE ROAD."
Whatever the latter is--blind discrimination? Utter ignorance? Indiscriminate hostility? Mental illness?--I'd almost rather have that. I can compartmentalize and dismiss an encounter if I can say, "Oh. Well. That guy's crazy." Or dumb. Or for whatever reason not a rational, reasonable person right now. That, I can let go, like water off a duck's back, ya know?1
But, man, don't go making some kind of qualitative assessment about where I'm riding. Like you know me. (Also, don't pass me that closely. Jeez. You know that 3 feet to pass rule? You know a cyclist made that rule up because within three feet, I for one can reach out and punch a car that I'm angry at, and that's a terrible thing to actually do because it's guaranteed to escalate things, but I've done it.)
Anyway, I found that was an interesting way to feel, and it allowed me the following reflections.
- I also judge people for riding in places that I deem inappropriate. And I'm not talking about, like, on sidewalks, or against traffic on a one-way road. Because those things are wrong, and it's not a subjective judgement call. It's an objective You're Doing It Wrong call and a You're Endangering Yourself and Those Around You call. I mean, on roads that I simply have an attitude about people riding on. 18th. Colfax, Broadway. Colorado. So if I've judged you for doing what I did, then I apologize.
- Also, I continue to be afraid that my anger is misplaced or inappropriate because maybe that dude was simply trying to be friendly and helpful, as though I didn't know my way around and was in need of some helpful tips. In which case, I apologize to you too, shouty truck man. But, also, don't yell out your window at cyclists.3 Or pass that closely. But thanks for your concern.
1 holy cow, folks. That song was by the incomparable Chris Smither. Haven't heard it since forever. Listen to the entire album, Train Home here.↩
2 I don't wike it!↩
3 Once upon a time, my Mel thought it would be a kind, friendly gesture to honk politely at me when I was on my bike, pulling up to the restaurant at which we were to meet. Thought I was going to die. Like all cyclists do when a car immediately behind them honks at them.
She doesn't do that anymore.↩