Gear Prudence: Help, I’ve Been Shoaled!
Gear Prudence: Southbound on the 15th Street bike lane during the morning rush hour, there is usually a line of riders waiting at any given stoplight. And almost every day I see somebody who passes all of those who have stopped at the red light and cuts to the front of the line. I realize that this doesn’t slow me down at all, but doesn’t it seem rude, and give some weight to the stereotype that many bikers out there don’t really have a regard for the rules of the road? Is it crazy that this annoys me so much? —Sitting Here On A Light Every Day
Dear SHOALED: Nothing vexes bike commuters more than situations like this. For once, you’ve actually stopped at a red light, and then someone pulls in front of you like you’re not even there. But you were there! And presumably not invisible!
As you’re doubtlessly aware, the best way to handle the rudeness of others in public situations is through passive aggression. But maybe you like your passive aggression on the more aggressive side. Every time you reach a stop light, hop off your bike and practice capoeira, the Brazilian, breakdance-like martial art. Flail about wildly and ginga until the light turns green. A few leaping kicks will get your point across with ample verve. This will most assuredly dissuade your fellow bike commuters from attempting to pass.
But what if you’re unfamiliar with the fighting styles of the Southern hemisphere? Is the best alternative then to take a few deep breaths, ignore the infraction, and accept it for the annoying but ultimately harmless breach of urban cycling etiquette that it is? Yeah, do that instead. Please don’t kick people.
But let’s not let the shoalers off too easily. Stop passing people when they’re stopped in front of you! It’s callow, self-regarding, and pisses off your fellow cyclists to no end. Bike commuting is a lot closer to standing in the grocery checkout line than racing from Milan to San Remo. You don’t cut to the front of the self-checkout because you think you can scan your Skittles the fastest. Accept the constrictions of riding in the city. Waiting your turn is the only option for the polite cyclist. Use the time to sip some coffee or admire someone else’s bike. If you must borrow something from the bike racers, steal their habit of only passing others while they’re on the move. It’s the sporting thing to do. —GP