An open letter to the nice gentlemen who hollered at me to “Stay on the f**cking sidewalk!” as I was bicycling down Cambridge St towards the Longfellow Bridge this afternoon:
1. Bicyclists do not have to ride on the sidewalks in Massachusetts. In fact, they aren’t supposed to. In some towns (such as Arlington, where I live), it’s against the law and subject to a fine.
2. Bicyclists riding in the right-hand lane do not have to pull over even farther to the right and let you pass whenever the left-hand lane is full of other cars. Particularly when there’s a line of parked cars along the edge, and the cyclist would either have to come to a complete stop, or ride close enough to the parked cars to risk getting “doored”.
3. In fact, bicyclists don’t have to pull over and let you pass even when there’s only one lane of traffic in either direction. We’re allowed to sit right in the middle of the lane. Just like a car. You can either wait until it’s safe and legal for you to pull out into the oncoming traffic lane and pass, or drive at the same pace we’re driving, or find an alternate route. (I don’t usually take advantage of this right, because I’m a nice person. I do sometimes use the middle of the lane when there’s a perfectly good left lane for motorists to use when they’d like to pass.)
All this also applies to the SUV driver who tailgated me, honking, and then passed dangerously close, so that I had to move over closer than I liked to the row of parked cars (I’m willing to give him or her–but let’s be honest, it’s usually a him–the benefit of the doubt, in that he may not have realized he was passing me unsafely. Sometimes I think they do it out of spite, though.). Apparently you don’t think you’re paying enough for car insurance!
Sometimes I’m tempted to take down license plate numbers of cars whose drivers harass me and post them on a special “Wall of Shame” page on my blog. Don’t get me started on the ones who think I’m not allowed to make a left turn from Mass Ave onto Somerville Ave from the center eastbound lane, or don’t realize that even if I were driving a car instead of a bike, I’d have to wait for the green arrow, and they’d still be stuck behind me.
Cyclists can be obnoxious too, though. Too many cyclists in Massachusetts think we aren’t required to stop at red lights (bicyclists on the road have to obey all the same laws as motorists, except that we are permitted to pass other vehicles on the right). Just today, I saw a woman biking along, weaving slightly, and when I passed her I saw that she was holding her iPod in one hand.
The problem is that, in Massachusetts, the motorists, cyclists and pedestrians all show blatant disgregard for whatever traffic laws might inconvenience them. Part of it is that the roads are set up so poorly, with inadequate signage and ridiculously long wait times at pedestrian-controlled intersections. I’m no exception, sadly. I don’t have the patience to wait through 1 1/2 entire light cycles when I want to cross the street. And the other weekend, I irritated Donald to no end by refusing to make a right turn when I found out with twenty feet to spare that I was in a right-turn only lane (I just angled the car so I was blocking both lanes of traffic if the other lane wouldn’t let me in). Or was it that I made a left turn from the right-hand lane, because I realized at the last minute that my turn had come up, and I hadn’t seen the street sign early enough to move over to the left? Ha! I’ve done both, I can’t remember which it was this time. (I hope it wasn’t both at the same time.)
At least I don’t holler obscenities at poor, defenseless cyclists.