June marks my eighth month biking in the Twin Cities. 30 Days of Biking made it part of my daily routine. I work at the University and my daily commute involves a portion of the Greenway and Riverside. There are beautiful days and gross days, days when I scream into the wind, days when I scream at cars, and then there are days like today: Where I scream at another biker.
I love the Greenway. It is the relaxing beginning before the stressful battle with Riverside traffic and it is the cool-down ending on the way home. When it’s vacant, I like going fast or riding with my arms outstretched. When it’s crowded, I like seeing all the different bikes and riding styles. A well-kept bike path is where you can re-center and refocus. A bike path is a place for everyone to practice and learn, sweat and breathe. A bike path is for everyone; a bike path is not your personal Tour de France biking drag strip.
Recently the maxim “biking is a lifestyle” keeps cropping up. Biking is not a lifestyle, but biking can be an important part of your life. When biking becomes a lifestyle we lose sight of the thousands of ways one can bike: from the commuter, to the sports enthusiast, to the parent, to the weekend rider. All of these and more are ways to be a biker. That’s the beauty of it – bikers and their motivations are as innumerable as there are bikes. Therefore, expecting everyone on a bike path to get out of your way because you are wrapped in logos and your bike weighs 11 pounds is a way to live your life as a jerk.
I am writing this article/mini-rant because in the past few weeks as the weather has turned lovely, the paths and lanes are more crowded. It’s a beautiful sight but I am urging the bikers who are treating these lanes and combined paths as their place to bike at racing speeds during peak commute hours to slow down, be considerate of novice bikers, and to in general be polite and let people merge. I am no saint, I have lost my cool to fits of bike rage, but in those moments I realize how dangerous bike rage is. Not only are you in more personal contact with those around you but you fracture any semblance of a biking community and it becomes intimidating to those wanting to bike for fun. Instead of accepting another biker’s riding style as different from your own, you expect everyone to conform to your own beliefs about biking. This is alienating and dangerous.
Please be patient, please be considerate, if you antagonize me or harass someone on the path for going too slow or for merging thirty feet in front of you, I will use my thick thighs to burn you on the uphill. Just because I am a female biker does not give you the right to whip around me or yell at me to get out of your way, just because I am riding a step through does not mean you can cut me off. Use a bell, shout “on your left”, apologize for being a jerk. Don’t make other bikers feel like they don’t belong on a path by condescendingly shaking your head and slowing down after you’ve passed. Be patient and respectful. Be aware of your surroundings. Hold others accountable for their poor and rude behaviors. Biking will become a more inclusive community when we watch out for each other on the path.