By Josh White, Fall 2011
I am a second year student and have been riding my bike to school from the Haight area of San Francisco more days than not. If you are like me, you enjoy getting from point A to point B with a minimal amount of stress. But there is a war on the pavement between cars and bikes. Bikers are attempting to reclaim roads and meeting resistance from drivers who believe the roads were built solely for vehicles. Pedestrians, apparently, are like Switzerland: caught in the crossfire, without taking a stand. Biking movements like Critical Mass and SF Bike Coalition attempt to raise awareness that roads are public domains. However, this forced awareness has not taken evolutionary precedence. Pedestrians and drivers are still just as shocked as deer and squirrels to see that someone else is on the road.
Some quick facts: roads are for both cars and bikes by law, drivers and bicyclists should follow the same traffic laws and road etiquette, drivers are safer in cars than a bicyclist ever is on a bike, both bikers and drivers are in a "hurry," and, most importantly, like most populations, there are bad drivers and bad bikers.
Confessions of an angry biker:
Enough facts. Let us get down to some red meat, belly feelings: I absolutely resent Muni drivers and taxi drivers; they are often a danger to the safety of bikers. I can't remember how many times I have like I was going to be killed on the way to and from school because of a Muni bus or taxi. My biker friends talk about altercations with cars as inevitable; I am due. Although, I suppose I could reframe these dangerous moments as a good practice in patience and be thankful that my adrenaline and cortisol levels peak and contribute to increased attention in class, or that these near- serious-injury moments remind me that I still have a very aggressive shadow side. I have not felt so engulfed by my anger since my older brother had me in a headlock. I have actually slapped and kicked cars (not drivers) that almost killed me. I do not know how many times I have yelled curse words at cars; I do not always eloquently tell drivers, "Please be aware of bicyclists on the road, you almost hit one." Every day when I get to school or home, I am thankful that I made it safely, and always ask myself why I go to war every day.
Why bike in such a hostile war zone? Here are my reasons. Timing on public transportation is unpredictable; I get to school in 25 minutes every time I bike and I live over five miles from campus. I find it fun to pretend to race other bikers and cars. I do not own a car, but for those that do, you know that parking in SF is almost as frustrating as being hit by a car. Hills are almost unavoidable, but I walk up the big hills; I am not training for a race. Biking is affordable; my bike cost me $125 originally and I have spent $100 on maintenance over the last year and a half. I did not put "gym membership" on my student financial aid worksheet. Finally, class, research, studying, and practicum require a lot of sitting and being still; incorporating exercise into my daily routine is crucial to counteract this imposed sedentary lifestyle.
Simple tips for bikers:
Simple tips for drivers: