Here in Pittsburgh, you hear about an event called Critical Mass fairly regularly. On the last Friday evening of each month cyclists from around the city converge to form one humongous wall of pedaling power. When I first heard about the concept, I was intrigued. However, once I thought about it I felt differently.
By its very nature a CM ride sounds like tons of fun if you’re someone who enjoys cycling. The camaradarie, the cool breezes, the power… it all sounds great. Honestly, I’d like to participate sometime, but I’m too aware that the public road system is a tool for transportation as opposed to my personal playground.
You see, the trouble is that if you’re a motorist CM doesn’t sound great at all. I’ve seen more than one ride cause all of Penn Avenue, outside of my apartment, to be completely blocked off so that no car can pass. From behind the wheel, this has to be frustrating. These riders travel well below the speed limit and, whether or not the cyclist is prone to admit it, people in motorized vehicles may have important places to go. Furthermore, a driver cannot reasonably anticipate and plan for several hundred cyclists to cause him to be delayed.
Now comes news that this past Friday a motorist actually intentionally hit a cyclist during a CM ride. She was probably completely innocent as an individual, but as part of a larger body she was almost definitely creating a significant traffic jam. Of course, this in no way justifies the actions of someone in a car who chooses to strike someone on a bicycle. With increasing frequency I hear about cyclist versus motorist conflict in Pittsburgh and I plead with both parties to use common sense and share the road.
As someone who considers himself both a motorist and a cyclist what I know is this. It scares the living pants off me when I’m on my bike and an overzealous bus driver appears to swerve intentionally toward me for no other reason than to send a message as he passes by. It also frustrates the living pants right back onto me when I’m in my car and I’m stuck in traffic for no good reason. Traffic jams are part of life, but there’s no need to create more than what we already deal with by way of accidents and construction.
In closing, when traveling below the speed limit, no matter in how great a number, always attempt to allow room for faster vehicles to pass. Additionally, under no circumstances is it ever acceptable to attempt to make contact with another moving object on the road. It’s that simple.
I’m now stepping off my soap box. Thank you.