Saturday, November 23, 2013

"Make Us Bicyclists Look Good"

Last Monday I took the day off - as the end of the "leave year" (accumulated vacation time) is approaching, I have more than I can "carry over" so I am having many three day weekends. The weather was slightly odd for November since it got up to 70 degrees (F - around 19-20 C). I did a counterclockwise circuit, riding north along the Potomac and then heading up near Rosslyn on a trail that runs along I-66. In Rosslyn while waiting at a light to cross, I looked down and found the stenciled message below.

"Make us bicyclists look good"
This means you!

This is an area that I am not crazy about riding in, but since it isn't a very long part of what is otherwise a ride I enjoy, no worries. The reason I don't like it is that after miles of riding on trails, here it is necessary to ride on the sidewalk - although there aren't many pedestrians. This location, where Lee Highway crosses Fort Myer Drive, feels like as a cyclist one is intruding on the automotive bliss (or hell) the the drivers are experiencing. Because of a curve in the road for the oncoming one way traffic, a person would be crazy to venture to cross three lanes of traffic that can come zipping out of D.C. So there is time to contemplate this statement painted on the sidewalk.

I have blogged about my views on the "cyclists should model model behavior" before. I don't care much for it as a priority - to summarize my thinking.

Make us bicyclists look good
Another Flickr user in DC has a similar photo

To me, this statement - "make us bicyclists look good" - begs the question, look good to (or for?) who? (Or whom, I suppose.) And for what purpose? Make us bicyclists look good to the motorists so they will respect our law-abiding nature? (And not run us over.) Really? Keep in mind almost all of these same motorists are from time to time committing all sorts of small traffic infractions (exceeding posted speed limits, not making full stops at stop signs, talking on cell phones, texting, on and on).

The classic Disney cartoon portraying motorist behavior

This 1950 Disney cartoon, with Goofy portraying the crazed "Mr. Wheeler" when behind the wheel and the calm "Mr. Walker" while on foot, demonstrates the reality I see - most drivers, looking for an advantage in getting down the road more quickly themselves, aren't spending mental energy toting up a positive karma scores for cyclists when they see one who is 100 percent law abiding. If you get in their way, they'll remember that - not in a good way, of course - but if you stay out of their way, they are down the road. Bye!

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