A jerk by any other name

Let’s talk about jerks.

I mean, it’s not like there’s any shortage of them around here. Like the one I ran into — almost literally — on the bike path in Venice last week.

Thanks to the winter-time lack of crowds, it was easy to maintain a good head of speed. So I made a point of letting slower riders know I was there before I passed them, and gave them as much clearance as possible when I did. No point in ruining someone else’s day just so I could enjoy mine.

Unfortunately, not everyone felt the same.

Just as I was rounding a sharp bend in the path and about to swing around couple slower riders — in other words, at the worst possible moment — a cyclist suddenly appeared on my left. No warning, and passing so close that he actually brushed against me as he went by.

Needless to say, I was pissed. But the massive over-the-ear headphones he wore suggested that he wasn’t likely to hear a word of it, so I saved my breath.

Instead, I warned the other riders ahead that I was about to pass. And about the jerk who was also passing them right in front of me.

As it turned out, he wasn’t that much faster than me. So I watched as he passed other riders in the same fashion; at one point, nearly knocking over a young mother riding with a small child on the back of her bike.

And that, in my book, pretty much defines the word “jerk.” Along with several others I’d rather not use right now.

Problem is, to much of the non-riding public — and even some members of the cycling world — such riders are the rule rather than the exception. They see us as a rude, arrogant and lawless band hellbent on obstructing their God-given right to the road, and flaunting every law and courtesy in the process.

And people like him — the ones Bob Mionske calls scofflaw cyclists — offer all the proof they need.

I have another theory.

As far as I’m concerned, a jerk is a jerk. And it doesn’t matter if that jerk is on two wheels or four. Or pushing a shopping cart through a crowded market, for that matter.

Because really, what’s the difference between an aggressive driver who weaves in and out of traffic at high speed, and a cyclist who blows through red lights even in the presence of oncoming traffic?

They both operate as if the law doesn’t apply to them, with total disregard for the havoc they leave in their wake. To people like that, it doesn’t seem to matter if they cause an accident, as long as it doesn’t involve them.

It appears to be exactly the same mentality at work when a driver intentionally cuts off a cyclist, as when a cyclist blows through an intersection and forces everyone else to swerve or brake to avoid him. Or her.

A jerk is a jerk is a jerk.

And while it is in everyone’s best interest to encourage everyone to ride safely, as cyclists, we bear no more collective responsibility for the two-wheeled jerks, than other drivers do for the four-wheeled ones who are undoubtedly speeding down the 101 or 405 at this very moment.

Which is to say, none at all.


Evidently, cycling isn’t the only sport with a doping problem. Even Arkansas considers sharrows, so what’s taking L.A. so long? Following Bob Mionske’s final column for Velo News, comes word he’s moving to Bicycling Magazine. A New York writer says bike lanes aren’t the whole solution; you have to learn to ride safely in traffic, tooA Santa Monica columnist, who gave up cycling because it was too dangerous, insists that creating livable streets and making the roads safer for bikes is wrong if it means slowing down traffic, and rails against the “small cadre” of “snarky” “gonzo cyclists” who dare to disagree with him. And finally, a current Santa Monica cyclist sells his Burley bike trailer, only to see it in the pages of People. Welcome to the bike blogosphere, J.

One comment

  1. jhaygood says:

    I read that letter in the SMDP from the Santa Monican pleading for those bike zealots to stop beating up on that beleaguered, voiceless minority – car users.

    It’s not that his points are all completely without merit (though most of them are) but he clearly has a bug up his ass about bike “lobbyists”. Dang. And living here in Santa Monica (and getting involved in bike issues), I’m sure I’ll cross paths with the guy soon enough. Can’t wait…

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