Cathy Hastie is BikePortland’s lifestyle columnist … even when she says things we wouldn’t all agree with.
Some people say that bikers are an arrogant group. I am the first to admit that I am a card-carrying member. Portland has its coffee snobs and its beer snobs, and me — I’m a transportation snob.
I ride my bike past rows of motionless overheating cars with my nose in the air, flaunting my obviously better commuting choice. I crow to my officemates about how little I spend on gas and how I never pay for parking. My ego precedes me as I fill the elevator at the office with my bulky two-wheeler. I take advantage of the ambiguity bicycles are afforded in respect to sidewalks, driveways, streets and bike lanes. If I can ride on it safely, I will.
I am also the first to recognize how lucky I am. I have a well-paying job that allows me to live close to work. I am able-bodied. I live in a city that can afford to build amenities to make biking safe and pleasant. It is a privilege not to drive.
But, alas, there are some ignominious people who have forgotten this. Their self-absorbed, self-righteous behavior makes me look like a junior member of the Arrogance League. They weave through downtown traffic, handless and shirtless. They hover jerkily in clumsy track stands, inches from geriatric pedestrians in crosswalks. Their impatient posture appears to sneer, “What’s wrong with you? Pick up that walker and get a move on so I don’t have to put my foot down.” They are rudest of all to other bikers, passing on the right and cutting in front of the line at four-way stops. They thumb their noses at moderation, common courtesy and traffic signals.
This is a special class of bicycle rider. Arrogance imbues the way they ignore the flashing yield light on the tail end of TriMet buses; buses that each carry 40 workers to their jobs. Add it up: there is no way that a single bike rider’s time is more valuable, even if he were a lawyer. Some squeeze through the small gap next to the hulking behemoths, testing fate and stretching their luck — because they can.
“Perhaps they think that, because they are saving the environment at lightning speed, the world owes them the sweet spot on the road and the head start at every intersection, ahead of all ‘competitors.'”
Perhaps they think that, because they are saving the environment at lightning speed, the world owes them the sweet spot on the road and the head start at every intersection, ahead of all “competitors.” Occasionally, an especially egregious hedonist can be heard yelling livid profanities at drivers, seeming to enjoy himself in the process. Erratic, frequently unlawful behavior on the road looks almost as if it is meant to startle and piss-off drivers. Is it a game? Is it a challenge?
Arrogance even permeates cycling fashion. Expensive bike gear and “members only” attire boasts, “I am an athlete doing some serious training here! Don’t get in my way!” People blow thousands on equipment as if to say, “Who cares about starving children in Africa? I need to shave 12 seconds off my time.”
I must say, though, that the king of arrogance is the biker without a helmet. He is announcing to the world that he is too skilled to allow himself to be hit by a car. Obviously, when a semi-truck overturns in the adjacent lane, or a chain reaction fender-bender causes the car behind him to suddenly lunge forward, he will sprout wings and fly. Helmetless people are among those seen “flying” through red lights too…
Arrogance is a sense of superiority and self-importance. Some people who ride demonstrate their arrogance by making life miserable for the rest of us. But even mild-mannered, middle-aged pacifists like me are pretentious bigheads when it comes to riding our bikes. My transportation choice IS healthier, quieter, smaller, cleaner, funner – better! Arrogance is knowing that, without a doubt, my way is the best way. And sometimes, I am right.
Editor’s note: This is Cathy’s perspective and, after much discussion, we’re publishing it because she’s a smart, thoughtful member of the community and it reflects what she (and we assume lots of other people) think.
Update 11:30 pm: Cathy has responded in the comments to some of her critics.