Must be hell to have to ride your bike in this beautiful weather. Or perhaps the lush and comfortable 67-degree fall in Chicago acts as a small consolation for the harsh and brutal realities that the cyclist must endure every day, dished out by the cruel wretches of the world who drive cars. Or, at least that's what you'd think if you can read body language.
About a week ago, I found myself on a backstreet in Ravenswood, trailing a cyclist without a helmet riding on old-style ten speed with a courier bag slung over his back. It appeared to me that he didn't know I was there while we were both approaching the upcoming stop sign. I say he didn't know I was there because it seemed he was off in his own world, daydreaming while riding, and was clearly hearing-impaired from the huge Beats headphones he had on. Being the (sometimes) nice and courteous guy that I am, I figured I'd just give him a heads-up that I was there. So I tooted my horn lightly.
Guess I should have known better. Not that I expected a waive from the cyclist, nor did I expect him to stop and say thank you, but I didn't expect him to give me the one-finger salute in a long, protracted, five-second long flip-off accompanied by a scornful face.
Suddenly I was the bad guy, and apparently an archetype that embodied everything that is wrong with society, at least in the eyes of this self-proclaimed roadhog radical. I had become "The Man" and perhaps a symbol of an oppressive oil-oligarchy, hellbent on usurping all that is good by bumping this free-spirited city cyclist off the road.
All I did was try to be safe and tell this pedantic, pedaling nitwit I was there and that I had safety in mind. I wasn't being a bully. And I wasn't trying to crush Che Guevara's hard-fought freedoms into the abyss of suppression. But that didn't matter. Frankly, I wanted to take the extra large cup of hot Dunkin Donuts coffee I was sipping and lob it out the window at his greasy, pointy little head.
Sure, I am overreacting a bit. And probably so because this isn't the first time I've been flipped off by a self-righteous bicycle rider who was not sharing the road. For as tolerant and supportive the City of Chicago and its residents have both become of cyclists --installing bike lanes, and vocally advocating bicycle use throughout the city-- sometimes I wonder if the most avid bicycle users here have ceased to be tolerant of everyone else who uses the road, regardless of their means of transportation.
Believe me, I get it. I own a bike. I know how good bikes are for the environment, and I know safety is on every bike rider's mind. Within reason I try to get around the city as much as possible by foot, bike, or public transit every day. But I do own a car and use sometimes I use it. And, believe it or not that doesn't make me a bad person. Sounds silly, but I feel like I have to say to both the professional bike messenger and the dedicated amateur user the following: I am not your enemy.
Believe me, I get it. I'm not trying to kill you. Or worse yet, suppress you.
Regardless of what reason, now I'm reminded that certain bicyclists have it in for me every time I get on the road, whether it is in the car or while dodging them in trying to cross the street by foot. We're lucky, I suppose, that Che Guevara the Cyclist and his ten speed aren't exactly a danger to me in my Honda Pilot. It's unlikely that, were he to take out his psychological aggression with force and ram me into the curb, that I'd sustain injury. That is, unless these mutineers-on-bicycles are harboring some secret counter-suppression weapons that I don't know about.
That said, Cyclists of The World, I'm not asking for much, so let's make a deal. Tone down the animosity against drivers like me, I'll remember not to disturb you when you are riding your bike, jamming to a great song with your headphones on. Better yet, don't flip me off, and I won't fantasize about throwing hot coffee at you.
Andy Frye writes about sports and life here and for ESPN.com. He sometimes rides a bike and hasn't ever killed anyone.