Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Signs and Wonders

It's getting dark earlier now, so my evening commute is becoming more dangerous. More cars nosing closer to my legs, more people honking at my back, angry that I'm keeping them from getting to that red.

I'm convinced it's not a matter of visibility—at least not just mine. I have front and back lights and have even been wearing reflective clothing. I keep to a very straight line when I bike and—as I might have mentioned—don't run red lights so I can't be said to do anything unexpected.

My theory is that driving is so unpleasant for most people that they have only a little bit of tolerance to spare. As it gets darker, that little bit gets eaten away by their worries over pedestrians and other cars and all the little things that can appear suddenly in front of their bumper.

A person on a bike is always a nuisance—a big one. So when you have subtle, even imaginary ones taxing your vigilance, ones you can't do anything about, you get angry at the one you think you can do something about.

Still, the mornings have been cool and clear, and I'd be shirking my duty as Honest Blogger if I didn't mention two recent milestones.

The first was at the corner of Eastern Parkway and Washington, where I once saw an older man crossing the street get thrown about fifteen feet when a person driving a car slammed into him while making a left-hand turn. It's one of the worst things I've ever witnessed directly.

But this time I was waiting at that same light when a teenager asked me for directions to the Brooklyn Botanic Garden. It was shocking—strangely shocking and strangely gratifying. I felt like a person on a street, able to talk to another person on the street, not a category (biker) interacting with another category (pedestrian).

Needless to say, as a street-savvy cyclist and BBG member, I gave him the wrong directions—but only at first.

Then today. Also on Washington, but this time closer to Atlantic. A guy in shorts on a mountain bike is riding slowly downhill in front of me and way too close to the line of parked cars. I don't want to be the indirect victim of a dooring, so I pass him. He blows the first red light and moves in front of me. I get back in front of him and approach the second red light, signaling that I'm going to stop.

Two women are on the sidewalk at that corner, waiting to cross with a stroller. They move ahead a bit when the light changes for them but one of them, the mother I'd guess, keeps an eye on me. I stop, and the other guy speeds through the light about four feet away from the stroller.

In between my stopping and the guy blowing the light, the one woman nodded at me. I'd say it was a "thanks for not being a jerk" nod. Not too positive, and why should it be? I was just doing something that should be normal.

Even so, it's the only decent interaction I've ever had with someone because I stopped at a light. And I'll take that, no questions asked.

No comments:

Post a Comment