Samuel Hagler is a returned Peace Corps volunteer and founder of the Ride for Good Foundation. He is a master’s candidate studying Bicycle Activism in the M.A. Sustainable Communities program at Northern Arizona University, and enjoys mountain biking, commuting, and traveling the world by bicycle.
Most university towns, including Flagstaff, Arizona, have a bike route through campus. There is a wide lane for walkers next to the bike lane, and the bike lane is split in two with arrows directing cyclists to ride in on the right hand side. In most cases bikers respect their place and walkers respect theirs but not always.
- The Construction Worker: This guy doesn’t typically ride bikes or walk on campus. He drives too carefully. At four miles per hour. In the bike lane. Then he pulls over and parks his work truck half off the bike lane. He leaves the driver-side door open, because he is “going to be right back.” Five minutes and two near-collisions later, he is still crouched down working on the sprinklers– the back of his pants and the driver’s side door still wide open.
- The Overly Cautious Walker (a.k.a. Most Walkers): As I ride, I see two walkers ahead. One is going from left to right and the other from right to left. At their speeds I’ll have plenty of room to continue straight and miss them each by 10 feet. Oh, but now the one on the right sees me and starts to slow down, so I turn left. Uh-oh, the walker on the left stops like a deer in headlights, in the middle of the bike lane. Now it’s too late– all I can do is hit the brakes and stop dead in my tracks, ignore their dirty looks, realize it’s something only cyclists understand, and swear I’m going to write an article about this in hopes that some walkers will get it. I know, I know, you’re just trying to be polite. But have you ever played Frogger? If the cars stopped as you approached, it would be an impossible game. Ask any cyclist, and they’ll tell you: Stop-and-go walkers are the second most annoying thing about being a cyclist.
- Headphony Tony: This guy wants everybody to know he’s a music fanatic. No time for paying attention to the sounds of interference– the “on your left” warning and subsequent squealing of brakes
- The Swervy Cyclist: True, biking home from the bars is safer than driving, but let’s be honest; in your half-conscious state nothing is safe at more than three miles per hour. After an entire night of bro-toasting at Maloney’s, please just walk your bike.
- The Bike Walker: This confused champion of both lanes is usually an awkward male who is walking next to somebody he is interested in, because he’s “going that way anyway.” He walks the bike in the bike lane while he walks in the walking lane, hopelessly distracted by conversation.
- The Foreign Freshman: It’s not your fault; you’ll learn not to ride in the left lane.
- The Organ Donor: My roommate wants me to say something about hipsters who have no brakes, no helmet, no shoes, and no gears, but he has since admitted that he doesn’t like them simply because they are cooler than him.
- The Pro: This guy is too cool for school; he is not a student, nor does he work on campus. Instead, he stuffs a sock into his spandex and flies through campus on his $7,000 road bike in hopes that somebody will call out, “Hey bulgy fast guy, cruise on back here and make out with me!” But they never do.
- The Compassionate Commuter: We all make mistakes. In the past, this girl has accidentally biked on the sidewalk or almost hit a walker. So now, when a walker gets in her way, she skids to a stop and politely explains, “Walking in the bike lane poses hazards to all parties. I’m not mad. I forgive you. ” All the while blocking the bike lane…
- The Lazy Susan: Perched precariously atop a yellow bike, she zips on and off the sidewalks and doesn’t notice when she’s going the wrong way in the bike lane. When she is on the correct side of the bike lane she is probably texting, and she tends to pedal even slower than the construction worker drives. A red purse hangs from the handlebars and her peripheral vision is blocked by thick designer sunglasses. It’s okay, though, because under all that make up she really does look like a celebrity– and celebrities do as they please.
- The Self-Righteous Cyclist: This guy owns the bike lane. He probably has an uncle who not only podiumed in a Cat 2 race last weekend but also works for the city as a bike path planner. “Get out of my bike lane! This is for cyclists, for me! You are just a serf!”
- The Resentful Walker: “I almost got hit by a cyclist again today! I hate cyclists!” Guess what? Cyclists almost get hit by cars every day. I actually have been hit by cars multiple times, but I will never take it out on all drivers. These resentful walkers might as well be racists. They won’t admit walkers make mistakes because they, themselves, are walkers. They see a relative few bad apples among cyclists (and yes, I agree there are more idiot cyclists out there than we would like, but definitely not the majority) and decide to resent all cyclists. The worst of the worst in this group deliberately walk in the bike lane, blow exhaust in front of cyclists, throw cigarettes out the window, or yell at them to “get on the sidewalk!” all of which fuels the rivalry between walkers and cyclists.
People in all groups make mistakes. The solution is to calm down, educate, and start with the man in the mirror.