Paul Bass biked into a brick wall of ignorance on Monday when he encountered that woman on Orange St. It’s frightening to think that people like her are driving around New Haven everyday. She actually thought that bikes shouldn’t be in the street because “that’s how people get killed!”
Actually people get killed because of impatient drivers who are unwilling to share the road. It’s a common misconception that bicycles are prohibited on the roadways. Since our streets are designed almost exclusively for automobiles, it’s no wonder people like her are confused. They see four-lane miniature highways like State St., and figure bikes have no right to ride there. This creates a conflict when they do see a cyclist and are forced to react carefully. Unfortunately, they don’t always act cautiously. And when they do, they may give you a hard time for wasting precious seconds of their day.
That’s what happened to Bass. The woman in the video was apparently irate because she had to wait for him to bike past the parking spot she wanted. So like all good drivers she beeped her horn three times hoping that a genie would lift him away to the safety of the f%&*n’ sidewalk.
He handled it a lot better than I would have. I probably would have taken the low road and been impatient myself. Instead of just waiting to check the footage afterward, I would have interrupted the woman right after she made her now famous statement. The exchange probably would have went something like this:
Me: “Excuse me, did you just say ‘don’t camera me’. ”
Me: “Is that the rallying cry of the oppressed automobile operator?”
If you do encounter one of these very impatient persons, don’t do what I would do. After all you never know what kind of day someone else is having. For all we know, the woman in the video may have just paid her car insurance, mechanic, lease payments, and filled up her gas tank, all on that morning. Or, maybe she was just jealous because she was cooped up in her steel cage like a beast while Paul had the wind blowing in his beard. Actually, come to think of it, a steel cage might not be a bad place for her.
Try and ignore these obvious inferences. Just calmly explain the law to them, and that it is almost always safer for a cyclist to be on the road. And it’s definitely safer for them to turn in their license and start using public transit. Then, as they are walking away, sneak up behind them and yell ‘get off the f%#*n’ sidewalk!!’ They won’t be expecting that.
Just to set the record straight, below is an old New Haven ordinance which appears to have been written around the time the bicycle was invented. It reads,
No person shall drive, wheel or draw any coach, cart, handcart, wheelbarrow, bicycle, or other vehicle of burden or pleasure, whether of the same description or not, except children’s hand carriages drawn by hand, or permit any horse under his care to go or stand upon any sidewalk or footpath in the streets or public squares of said city, except going in or out of driveways.
Does anyone want to explain to this kid what he’s doing wrong?
I think that clears it up. According to that ordinance, pretty much any vehicle is prohibited from being on the sidewalk, “except children’s hand carriages.” I wonder who the kids had to bribe in City Hall to get that clause in there. Did they pay them in marbles? By ‘vehicles of burden’ I think they mean automobiles, and those of pleasure would of course be bicycles. At least it seems that way, doesn’t it?