Thursday, October 07, 2010

Do I Look Deaf?

OK, I'll admit that it has been a while since I have posted anything. Well, I don't really have a good excuse or anything other that to say that I've been busy with other stuff. Sorry.

But I thought I would relate a small segment of what happened on my ride today. I found it interesting, anyway.

I decided that today would be a good day to ride from the house up to the Edmonds-Kingston ferry and go for a ride out on the Kitsap peninsula. It's the second time recently that I've done this. Last week I crossed over to Kingston and then rode down to Bainbridge Island to catch the ferry back to downtown Seattle and then rode home from there. Today I figured I would just go on a shorter loop on the Peninsula just to see some views I hadn't seen yet.

I got a little off course on my way to the ferry today and got there just as it was coming in from the Kingston side. Still, I had plenty of time and still stopped at the little espresso stand next to the waiting lanes to grab a granola round as a late lunch ($1.60 vs. $3.00 if you get it onboard). The way they have it set up is that bicycles and motorcycles go up to the front to board first as long as loading hasn't started yet, so I made my way up to the bicycle holding area where I was by myself. There were probably 15 motorcycles. As soon as the incoming crowd was off-loaded they waved me on, followed shortly by the motos and then the cars. I tied off my bike and went up to the passenger deck to eat my granola round.

I ended up sitting near the westward end in front of a couple of motorcyclists. They were talking about just general stuff and I was just sitting and eating. I think they started out talking about the hazards of SCUBA rapid ascents (though they had their physics wrong - not that I corrected them), and then moved on to griping about politics/politicians. Then they started in on bicycles. Hmm. I am pretty sure they could see me sitting with my helmet and cycling gear still on less than 5 feet away. Hmm.

Oh, it started out with complaining about all of the new bicycle lanes. Specifically, I think their main 'point' was that cyclists don't pay any road use taxes and that we (cyclists) should have to pay a licensing fee. Then they complained that bicycles get to board first and they have to wait until we are on the ferry. Next was the general scofflaw nature of all cyclists (we all run red lights and stop signs, we all ride three wide down the middle of the street, we don't ride on the sidewalks where we "belong", et cetera). Then, of course, was the fact that we all look down our noses at other people. Yada yada yada.

The ranting continued on, touching on how one guy's coworker was a cyclist and had made some comment about overly aggressive drivers at work one day...

And then one of them made the following statement: "Yeah, I guess everyone is an assh#le until proven otherwise."

Sensing an opportunity, I stood up and turned to face them. Then I laid out the following (as close to verbatim as I can recall) - in a perfectly calm and non-confrontational tone:

"You know, guys, I can't really disagree with you completely on any of the points you made, but I don't think you are seeing the whole picture."

[shock on their faces; maybe they thought I wouldn't dare say anything?]

"First, you are correct that I don't pay road use taxes for my bicycle. But for one thing, I don't have anywhere near the same impact on the road infrastructure that engine-driven vehicles do. What next? Do you then start charging pedestrians to walk on the road? Also, every cyclist I personally know also owns at least one car - I have three in my driveway - that they do pay road use taxes on. Besides, I think the biggest reason that bicycles don't have to be licensed is that it would cost more to register and placard bikes, including enforcement, than it would bring in. And maybe you should just consider that bike lanes help keep bicycles out of the flow of traffic and slowing it down"

[silence from the two of them, but people are starting to listen in]

"I believe that your next point was that bicyclists board the ferries first. Frankly, I agree there. I would actually prefer to board last and leave last just so I'm not getting passed by a steady stream of a few hundred cars that just came off the ferry behind me. But I didn't make that decision. If you don't like the policy, you should call the Washington State DOT. But you know, I'm guessing that those several hundred cars might complain about you guys getting to go around to the head of the line, too, now that I think about it."

[still silent, but squirming a little - and there are now about 15 other people standing by listening in]

"You also mention that bicyclists are all scofflaws, but I can assure you that not all of us are by any means. I follow the rules of the road - not the sidewalk, where I don't belong - when I ride, even when cars - and motorcycles - around me don't. Yes, I have seen the guys you complain about and I don't like it either, especially since the 5 to 10 percent of those doing it paint the rest of us in a bad light. I think we would do well to teach school kids bicycling safety so they know how to follow the rules of the road, but currently it is mostly a grass-roots effort in a lot of areas. I would also point out that many drivers tend to see you guys in a negative light based on the actions of some motorcyclists riding dangerously in traffic or just being perceived as being "hellions", so I would think that you might be a little more understanding in this regard."

[still very silent, looking toward the floor - surrounding people look interested, though]

"No discussion about the points I'm making?"


"Okay, well, I'll leave you with this final thought. That statement you made about everyone being an assh#le until proven otherwise? Yeah, I think you were dead-on with that one. Have a pleasant afternoon, gentlemen."

At this point I turned to go, stopping long enough to throw away the wrapper from my lunch. A couple of the bystanders came walking with me back down to the car deck. One of them said "Very eloquent. You know, I don't think you're an ash#le". "Thanks," I replied, "You either."

The story isn't over yet. I got down to the car deck and untied my bicycle from the securing point as others got back into their cars - or on their motorcycles. Once the ramp was in place the deck hand looked over at me and was about to give me the signal to go ahead when two of the motorcyclists charged ahead off of the ferry, almost knocking the deckhand down. Guess which two?


Story still isn't quite over. I rode off the ferry and started up the roadway just in time to notice two motorcycles (guess which two) go blasting right through a red light. Right in front of a Kingston Police cruiser. Lights flash, motorbikes stop on roadside, so on and so forth. It took about every bit of restraint I had not to say "Hmph. Scofflaws." as I rode past. I didn't, but I sure thought about it.