Fuck all y'all

You all know about the challenges I face as a daily bike rider in Charleston.  I've blogged before about the harassment--generally harmless, but sometimes scary, and always very annoying--that is a regular part of my life.  For instance, just yesterday as I was biking home, a motorcyclist veered around me very quickly and screamed, "Get off the fucking road!"

This kind of behavior is pretty normal for motorists.  So normal, in fact, that one of my previous students (not Taylor, the previous student from the previous post) considered filling her bike basket with wrenches which she could launch at cars that yelled at her or side-swiped her.

So here's the ironic thing that happened today:  I got pulled over by a police officer because I turned right onto an on-campus street that cars aren't supposed to turn right onto.  I got pulled over on my bike.  I was wearing my helmet and everything!  To the officer's credit, he was very apologetic, but he pointed out that there's a new bike ordinance in the city of Charleston that requires bikes to follow the laws that motorists have to follow.

All well and good, and I'm happy to do so.  But I pointed out to him the extent to which my biking life is filled with car harassment that makes my right turn look pretty inconsequential.  I told him that I drive, too, and I promise that cars make life on a bike far harder than bikers make life in a car.  I told him about yesterday's motorcyclist.  He seemed sort of embarrassed and agreed that yes, he bikes, too, and he experiences the same thing.  He promised that they were going to go after the drivers.  He pointed out, as well, that the reason the city has this new ordinance is that in the last few months, three bicyclists have been killed...and they were folks following the laws.  They were killed by drivers who just weren't paying attention, I guess, or needed to get somewhere faster than the biker was going.


The good news from this is that I learned that

  1. I can call in the license plate number of someone who sideswipes me, and they'll get cited even if the police officer wasn't there when it happened, and
  2. As a bicycler, I'm allowed to have a whole lane.  Just like a car.  This was a high point of my day, actually--maybe even worth getting cited by the police.  I don't have to scrunch over as far as possible to the right of the road to make it easier for cars to zoom past me dangerously close.  I can sit comfortably in the middle of the lane and bike along, confident that I am following the law.  Cars can be irritated behind me, they can honk and yell, but they'll have to be really aggressive and sadistic to decide to pass me without going into another lane.  I think this is actually going to be safer!  
I know I'm going to hear anger being voiced by Charleston drivers, and here's what I've got to say:  Fuck all y'all.

I hope Biffle's parents don't read this post.


kait said...

Whoa! Sorry to hear that the drivers are so poorly behaved there, but the permission to bike right down the middle of the lane is AWESOME! Virginia's last legislation session, they voted down a bill to increase recommended bike passing margin from 2 ft to 3 ft.

Alison said...

Well, I can see how it would be horribly inconvenient for Virginia drivers to have to give bicyclers an additional foot. I mean, come on--who needs more than 2 feet of space separating their bodies from zooming cars?

erniebufflo said...

When we lived in Charleston (June 2007-June 2010), my husband was a regular bike commuter from our home in West Ashley to his work at MUSC. He was harrassed so often by motorists that I actually feared for his safety. I enjoy riding my bicycle, but only feel safe doing so on non major roads or on greenways. You go on with your bad biking self!

Granddaughter said...

Pardon my ignorance but......what was the law BEFORE bike riders had to follow the same rules as cars? My frustration with people on bikes has always been that they didn't seem to follow the rules of the road, i.e. riding straight through four way stops with out stopping, running red lights, weaving in and out of stopped traffic, etc. Now I'm wondering if all of this was permissible and I was just being an ass. Note: I have never cursed or or side-swiped a person on a bike!

Maven said...

You will be much safer taking up the whole lane. That's the law here in Minneapolis too--though this is a very good town for bikes in general and I've not experience the horrible harassment you have.

Anonymous said...

I'm not a cyclist, but I never fail to be completely shocked at the overt animosity leveled at cyclists by some drivers. Sorry about your ticket - but yay for learning you can call in a license plate number, I think that's awesome.

Share the road, people. Share the road.

Kenneth said...

In the spirit of gratitude and celebration, and of hope for progress and change everywhere (and not, I promise, in the spirit of gloating), I just want to say how glad I am that I live in very bike-friendly Madison, Wis. There are occasional blowups, but drivers and cyclists mostly are courteous to each other. What I'm especially glad of is that for most of my daily 10-mile commute, I use a bike path (more precisely, a multi-use path), and on the path I mostly don't need to think about cars at all.

Alison said...

Granddaughter, thank you for never side-swiping or cursing us! We were technically always supposed to follow the rules of the road, but for a bunch of complex reasons (some generational, some lazy, some fear-based, etc) bikers often haven't.

I'm glad to hear that Minneapolis and Madison are better for cyclists...although I did sense just a BIT of gloating in your comment, Kenneth.

And thank you for your shock, lifeversiontwo! Share the road.