Bike Rage, Road Rage… Everybody Lay Off the Caffeine


So it’s May, which only means one thing in my world.

NBA Playoffs!

But I also share this world with other non-NBA fans, many of whom are outdoorsy types. So for them, May is National Bike Month. Which means it’s time for me to resume my annual tradition of Getting Back On My Bike Again, Since The Weather’s Not So Bad Anymore.

And since I’m far from alone in this tradition, and because I live in the bike-friendliest city in the nation, and because I’m constantly downplaying the dangers of urban cycling so that my wife won’t worry about me when I’m out on my bike, I’m especially sensitive to newspaper accounts of collisions between cyclists and motorists.

Seems like this time of year, these kinds of accidents are especially on the rise.

People have different ways of processing these events. Like with many tragic news events, some people just file them away in the recesses of their minds, expending a few tsk-tsks and that’s that. Others coalesce together to form cells of shadowy crusaders, painting bikes white and leaving them as memorials to honor the deceased and raise awareness.

But far too many of us simply get mad.

As this excellent editorial points out, blame has become the standard coping mechanism when it comes to sharing the road. Angry motorists point to rogue cyclists who take daredevil tactics that ignore the rules of traffic. Angry cyclists point to huge SUVs driven by careless and inattentive drivers. Both are part of the problem, yet many passionate advocates on both sides fail to respect the opposing viewpoint.

So when a controversial accident happens in their neck of the woods, it serves to reinforce their already impenetrable convictions, rather than helping to balance the picture a little.

In this way, it’s somewhat like the unfolding saga with Jeremiah Wright. White people see him and fit him nicely into their profile of troublemaker and rabblerousers. Black people see him and see another example of an articulate, prophetic Black voice having to withstand a well-orchestrated character assassination. They’re both right… and they’re both wrong. And they’re both angry. When that anger finds a flashpoint, it doesn’t dissipate — it explodes.

So now we’re living in the aftermath of that explosion, and people on both sides are frustrated, hurting, and looking for real answers. Can we, as responsible adults, have the maturity and decency to assess our behavior? Or will we let our animosities toward others boil over and spill into violence?

Lest you think I’m painting with too broad a brush in comparing bike rage with race riots, click on the picture at the top of this post. It looks almost staged, doesn’t it? As far as I know, it’s not. It was taken by a freelance photographer in Toronto while witnessing an SUV driver pummeling a bike messenger.

In terms of social and political importance, it may not be the next Rodney King saga, but it’s important nonetheless.

So I say enjoy your time out on the road, but do try to keep your prejudice in check while you share the road with your fellow humans. And if it’s obvious that they’re Wrong and you’re Right, then be the bigger person and let it go.

But if you can’t, and you still have some excess steam you need to blow off, do what I do:

Yell at the TV.

‘Cause NBA officiating is usually horrible this time of year.

I’m Jelani Greenidge, and thanks for mixin’ it up with me.

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