Bikes, Boots and the Common Understanding

Bikes, Boots and the Common Understanding Busy, busy, busy. I got things to do and places to be and my wheels help to assure me I get where I need to go on time. Ever since I came to college my bike has been my baby. It rules my life because without it my daily schedule would be impossible to keep up with.

However, as effective as my bike is at transporting me here and there, there’s a constant obstacle blocking my path. This obstacle has taught me perhaps the most valuable lesson I will learn in college: never trust a pedestrian. There are two types of pedestrians: the helpful pedestrian and the texting pedestrian. Pedestrians of the world I humbly request your attention so that I may show you the error of your ways. Imagine, if you will, this scenario.

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It is non-fiction and a problem we bike-riders face every day thanks to pedestrians attempting to be helpful. A pedestrian is walking across the street. Not on the cross walk, mind you, because on campus the world is a pedestrians cross-walk! But I digress. This pedestrian, aware of their surroundings, notices a bike coming their direction. The rider of this bike has already seen the pedestrian and has figured out if the bike is turned a certain degree and the speed is decreased ever so slightly, the pedestrian can continue walking without worrying about the bike. But the pedestrian gets nervous as the bike approaches and pauses to let the bike pass.

This pause alarms the rider and causes them to slow down. This alerts the pedestrian to continue walking because the rider is slowing to allow the pedestrian to finishing crossing the road. At that same moment, however, the bike rider starts pedaling again after recovering from the initial shock of the stopped pedestrian, realizing the pedestrian was stopping to let them pass. When the bike begins increasing speed the pedestrian gets alarmed and stops again. This alarms the rider, again, causing them to brake, again.

This cycle of confusion continues until the two finally meet and either the pedestrian stops moving or the rider dismounts. Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate the awareness of these pedestrians and fully realize they are trying to help. But I have a word of advice for helpful pedestrians: your helping is not helpful. In order to help, please refrain from helping. It is kind and generous of you to slow your day down for me, the bike-rider, but, frankly, it makes me want to punch you in the face.

Sorry. As for you texting pedestrians, I wish I could slap you. Preferably, across the face. With your own phone. I already see your counter argument.

Yes, we too text on our bikes. But there are few of us who are talented enough to do so without going face first over our handlebars. This is why I choose you to take on the task of refraining from texting; there are many more pedestrians who are so talented they can text and walk at the same time than bikers who can ride and text. I recommend to take that inner dislike for bike-riding-texters and realize we feel the same way when you almost walk into us because your eyes are glued to your phone. I fully admit we are both at fault for being obsessed with our phones, but now is your chance to be the better people and show us bike-riders how pleasant the path can be if we all pay attention to where we’re going.

So, please learn from our poor example and put your phones down, because if both of us are texting, bad things are going to happen. Being from Minnesota, I basically grew up on a boat in many of the state’s ten-thousand lakes. By my tenth birthday I had already been behind the wheel of our deck boat cruising across the busy water. I learned the law of the lake at a young age and feel confident that we could apply the same law to our present bike versus pedestrian situation. The law I speak of isn’t an exact law. It is more like a common understanding.

The understanding is that small, agile boats yield to large, difficult to maneuver boats. For example, if a speed boat and a pontoon are going to cross paths, it is the speed boat’s responsibility to change course to avoid the pontoon. The pontoon still is responsible for being aware of their surroundings but is not required to change course. The pontoon in this example represents the pedestrians. As pedestrians people should be aware of their surroundings. They should also realize that the bike-rider is responsible for avoiding them.

Honestly, as a biker, I feel that the pedestrians have the better end of this common understanding. All you have to do is pay a little attention and go about your day as if bikers didn’t exist. If you can do those two things we promise not to run into you. But between you and me I would still watch out for those long-boarders. That’s the second most important thing I’ve learned in college: never trust a long-boarder.