Friday, October 14, 2011

All Cats are Gray in the Dark

They don't build them like they used to. In this case, that's not just a cliche with a dangling participle, it's been a pain in the butt for me during the past two weeks.

You see, we bought a 40-year-old house down here in Naples. It's on a quiet street in a great neighborhood, with stores and restaurants and the beach and really good coffee all within an easy bike ride. And there's a group down here that does a lot of non-easy bike rides, too -- the kind of fast stuff that keeps my inner Max Watzz happy -- and their standard routes pass very close by.

But the house is 40 years old. And it's no virgin.

Some of the problems are just because we need technology that wasn't around back then, like broadband. Other problems are because, as Chinua Achebe pointed out, Things Fall Apart. When things fall apart in the tropics -- which Naples technically is -- then things can deteriorate fast.

Anyway, since RandoGirl has corporate housing until the end of the month, we've been getting things fixed in the new house. We're also getting a lot of rooms painted, and a lot of new flooring and carpeting put in, and some stuff re-wired, and some stuff re-plumbed. When it's all done, we will have a great house.

About now, you're probably asking, "So? Why do I care? Isn't this blog about cycling?"

Patience, grasshopper. We're getting to it.

This morning, I had to let the flooring guys in about 9:30. Since I really, really wanted to do some hard efforts on the time trial bike, I decided to get up and ride when the sun wasn't quite up.

I'm tooling along down the bike lane on Crayton Road heading for my time trial road. For those that don't live here, Crayton is a cycling artery for any route that heads towards the older part of Naples. There are quite a few cars on it, but it's got a good bike lane and everyone seems to get along.

Except for this morning, of course.

I was just past Park Shore Drive when a car pulls up next to me with a young man and a woman in it. They roll down their window and ask me to pull over. Well, maybe "ask" isn't the right word. There was definitely a demanding tone, with overtones of indignation.

Now, like most people, I'm a non-confrontational kind of guy. I like to think that we can all talk through whatever problems we might have with one another. But I'm also a good-sized guy, and people don't usually yell demands at me with indignation. I'm probably more the size guy that people either forget about the thing, or run me over. Since I was on a quiet neighborhood road and in an accommodating mood, however, I pulled over.

Whereupon the guy and his girlfriend both start to yell at me that I had just run a red light and that they had to swerve and brake to keep from killing me, and that I had no business to yell at them back there.

What? Did I fall asleep back there or something?

So, I'm trying to get them to clarify, because there is a light on Park Shore Drive, but it was green when I went through. I had seen another cyclist a couple of hundred yards ahead of me, and was wondering if that's who they meant to be yelling at. But they were sure that it was me, and that I yelled at them for almost hitting them when I was in the wrong by running that red light. They said that I should be thanking them for slamming on their brakes and not hitting me.

We went on with this for about a minute -- them venting, and me telling them that I had idea what they were talking about. Then they drove on, and I headed off to do my ride.

But the whole thing kept bugging me. I don't run red lights on my bicycle -- although I have been known to wait through a few just to discover that the weight sensor doesn't detect me, and then dash through when it's completely clear. And I don't yell at motorists unless they are starting to pull out in front of me and I need to make my presence better known. Or if they're being total butt-wads and blasting their horn at me or passing way to close or swerving over as if they're going to run me down.

No, I'm the guy that regularly smiles and waves at passing cars. I signal my turns and stops, and wave cars through when the road ahead is clear for them to pass.

I'm the good guy!

But, I suspect that the angry kids just saw a cyclist going the same way as the one that they had almost hit, and assumed that I was him. So, I was taking the heat for somebody else's error.

No, it wasn't fair. But it's something that all cyclists should keep in mind the next time that they are out riding. When a bunch of us is riding three abreast down a two-lane road and cars start backing up behind us, or when we run a red light or stop sign, or when we jump up on a sidewalk and almost mow down somebody with two bags of groceries heading for the bus stop ... these are the things that give us all a bad name. And if you flip off the car that's been behind your paceline for the last two miles when he floors it to get past, you're not just being a bad ambassador for our sport. You're making it less likely that the driver of that car is going to be as patient when he comes upon another paceline one mile down the road.


  1. I have always said that those that bend or break the rules aren't the ones that usually have to pay for their ... stuff. Instead, it is the next cyclist that the driver(s) see that take the brunt.

  2. As a fellow Booger and cyclist I have to ask: did you use "dangling participle" and "pain in the butt" in the same sentence with subtle literary intent? 'Cause as a fellow cyclist I agree. Those dangling participles are indeed a pain in the butt and hard to get rid of.

  3. Oh and you must be wearing lycra on your rides. To each his own, of course. When people in cars ask me to pull over they usually offer me food or hand me a dollar.