I am a bicyclist, not out of any particularly “green” sensibility. I simply never learned to drive, it wasn’t worth my time; I grew up taking transit or biking everywhere. Therefore it is not too ironic that I ended up interning for the City of Philadelphia’s Office of Transportation and Utilities. My preferred route home from the Municipal Services Building where I work, across from City Hall, is to sling up JFK Boulevard till I hit 30th Street Station, from where I can cut across Drexel and Penn’s campus till I get home. JFK is wide, and as a rule, from 15th street till 21st, I take one lane and stick to it, it is too dangerous to start on the right lane and gradually move left till I hit what is the proper lane to cross the Schuylkill.
Generally this works fine for me, occasionally an angry motorist will honk and pass me by quickly. Except for today. At 16th a large pick-up truck started honking at me. I yelled back that I was within the bounds of the law (after all I am not allowed on the sidewalks) and ignored him. He kept honking, all the way till we reached the overpass to get to 30th Street. Now there were several things odd (and frightening) about this. For one, he had multiple opportunities to pass me, and yet he insisted on tailing me and honking, rarely lifting his hand from the horn. He also assumed, somehow that I voted for McCain. Considering that McCain did not have an Urban Policy team, nor are Republicans generally associated with environmentalism, I do not understand how he got that impression. One of his favorite invectives was “I bet you went to college.” Which only compounded my confusion, how does one hate a campaign which glorified in its lack of college elitism, and college educated professionals, I don’t know. Frankly throughout it all I was afraid for my life. If he was intent on not passing me, and he was that angry, there was ample reason to believe that he might also try and hit me. Oddly enough the more he yelled the calmer and slower I went, it seemed the far more appropriate way to handle this. In some way I was hoping he would hit me, after all I was just a phone call away from the Deputy Mayor. That and being a sometime journalist, I was pretty sure this would have made a wonderful story.
All of which is to say, I suppose, that one can advocate for more bike lanes, bike stations and bike sharing, there is also something to be said for manners. Transportation specialists have noted that women tend to be far more hesitant to bike in cities, largely because they are afraid of conditions and drivers and I am sure there are plenty of men who are too. Without encouraging a cultural climate conducive to biking, well, we have quite a few blocks to go before we can turn off and away from the assholes behind us.
BTW for those wondering why I used the word duel in the title.