Let’s face it, bicyclists are becoming unlikable, even to other bicyclists. And if you think there are more important issues, you’re right — homelessness, political corruption, pet laws or ISIL. But there are good articles about those issues already. As a man who enjoys Netflix like any other guy, eats cheap Chinese food with chopsticks and just spent $40 on premium decaffeinated coffee, I feel I’m qualified to talk about The Breakdown of the Family Bike Trail.
I’ve compiled a checklist, a self-intervention of sorts, that the average bicyclist can use to determine if he or she is indeed, a bike-jerk:
1. Traffic laws are a matter of personal taste. We’ve all seen it, haven’t we? Messengers catapulting up wrong ways, shirtless waifs wobbling down crowded sidewalks, cyclists decked in battle armor tailgating buses in rush hour and the ubiquitous stalwarts: knots of defiant men on a $3,000 bikes, shoulder to shoulder, baiting us while they parallel the curb by 8 feet.
2. You are quietly stymied when you realize there are people out there who don’t share your infatuation with yourself. It’s true. After you’ve zoomed past cowed mortals who flee your directives like peasants in a pogrom, you hear the wails and lamentations in your wake and you think, “Don’t they understand that I’m the god of special pants?”
3. The velodrome is closed, so you gird yourself for a spirited attack on the Lakes Loop. Lycra is your Elvish Kevlar, your helmet blessed by the Valkyries, and you’ve considered welding Ben Hur spikes to your pedals to shred the spokes of lollygaggers. Gear, gear, gear. Where disposable income meets the devil’s playground. But I love gear, too. It’s art fused with mechanical engineering. Right up until it’s embedded in someone’s body part.
4. Shouting “On your left!” is a waste of time if you travel fast enough. There are two times in a man’s life when he suffers a heart attack. One is when he actually suffers a heart attack, and the other is when a silent cyclist sails past him on a trajectory slung toward the planet Mercury.
5. Any trail is fair game. Whether it be a field of saffron crocus or a gathering of elderly diplomats and their aging service dogs, if a virgin patch of grass exists, you’ll be the first to carve a path on it. The trails lack proper signage, you say? Well, according to Anita Tabb, the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board’s District 5 commissioner, “We have some ‘no biking on paths’ signs at Cedar Lake that were replaced twice last year, and both times, they were broken off within a week.” After crushing more urban trail miles than any other U.S. metropolitan cyclist, must you really take to the off-limits woodland to terrorize the bird-watchers?
6. If riders can’t maintain their speed, they should get off the bike path. I used to think that when something bad finally happens to me, it will be at the hands of an addled meth fiend in a cloud of vapors or society’s most popular boogieman, the “hooded youth.” But now I believe my personal safety depends on a random score of fierce-eyed cyclists with bulging adrenal glands and legs the size of Maryland bearing down on children with pink helmets in a brume of caffeine and attitude.
Really, Lance, who are you trying to impress? We shouldn’t be surprised about the rogue state of our activity paths; people have the same complaints about traffic, closeout sales on Costco salmon and youth-league soccer tryouts. If there’s a kink to be found in our human nature, it’ll reveal itself when we’re in a hurry.
But if you score high on my test, just remember that the huddled masses of cycling dilettantes, Sunday riders, in-line skaters, pedal car-ists, the occasional wayward jogger and a vast sea of non-bike-riding taxpayers fund your trails and bike lanes.
So it might be wise to ease off a little on the energy bars, if you get my drift.
Steve Stratman is a Minneapolis author.