Hi, I’m an angry urban biker.

I bike to work everyday. I’m not one of those hard core bikers…I do bike most places, but it’s mainly because in DC I think it’s the fastest way to get around and DC is also pretty good with bike lanes. My transportation choices for getting to work are a <10 minute bike ride, a 20-30 minute bus ride (including waiting for the bus, since it doesn’t always come on time), or a 30 minute walk. The bike ride is clearly the best choice.

The problem is that while there are bike lanes for most of the ride, someone in a big fat car tries to kill me almost everyday. People on their phones. People talking. People numb and oblivious to traffic laws because DC police don’t bother enforcing them. People trying to get to the red light up ahead faster than anyone else. People who don’t think bikes belong on the road–when it’s written in law (in DC at least) that bikes do in fact belong on the roads and NOT the sidewalks. And people who just don’t notice bikes or think to look out for them…even when or especially when there’s a bike lane.

I can’t tell you how many times someone has made a right turn through a bike lane without bothering to look and see that I was right there…luckily I’ve gotten pretty defensive in my riding and can sometimes tell when this will happen. I’ve also developed cat-like reflexes. Or my favorite is 9th street (I think) going through Chinatown…there’s a full-size lane dedicated to buses and bikes. It says it huge right on the lane. Over and over again. Buses Only (with a picture of a bike as well). Yet it’s the most dangerous place to bike. Because people get all frustrated with their traffic (which I have no sympathy for since there are plenty of transit choices for getting into and around the city) and suddenly swerve into that lane, bikers (and I guess buses) be damned.  I end up riding down the lane yelling the mantra: Buses-and-Bikes-ONLY while I angrily point to the painted words on the road.  I’m that crazy woman.

The worst is when people honk at me just for being on the road or when cars run red lights or stop signs and then yell at me for almost being hit by them.  Now I know bikers can bike dangerously sometimes–I’m guilty of this sometimes.  But I think there’s more responsibility with operating a car.  It’s not likely I would kill a pedestrian or another biker just with my bike.  It’s the motor vehicle that does that.

Anyway.  The point is–being almost killed regularly has made me an angry biker.  I yell obscenities at people when they try and kill me now.  The other day someone ran a red light while looking me right in the face as he almost hit me.  I sped up to his car later with my middle finger blazing and the F yous flying.  He actually tried to flirt with me and when I got even more pissed he started yelling back:  “I’d kick your ass if you were a man.”

That actually made me laugh…which overall made me feel better.

But this kind of exchange happens like once a week…with less involved confrontations happening more often.

Sometimes I hate people.  Sorry, but it’s true.

For the most part I enjoy biking to work, or anywhere…but the stress seeps in sometimes, which has to diminish the health benefits of riding.

Actually, one thing I was wondering about is whether my urban biking is actually bad for me in balance.  While I’m getting exercise and staying healthy and fit, I’m breathing in lots of fumes, carcinogenic ones no less.

Is it a wash? Am I healthier for it or am I getting cancer for sure?

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5 Responses to “Hi, I’m an angry urban biker.”

  1. hb Says:

    You’re better for it. Those fumes are around anyway, so you’re getting exercise AND a greater immunity to these poisons.

    I bike down E street through downtown every day and then on other streets that don’t have bike lanes. I manage to not be too angry by expecting people to turn right in front of me, bike lane or no, and not using the bike lane on 9th St. Riding a little more aggressively than I might otherwise–by, say, passing up cars, getting into car lanes instead of bike lanes, and passing through intersections in a way that cars might not–helps avoid difficult situations. It’s a shame that cyclists are told by the law to wait at red lights; they’d often be safer passing through after a stop, but when they do that, drivers feel morally justified in taking their commuting/career/diminutive masculine member rage out of us more efficient travelers.

  2. Sandra Soroka Says:

    Dude, I’m an angry NYC urban biker. I agree with everything you wrote about people. I have no qualms about yelling out and telling people what I think.

    “The point is–being almost killed regularly has made me an angry biker.” – best line EVAR

  3. Adam Pieniazek Says:

    I’m a Boston urban biker and though I still get angry at times I try to remain calm as much as possible, even in some ridiculous situations. My motto is that biking is a thrill for me and I’m not going to let some people who are incapable of driving their vehicles well frustrate me. It’s just not worth the stress, though there are times when it’s almost impossible to keep one’s cool, especially considering how vulnerable us bikers are on the roads.

    I’ve read a few articles that though you breath in some pollution while biking, most of the exhaust is lower than you or nor concentrated enough to offset the good health aspects. Another thing to consider is that the inside of a car is actually quite filthy in terms of air quality as fumes accumulate inside the cabin. Here’s just one article discussing how cyclists breathe better air than drivers, even though we breathe at a much more rapid rate.

    So you’re definitely healthier off biking.

  4. A biker’s list of complaints. « Textiles and Bicycles Says:

    […] that being said, I have stated before that I am an angry biker and it’s because I feel there generally isn’t enough awareness of the many other people […]

  5. dottie Says:

    I’m way late on this post, but I know how you feel! I’m an urban biker, too – Chicago, to be exact. It’s hard not to be angry when people threaten your life daily. But overall I try to let the anger wash over me. I have no doubt that cycling is healthier because at the end of the day it feels great and my body IS healthy. Also, I read somewhere that exhaust fumes breathed from inside a vehicle is more concentrated that what cyclists breath.

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