This installment of Baltimore’s Free Alternative Newsweekly has the theme of The Bike Issue, so I am going to make that into the theme of this installment of the Mr. Wrong column. A very special episode, if you will, on two wheels, or a “wheelie,” even! Ow! My back!
So I haven’t read any of The Bike Issue yet, because paradoxically I am typing something that goes into it and it isn’t printed or Internetted yet, but I bet there will be stuff in here about things to do on bikes, and important issues and topics will be covered in the interest of showing how it’s probably a good idea for Our Fair City to support and encourage people to pedal their asses all over town to work and to play, and for there to be safety and some sorta considerations with respect to infrastructure so bicycles can be a seamless and integral aspect of urban transport, eh?
That sounds great to me, because I own and operate a bike (and a helmet, and a Kryptonite™) and I go out on the streets (and sidewalks) of Charm City and pedal around, and it’s not easy, man, there are dogs and criminals and unruly youths and giant potholes and cracks in the road, and sometimes the sewer grates go the same direction as your bicycle tire and your tire goes in it, and motorists, in their cars, motoring, are not particularly attentive sometimes, in terms of opening their car doors quickly on the street side (where you are bicycling) potentially causing you to instantly decelerate, or turning in front of you on the street (where you are bicycling) without signaling, or honking where you are bicycling, or yelling where you are bicycling, or generally making you feel like you are a highly unwelcome complication to the motorist experience and you are a crazy person for attempting to pilot a bicycle on a city street, which is for automobiles.
This compels you, as a bicyclist, to carefully consider the route of travel when attempting any sort of bicycle journey in the City of Baltimore, America, not only because of all the dangers from your fellow humans, but for stuff like the hill that might cripple you with a heart attack. That is basically my No. 1 consideration, seriously, trying to find the Flatness, because I don’t bicycle enough to be able to go charging up some of these hills in this town, and I even have gears on my bike and I know how to shift ’em and everything, I’m just not in shape enough, you know? I walk my bike up a lotta hills, and inclines, and sometimes even things that are almost flat, especially when I’m not getting enough oxygen in my breathing-hole, from pedaling a lot, you know? Sometimes I walk my bike downhill, seriously, I’m tired.
My typical bicycle journey usually involves riding on the sidewalk (slowly) when the street is too narrow or the cars are too fast and furious, and sometimes I do stuff like bicycle on the side of the street where I’m facing the traffic instead of going with it, which is not what you are supposed to do, but if it means avoiding a crazy intersection, where all the cars are doing the right-on-red without stopping, it’s totally worth it. And when I’m on the sidewalk, I don’t go fast, and I make sure I’m not crowding anybody who is walking, and I don’t treat the sidewalk the way some of these jackasses on Segways do, like you are supposed to get out of their way. Look, the sidewalk is mostly for people to walk on. If you are on something that increases your speed, like a Segway, you need to slow down when you are around people, or else you need to get off the damn sidewalk and get on the street for a taste of what you’re doing to legitimate pedestrians. And while you are out on the street? You still need to be cool around pedestrians, no matter where they are, and especially if they are in your flight path. Segways are quiet, do you know that, Captain Segways? A lotta times people don’t know there is a Segway around until it is almost on top of them. And I’m talking to the Segways of the Baltimore Police Department here as well. You guys cruise around two abreast on the street like you own it, and unless you have a siren and a light going, most of the time nobody knows you are there, so be cool about rolling stop signs and cruising through red lights, as I have observed.
Meanwhile, when I am in my car driving around town, I try real hard to drive in a gentle and cooperative manner, obeying the law and making sure I am tolerant of all the other forms of transportation I could run over and kill with my car, such as pedestrians, bicyclists, people on those electric chairs, Segways, motorcycles, scooters, and, of course, giant packs of scooters going against traffic, all of them without helmets, and while I’m being a good motorist, the cops in this city should be busting anybody on a non-car form of transport for doing stuff that might get them killed. Stuff like not stopping at intersections—I mean, c’mon bikes, howabout at least thinking of slowing down at a four-way stop sign or a red light at an intersection when there are cars present? Just because you’re going downhill on a bike and you are getting some good speed doesn’t mean you can blow a red light during rush hour, even if you are in the bike lane. As much as I would like to just drive my car the way I want and rely on all of these forms of traffic to fend for themselves, I gotta put my ego aside and let them break the law, or else I might be cleaning somebody off the bumper of my Civic, you know? I mean, sure, it might be really satisfying to see some punk on a scooter bouncing off your hood, but it is not the right thing to do, seriously, you gotta resist that impulse. There are cameras everywhere.