biking through downtown on a thursday night is a delicate art. by the time the sun has set, three quarters of the city’s population is already drunk and stumbling through the streets, puking and brawling, publicly displaying their affection for one another, peeing on the sidewalks, and harassing easy targets. An example of an easy target, in this particular case, would be myself on a bike.
secondly, the police force is usually pretty busy on the other side of campus where the fraternity houses butt heads with the sorority houses, breaking up rapes, busting dens of underage drinking, and pulling over young women so they can flirt with them and wield their power in a low-risk situation. this leaves downtown more or less unsupervised, like a kid who is almost old enough to stay home alone but not quite.
so last night i was riding home from work like a total nerd in helmet [IT SAVED MY LIFE ONCE] and highwater pants [they apparently don’t make pants in my leg size] — this alone grounds for harassment, on any night of the week. a car turned off of a side street behind me, became immediately offended by my presence, and responded by alternately driving two inches behind me, slamming its brakes, speeding up, slamming brakes, etc. being tailgated while on a bike is a little bit scarier than being tailgated while in a car: instead of layers of metal and glass between you and death, there’s a layer of cheap poly-cotton blend between you and death. (when dealing with death, it’s best to keep as many layers between it and yourself as possible.)
sigh. eff-ing frat boys, i thought — and yes, i was stereotyping here (but the stupid-ass radio jams, the tinted windows, the stench of department store cologne, the failure to understand why anyone would possibly want to ride a bicycle…i just knew). wait for it… wait for it… “GET ON THE FUCKING SIDEWALK!” the guy sitting in the passenger seat screamed at me as they screeched past, his voice cracking in late adolescent rage.
what happened then? what always happens when you try to pass someone when you shouldn’t: an awkward, forced reunion at the next red light. normally i would just sit behind them and seethe until the light changed, but tonight i was feeling feisty, so i pulled up next to them and said to the guy sitting on the passenger seat: “hey! was that you who yelled at me to get on the sidewalk?”
sheepish nod. they turned the radio down.
“did you know that the cops ticket bikers if we ride on the sidewalk? we legally have to ride on the streets. it’s not my choice.”
“i’m sorry, i didn’t know,” he said.
“and bikers hate it when people yell at them from cars. it’s rude.”
“i’m really sorry.”
i’m sure they laughed at me as soon as they drove off, but i felt like i had just scored a point in the name of bikers everywhere.