Ideas Conceived In Reaction To A Complete And Total Moron

Posted in Bicycles, San Francisco on  | 6 minutes | 2 Comments →

The alternate title for this piece is, "Why I’m Quitting My Bicycle Commute."

So this morning I was on a ride, and for the most part it was a really enjoyable sunny-day ride until I met a complete and total moron. A classic, corporate, postmodern ignoramus hunched liked a doofus at the wheel of his pristine VW Jetta, complete with bluetooth technology to boot.

I’m on 17th eastbound a block or so before either Valencia or Mission; I got so pissed afterwards I actually can’t remember. Anyhow, I’m in the bike lane approaching the intersection with a good dozen cars backed up waiting for someone to make a left turn. Of course, this guy can’t wait, and goes to do the I’m an impatient little bitch so I’ll drive around the car in front of me move. Now I wouldn’t have a problem with this type of move and would even employ it myself, say, on some three or four-lane road like 101, Fell or Van Ness, but not a 1.2-lane road with a difficult-to-distinguish bike lane like 17th.

And if I was gonna do the move at all anywhere, you can bet I’m going to look over my right shoulder for bicyclists, skateboarders or pedestrians. But this (superlative)ass just thought for some reason he had the right to usurp absolutely all of the remaining street space, just so he could get wherever he was going 15 seconds faster at best. And of course, the (superlative)ass is talking on his cellphone. In most city situations, especially driving around the Mission, people who drive around gabbing away on their phones should be taken out of their cars and smacked. Hands-free or not, you’re driving a damn vehicle that can easily kill and maim lots of people for crying out loud! The guy that caused the train wreck in LA last week was allegedly text-messaging when it happened. Your brain is much like a computer; processing too many things at once leaves less room to process other things, like slowing down enough to look right before making your I’m an impatient little bitch so I’ll drive around the car in front of me.

So right when I’m coming up on him he moves. To my right, there’s a delivery van with an oversized mirror. No reaction time, so I just try my best to thread the needle while ducking my right shoulder under the mirror, while simultaneously trying to avoid my left clip touching the guy’s car, which probably would’ve made me fall. Somehow, I got out of it. I wanted to kick the guy’s car or otherwise check him on his stupidity and generally selfish world view, but A) everyone makes mistakes, and B) at this point I still hadn’t even seen who was in the car. All I saw was a tinted Jetta, and for all I know it could’ve been some G’s or ese’s. Just a few days ago, some poor kid took one in the chest on 15th and Cabrillo where I often ride, and with that fresh on my mind I bit my tongue until I could at least see the fool behind the wheel.

It all just made me think about why people rush and why materialistic society has this false sense of urgency towards everything. I realized the root of this situation is of course manifold as with any problem, but some of the underlying currents are economic. People rush for all sorts of reasons, but the general spirit of busyness and rushing that often dominates city streets is created by money-chasers. "Time is money" they say, so everyone’s in this frantic rush to do this thing or that, which would be fine if it didn’t involve piloting lethal vehicles around ordinary humans. People are also rushing home from work because they hate their jobs and so they psychologically speed without even realizing it. Other times they are late for some appointment or affair, but especially in a city like San Francisco, drivers need to realize how many people there are who don’t share their automobile fetish. Seriously people, there are a lot of people living in San Francisco who do not own or drive a car, and at any given time a decent percentage of the cars in our streets are not even City residents.

I think anyone who would call San Fransisco bike-friendly is fooling themselves. If the people that run this place really care about protecting bicyclists, the place to start is with dedicated bicycle space. Figure out a way to offset parking concerns and close some streets to automobiles, or at least lanes. I’m not talking all the streets, just key routes that connect the City’s neighborhoods. And if our legislators and citizens are to dull for such actions, then do something to physically separate cars and bicyclists, since drivers cannot learn to be reasonably alert and because there will always be irresponsible bicyclists as well. After almost getting sandwiched by this jack-ass, my original idea was to line those collapsing, reflective pylons along the bike path, but this would obstruct cars from parking. Perhaps using them at intersections would help, making it so automobiles making right-hand turns were unable to do so until they have actually passed the crosswalk. Another idea was to make bike lanes protected by double-yellow lines. How about tax breaks for those who do not own automobiles in San Francisco, or how about an automobile tax for those who own more than one? How about a limit to the number of automobiles in San Francisco?

It doesn’t really much matter, and I’m not getting my hopes up. As for me, I’ll stop riding to work, and go on rides when I know people are in their frantic life panic. We’re so far away from being the type of society that would even consider giving any public streets back to humans that any of the ideas mentioned above would be viewed as reactionary, communist, or something else ugly and unwelcome.

You can’t legislate a change in human tendencies and behaviors, and until people’s perspectives expand enough to include the people around them, stuff like this will happen every single day.


  1. Greg Lang


    I feel your frustration. Philadelphia has a similar problem and riding bikes here certainly is dangerous. I am glad that many people do ride their bikes so that maybe, one day, we will start to drive less, produce fewer cars, and stop polluting in such a drastic way. I personally feel much safer on a skateboard than on a bike. For the most part I can go just as fast, I can ollie, jump off it, and my hands are free. Of course weather, distance and riding surface is a problem from time to time. But I don’t care. They can have my car and I will just sit here.

  2. dale


    Having lived in San Francisco for 4 years (although no longer) I can fully appreciate your frustration. The motorist vs pedestrian & cyclist & skater & blader & dog walker, etc condition you speak of is commonplace in every city I’ve lived in. Especially where I live now, the big & bad Los Angeles.
    The frustration that’s specific to SF is that it preaches egalitarianism and community but always votes for the buck. It’s a great place, but at times it’s a bit too hypocritical.
    Back in 2001, there was a push in the city to make Polk (from Market to the Marina) a designated bicycle only route through the city. Needles to say, you know that it isn’t. The “horrible fiscal impact” it would have on local merchants and the “severe inconvenience” it would cause local residents in parking were all it took to have the thought tightly wadded up and tossed into the trash can of Willie’s royal palace.
    To put it simply (and the reason is just that simple), is that THERE ARE TOO MANY CARS, period. Everyone knows this. But these same people who know this also have a mile long list of why THEY NEED THEIR CAR. They can’t live without them. But then again, I would question if they have ever tried.
    Every where you go there’s increasing highway and surface street traffic congestion. They spend millions here and billions there (in CA alone) to improve the situation but it’s only a temporary fix. Yes, for a few months it is improved but when everyone discovers that route “x” has less traffic, they all scurry to it and…BOOM!…a bigger traffic jam than before. People seem to go to extreme lengths to deny the obvious sometimes.
    But like I said, people have excuses for excuses as to why THEY NEED THEIR CAR. Most are based upon self centered laziness and fear of personal inconvenience. They want the bus route to and from their house set up for them before they will commit to actually using the metro system. Doesn’t change usually take place through affect not effect? But anyways…it makes my face blue.
    Funny I was talking about this issue with a friend just this afternoon: how good people becomes ugly pigs when the get behind the wheel, friends and family included. This is pretty obvious because we all have been in the back seat of mom’s, best friend’s, or co-worker’s car and watched that super cool and chill person turn a 180 and yell and fuss at everyone. They’re tailgating, using turn lanes as cheater lanes, running red lights on left hand arrows, and throwing more F-bombs than a copy of “No Comply: Skateboarding Speaks on Authority.” It’s pretty depressing.
    I’m not being self righteous, I ride in and use cars. I don’t own one, I carpool and rideshare. Otherwise I bus, subway, walk, and bike my way around Los Angeles. From Venice to Pasadena and from Hollywood to Long Beach, I have discovered facets of my town in ways that I never could have with my hands on a steering wheel. And, I enjoy my time and don’t feel robbed of my life while doing so.
    I was a car owner until I 1st moved to SF back in ’99. I sold my car before I moved and found it relieving, like having a huge burden lifted off my back. I haven’t lived there since ’02 and still don’t own a car. Next year will mark my 10th year of being car free and I have no places of going back.

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