Friday, February 19, 2010

Riding Bikes in February

This week, Maine is seeing yet another heat wave with temperatures inching up to the mid-40s by tomorrow. What this means is that many cyclists are pumping up our tires and riding our bikes. Yes, there is still snow on the ground, but we are out there.

Yesterday, I rode 25 miles with my partner and it was SO much more rewarding than the spin classes that have sustained my cycling mojo for the last few months. And were far from the only ones. I heard cyclist sightings in Skowhegan and Oakland, and this weekend there will be a group ride out of Vassalboro. We are on the move, and much earlier than any of us expected (thank you El Niño!).

Unfortunately, more cyclists on the roads earlier than Mainers are used to seeing us means that cars aren't behaving as well as they are used to. On our way out to West River Road (Rt. 104), a car had the nerve to honk at us for not riding in the debris-filled shoulder on Elm Street. A few minutes later, the driver grudgingly apologized for honking, then said, "aren't you supposed to ride within 5 feet of the curb?"

My partner responded, "In this state, and many others, cyclists may take up to an entire lane, and cars are supposed to give us a 3 feet buffer."

The driver responded, "well in Virginia, where I'm from, bikes have no rights. It's open season on them."

I said, "Maine is one of the best cycling states in the country."

And then he said something I couldn't believe: "Maine should be more like Virginia and force cyclists to take more responsibility if there's an accident."

I curtly said, "You have a right to your opinion," and rode away. I should have said, "then you should go back to Virginia," but I thought better of it.

I've heard stories like this, especially about Virginia and West Virginia. Cyclists are a hunted species and they have no legal protections on the road. Lovely. I let the guy's comments go and continued on my ride, but I'm hoping that's the last of the hostilities for a few weeks. It's too early in the season to be scared while riding my bike.