‘Two Wheels and Four’

The San Francisco Chronicle’s Jon Carroll, an unapologetic old fart and non-cyclist–I mean to cite his unreconstructedness as a compliment–on the favorite subject of the day: our national car-bike contretemps:

Two Wheels and Four

But bicyclists, probably by virtue of their virtue, have gotten a free pass. I too admire their decision to forgo the use of fossil fuels and improve their cardiovascular fitness. I’m on their side. So maybe someone could tell me when the word went out to all Velo Americans that stop signs, and even stoplights, were for cars and pedestrians and people in wheelchairs, but not for bicyclists.

Here’s a typical letter, from Karen Clayton, who was visiting San Francisco to meet a friend from Tokyo. On her way to dinner … well, here’s her report:

“Unfortunately, we were caught in the ‘Last Friday’ Critical Mass ride. We sat through 4 traffic light cycles. Our friend was agog – not by the Mass, but by the flouting of the traffic laws. At one point my husband edged out a tiny little bit into the cross walk, thinking we were at the end of the Mass – we did have the green light – and then another group came swooping into the intersection. One of the riders stopped, thumped our car and told us we should be aware that this ride happened on the last Friday of every month and we should ‘be careful.’

“Everyone in Tokyo rides bicycles. I did almost all of my grocery shopping by bike on my ‘housewife’ bike during the 7 years I lived there. I love to ride a bike – in the old-fashioned sense of that phrase – for pleasure, not competition. People routinely ring their bells in Japan when they are coming up behind you and everyone endeavors to be careful. It was a pleasure to ride there.”

Clayton goes on to suggest “self-policing.” I think that would be lovely. I think little bluebirds delivering bags of chocolate to the sick would be lovely too. We’ll see which happens first.”

“Velo Americans.” We like that.

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