Even 'serious' cyclists need to obey the rules of the road

There was no traffic in the quiet "SoNo district" neighborhood when my truck rolled to a halt at a four-way stop the other morning. As my foot came off the brake and I started forward, there was a flash from the right, and in a nanosecond a short-haired woman on a bicycle blew into the intersection, right in front of me -- with a sneer on her face, no less -- at speed, without stopping, zipping along on the wrong side of the road.

How I missed her -- or she missed me -- is anybody's guess. Had I accelerated instead of slowly rolling into the intersection, she would have been toast. It was simple luck. I honked. She flipped me off and kept going. Ah, I thought, another in a long line of idiot bike riders.

Almost everybody I know has a similar story. Or several. For me, it was not even my first encounter with dopiness on two wheels at that particular intersection. On average, in summer, it is easy to see something akin to that on a weekly basis. It stuns me more bicyclists are not killed in accidents here.

Face it, some people who ride bicycles here are morons. Not all of them; not the majority. But some. You know who you are. You are saving the planet. You are a green god. You know you are certainly a better person than any jerk in any car. Your sense of righteous entitlement eclipses your innate knowledge of the laws of physics -- and common sense. Two things cannot -- I swear! -- occupy the same space at the same time. The big, heavy one wins.

As a motorcycle rider, I get it; the idea of being a moving target. I do everything I can to ensure people see me and hear me when I'm riding. I run eye-scorching Motolights. I don protective gear in bizarre colors not found in nature. Believing "loud pipes save lives," I run mufflers jarring enough to make my ears bleed. I position myself in traffic so other drivers easily can see me. I do everything humanly possible to stay out of their way. I generally obey the laws. I do not run stop signs, or blast through intersections on the wrong side of the road, at least since I was a kid. Still, more often than you might expect, some klutz comes out of nowhere and tries to squish me.

If it is squirrelly sometimes on a motorcycle, riding a bicycle in Anchorage must be even more challenging -- even without being a dummy. Face it, Anchorage is full of folks who never should be allowed to have sharp objects -- much less drive. They are distracted. They are yakking on the cellphone or texting or doing God-knows-what, certainly not paying attention. They go too fast. They go too slow They change lanes without looking, or turn left from the right lane. They are drunk or high or brain dead or have no clue what the word "yield" means. They are fighting with their wives or husbands or kids. They had a bad day at work. Name it.

Then, there are the yahoos who want to push you, just to see how close they can come. There are, I am convinced, a tiny fraction of drivers, psycho bullies, who actually want to hurt you, just for kicks -- and they think they can get away with it.

I would rather deal with all those challenges on a motorcycle than a bicycle, which seems to me to be so much more vulnerable.

Which brings up the obvious: Why would anybody riding a bike on roads with cars and trucks and motorcycles ride like an imbecile? Why would they ride wherever they please, however they please and expect to get home safely?

After all, you can do everything right -- as has happened here more than once, sadly -- and still get killed. When you do everything wrong, repeatedly, you are living on borrowed time.

Count me among those who support bicyclists, even though at times it is difficult. I want them to be happy. I may even want to take up the sport some day. (Stop laughing.) But if "serious" bicyclists insist on sharing the roads with other vehicles; if they eschew bike paths because they are cluttered with the flotsam and jetsam of humanity, they need to obey the rules, just like the rest of us -- just like the law requires.

Or, they need to get comfortable with the idea of wearing a 6,000-pound truck home.

Paul Jenkins is editor of the AnchorageDailyPlanet.com, a division of Porcaro Communications.

The views expressed here are the writer's own and are not necessarily endorsed by Alaska Dispatch News, which welcomes a broad range of viewpoints. To submit a piece for consideration, email commentary(at)alaskadispatch.com.