Ah, the holidays.
That special time of the year when magic fills the air, good will abounds ... and when you run cyclists off the road or pop their tires with tacks because they're REALLY TICKING YOU OFF!!
The time when we light candles, give gifts ... and drive our bikes extra-slow in the middle of a busy road, holding up cars JUST BECAUSE WE CAN!!
Welcome, my friends, to bike wars: the nonsensical battle between people who are losing their tinsel-topped minds.
Central Florida has long had tension between motorists and cyclists. But lately, tension has morphed into full-on crazy. Even criminal.
We've seen tire-popping tacks strewn along popular bike routes, a granite memorial to a cyclist destroyed and regular reports of driver-cyclist confrontations.
Frankly, the motorists are the worst offenders. Some simply go bonkers at the sight of a bike.
I've gotten angry emails from drivers furious about cyclists for the strangest reasons. One fellow once ranted about how bikers wear "cutie little beanie weenie helmets" and "spandex leotards."
Really, man? You're going to let yourself get enraged over someone's clothing choices?
And by the way, cyclists wear those "beanie weenie helmets" so that their frontal lobe won't leak out their skull when some angry or distracted driver clips them.
But there are also bikers who exacerbate the problems. Some demand all the rights afforded to cars one day — and blow through stop signs the next. Some hold up traffic just to make a point. They want the rights, not the responsibilities.
"I'm going to get killed for saying this," said Ward Bates, who runs two popular bike shops. "But much of the time, the cyclists do it to themselves — and deserve the criticism they get."
Interesting. So the bike guy found some fault with bikers.
OK, so what does a car guy have to say?
"We hear all kinds of stories about drivers throwing things at cyclists: bottles, cans, you name it," said Glenn Victor, a veteran driving instructor at the Florida Safety Council. "What we tell drivers is that bicyclists are entitled to all the privileges of the road. We need to remember that."
Strike up the "Hallelujah Chorus"! What we have here is what we see far too infrequently: two reasonable people making lucid observations and calling for basic consideration.
With that in mind, here are thoughts on how we can have peace on Earth … or at least the road:
•In car vs. bike, car always wins. That's something for drivers to remember. A hasty action can have deadly consequences. Cyclists should remember it, too. You may have the right of the road, but that won't much matter if you get flattened. As Bates says: "There's no point in being dead right."
•Take a deep breath. If you're a motorist ticked off about a slow cyclist, ask yourself this: What is the worst that's going to happen to you? You're going to be 90 seconds late to the dry cleaners?
•Bikers have rights to the road, too. Period.
•With rights come responsibilities. There's a growing subculture of cycling activists intent on making sure drivers know they have the right to the road. Amen, my two-wheeled brothers and sisters. But when you go, en masse, through a red light, holding up traffic — in violation of the law — how many allies do you think you're winning over?
•Buzzing a biker is illegal. You may think zipping your car perilously close to a biker is funny. It's actually illegal. In 2006, Gov. Jeb Bush signed into law a requirement that drivers give cyclists at least 3 feet of clearance when passing.
•Sidewalks are for walkers. Just as the name implies. Don't try to shoo bikers there.
•That cyclist may be your neighbor. OK, so there are a handful of entitled bikers out there. But Ward is right when he says most are just good-intentioned folks: moms, dads, commuters and recreationalists out to have a good time and get from point A to B. Some can't afford cars.
Really, much of it boils down to what we learned in preschool: Be considerate.
If you want to get outraged over something, get worked up about child abuse, famine or political corruption. Not the guy who might make you two minutes late for dinner.
We've all got places to go. But this is the time for good will toward men … even the guy in the beanie-weenie helmet.
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