One of the most common story plots in Flagstaff seems to center around a nice girl, and a nice boy, and how one of them drives a car, and the other rides a bike, and one day the bike gets hit, and the rider never rides her bike again in Flagstaff. Every time someone sees me on my bicycle, I get some rendition of this same story: “Oh, I knew a girl who was riding her bike down Route 66 (insert whichever street name you’d like) and someone didn’t see her, then hit her, and that could happen to you, too, so wear your helmet.”
I would love to ask how frequently people taking their dogs for a walk are told about other dogs who have been mangled in a variety of unsavory ways while walking, or how many parents bring their kids to the park only to have friends tell them about unbelievable kidnappings, or pedophiles lurking in the pines’ shadows. Obviously we all want to tell each other about scary possibilities as perhaps these narratives will help us learn from others’ mistakes and not repeat them in the future, but there is, or should be, a limit. And I think I have hit mine regarding bicyclist incidents.
I get the message: Be safe and watch out because others probably aren’t. I wish I was the Hulk or any other superhero that would obliterate the car that hit me, but unfortunately I’m not. Drivers are probably also tired of being blamed for not paying attention or looking for bikes on the road. Some bicyclists, clad in skin-tight, aerodynamic polyester and armed with chiseled calves, may accidentally sneak up on people unawares with their superhuman speed and agility. While I think of myself as more of a Pee-Wee Herman bicyclist, la-tee-da-ing my way down the road, extraordinary cyclists do exist who may come out of nowhere, similar to those tiny posts at gas stations that leave a nice dent and yellow streak on the side of your car.
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While Flagstaff’s bike-friendly streets and sizable bike commuter population is encouraging, there must be more that we can do to keep our roadside privileges. First of all, those of you riding on the sidewalks or riding against traffic in the bike lane downtown, I’m calling you out. Stop it. It’s annoying to those of us who don’t want to get in an accident with another bicyclist. We need to band together. And those of you souls on campus, please dear Lord, stop walking in the bike lane slower than a sloth whilst trying to text. When you do that, I kind of want to stick out my arm and clothesline you. I haven’t yet. But I feel the urge building.
So if you, like myself, would like to see more change in the city to make it more bike friendly, I vote we all take over city council (for the foreseeable future), voting in people who are bike commuters or fans, and create a downtown for bicyclists and pedestrians only. We could be a little piece of Denmark in Arizona. While the likelihood of this idea coming to fruition seems unlikely, who wouldn’t love to see that happen? (That was a rhetorical question. Obviously we all would.)
If you think my idea’s a bit lofty, so be it. Take the boring route and write letters or go talk to city council members, advocating for more bike lanes around town and laws protecting cyclists. Go take a class on the rules of the road and how to do basic fixes like changing a tire. Bike to work, not just during the one national “Bike to Work” week (May 22–27), but all the time. We can form a coalition of Pee-Wee Herman bike riders, replete with tassels, obnoxious squeaky horns, and outrageous outfits, to join the sleek cyclists. And start the revolution.