You are a hero, according to Supervisor Jake McGoldrick. At a recent Board hearing to approve the Valencia Street bike lanes, the Supervisor said that everyone who bikes on San Francisco's streets is a hero for braving the dangers of biking for the benefit of a better city. If cyclists are heroes, maybe we should elevate the status of Bike to Work Day. Make San Francisco the first city to honor bicyclists with an official city holiday! Wait. People couldn't "bike to work" on a holiday! I guess that idea needs some work.
I agree with Supervisor McGoldrick, and I appreciate his respect for those of us who do bike on San Francisco's streets. But I don't think we deserve hero status for putting up with danger. Bicycling is safer than most people realize. But we probably deserve hero status for putting up with abuse from drivers, for suffering countless petty indignities with patience and fortitude.
For being a good neighbor, for choosing to travel in a tiny vehicle that takes no parking space and is basically silent, practically harmless, and pollution-free, what do we get? Abuse. Everyone who puts up with abuse just for bicycling indeed deserves hero status. Happy Bike to Work Day!
Every urban rider has had an experience where you are doing your best to be safe and legal, and someone who just doesn't understand is offended by your existence and yells an obscenity, or honks their horn. And you're doing nothing wrong! We've all experienced buildings with huge parking lots with fancy entrances for car driving visitors while the bike racks are in some dusty, disrespected corner. (At least it's not as bad as Atlanta, where a major department store had to be pressured to open its main pedestrian entrance; the only unlocked door to the store was through the parking garage!)
It is possible to change this. On a recent trip to Amsterdam, where bicycling is integrated seamlessly into most aspects of life, the simple dignity I felt while bike riding was one of the most amazing revelations. They didn't create the perfect bicycling environment in Amsterdam, but at least one didn't have to put up with abuse or neglect for choosing to bike. Bicycling wasn't some political statement that evoked particular ire from some or respect as heroes from others. Bicycling was just...bicycling.