Cycling, Peace Signs & the Middle Finger

A friend and I were recently riding our bicycles in the Greenspring Valley area north of Baltimore on a beautiful afternoon.  We were in single file, and I, in the rear, called out “Car back!” to signal to my companion that a car was approaching from behind.  As we hugged the white line, a newish yellow Volkswagen Beetle, adorned with multiple large peace stickers, passed us Cyclingslowly—slowly enough that we were quite capable of seeing the passenger in the vehicle extend the unambiguous international hand gesture intended to exclaim, “F@#% YOU!”

At the moment, I enjoyed the irony, but as I’ve continued to reflect upon it, I’ve reached a trio of conclusions I’m impelled to share:

1)   There are two types of people in this world—cyclists and those who despise them.  I only became a road biker less than a year ago, so I can’t be dismissed as a life-long zealot, but I must say that I simply don’t see validation for any of the reasons given by anti-cyclists to rail against the cycling community.  Sure, there are instances of renegade cyclists ignoring traffic signs and rules, but has that ever actually caused anyone such undue harm that the entire cycling population deserves unbridled hatred?  And yes, it is true that a cyclist may hold a driver up for a moment while waiting for the right moment to pass, but do school buses, farm vehicles and horse-drawn Amish travelers engender the same virulence?  


2)   It can’t really just be about anger towards cyclists.  It must be something deeper.  After an errant driver killed Larry Bensky—Baltimore area resident, cyclist, husband and father—some used that as an opportunity to yet again spew derisions on the cycling community.  Is it really possible for someone to have so much angst that they would use that tragic event as an opportunity to make their point?  It can’t be.  This causes me to wonder, in my moments of anger and rage, are the objects of my aggression the cause of my anger or merely the unfortunate recipient?  Oh, the sinking feeling of realizing that I used a customer service person or my co-worker or my brother, my wife or my children as the whipping post for consternation that was mine and mine alone.


3)   We must encourage our actions to rise to our ideals.  As I’ve already confessed, I am chief among those who all too often justify assailing an innocent party with the aggregate of days worth of personal irritants.  So I’m not judging anyone here.  But I am asking that you consider—with me—allowing lucidity to enter those moments in which we begin to bristle with frustration and reflect on our ideals… and those symbols that reflect them.  If peace and the peace sign is one of them, maybe we should put one of the peace stickers inside the car to remind us to act… peacefully.