Thursday, June 28, 2007

A Milestone of Sorts

Today has given me a dubious honor- today marks the first time I've been pulled over by a cop on my bike.

I'd joked to myself previously how funny it would be if I'd been pulled over all the times I'd ridden my bike to Dr. Dremo's and then wobbled back home, sort of along the lines of, "No officer, how fast was I going? No, I haven't been drinking. Yes, these shorts are a little tight..." etc, etc, etc.

The problem this afternoon was that I blurred the line between motorist and pedestrian; when you bike in the bike lane on the road, you are essentially a quiet motorcycle and have to do such things as signal if you're turning or stopping, obey traffic signs, talk on your cellphone, and forget that everyone can see you picking your nose. When you ride on the sidewalk, you are a pedestrian and you obey their rules, like not jaywalking. The demands on your are light at that point, I suppose.

What I did was I went from being a car to a walker and didn't do any of it right: I turned onto a street without "signaling" and then I crossed the street on a crosswalk when there was no traffic but there was no little white man telling me I could cross.

So, a kind Arlington County police officer turned on his siren and pulled me over, pointed out what I'd done wrong, I was very polite and said, "sorry officer," to which he gave me a warning, and I finished with a "it's very hot today, sorry."

There's the crux of it- I'm not one of those evil cyclists who blow through intersections without stopping or kick your car if you come too close. I believe that while in the road I'm technically a car and if everyone acted that way things would be better. However, there are some crucial differences that come up. Today I was biking back from Target, with a precious cargo of cat food, dishwasher detergent, condoms, and toilet paper. I know that doesn't exactly make me Balto, but it's across the county to get to Target. I'll grant that Arlington is the smallest county in the continental United States, but it's really hot out today.

In a car, you're essentially sitting on a couch at an intersection. You're engine does not get tired and is not thinking of how nice a popsicle at home is going to be. If I can keep some momentum going by taking a crosswalk around a deserted intersection, I'm going to do it. When you pull up in an intersection and there's a cyclist next to you, feel free to look at us oddly or admire our rooster tail of grit going up our ass and back but please keep in mind that a cyclist is just a car that gets grumpy.

On a related note, I thought the cop had pulled me over for not wearing a helmet, which is required in this county for anyone under 15. I had my shirt off (IT WAS HOT TODAY, HAVE I MADE THAT CLEAR?) and I was preparing to indicate how much chest hair I had when he cut me off and pointed out the traffic violations.

Apparently cyclists wearing helmets cause this strange thought in a motorist's head that a collision would somehow be amicable since the helmet is present. That's not the reason I don't wear a helmet, of course. I used to read a blog where the author got hit by a bus while biking and received some horrible DC road rash that required broad-spectrum antibiotics. These, sadly, interfered with her vaginal ecosystem and caused yeast infections; her solution was to put yoghurt on a tampon and... apply it. If I wear a helmet, motorists will think I can survive a hit and then I'll have to put yoghurt in my vagina. So, no helmet for me, thanks.