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Monique Doyle Spencer

The cure for road rage? Bike laws

By Monique Doyle Spencer
August 13, 2009

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I WANT TO Be Kind to Cyclists. Sincerely. I want to Share the Road, Be Green and Ride the Hub. There’s one tiny barrier. Cyclists give me road rage. Morning. Noon. Night.

I’ve been driving through Longwood medical area during rush hour. I should be walking, I know. My heart does get its morning exercise, though, just through panic attacks. I see the swarm of cyclists ahead. My body tenses, my blood pressure soars.

First, they call themselves cyclists, which is a Lance Armstrong word, not a word for anyone who is riding their childhood bike through Harvard Square with a basket on the front. They remind me of the flying monkeys from the “Wizard of Oz.’’ They will come out of nowhere and swerve in front of me. A whole pack of them will stop for a second, with their bottoms facing me, and they communicate with those bottoms. Most of their messages are negative. A raised bottom means “Get off the road, you gas-guzzling pig!’’

At the red light, they will all start to move through as if it’s green, and I start to follow them, not realizing the light is still red. The nearby police officer is empathetic but firm, as they ride off but I don’t. I look ahead and see their last bottom message, the raised and squeezed one that means: “See Ya, Wouldn’t Wanna Be Ya!’’

No doubt most of these bike riders are healthy young doctors, committed to a lifetime of health and strength. If so, get really scared about going to the doctor, because these people are probably not in the very top of their class. See, it takes an idiot to stay in the middle of a lane going uphill, causing a traffic back-up 20 cars long, instead of keeping to the curb. And yet a miracle happens every day: We ride behind them, creeping along, but we don’t say a word.

I guess it’s because we are the fat ones in our cars, the people causing healthcare costs to rise. I don’t think that’s true, because we never do anything dangerous, unlike healthy people who are constantly breaking things skiing or getting lost hiking.

I have a fantasy. I drive a hybrid, which means you can’t hear me coming. Normally I am very careful to be sure that people see me coming since they can’t hear my car. My fantasy is that I will ride silent, ride deep, right behind a cyclist. Then I’ll beep my horn, real loud.

Hmm, a little healthcare-debate rage is interfering with my road rage. Back to the topic: Now that we’ve forgotten about re-licensing the elderly, which took us exactly two weeks, let’s turn our spotlight on this other road menace. Let’s license cyclists. Then let’s start a whole new “revenue stream’’ by deciding what things they do that are moving violations.

First step? The written test. It will be given in a foreign language, because cyclists love to talk about how great foreign countries are for them. Next? Road test. Same as for a car. Well, except maybe the parallel parking test, that might be a little silly.

See? Now cyclists can drive the way that we have to drive. Having a license plate so you can be caught even though you look like a Ninja. Stopping at red lights. Letting pedestrians cross.

Then there will be the special laws for bikes. You made the rest of us drive too slowly to make the green light, then you ran right through the red? Ticket. And what about your vehicle? Time for annual inspections. You’re in traffic riding a bike that has three gears or none? Sorry, off the road or confined to your neighborhood. Under Massachusetts law, you may not use streamers but you may attach baseball cards to your spokes to look cool.

You know that deep happiness when the car that swerved in front of you on Route 128 gets a ticket a mile later? That’s the secret. That’s how you make a driver Be Kind and Share the Road. No billboards, no campaigns are necessary. Just tickets. Beautiful, green, made-from-100-percent-consumer-waste tickets.

Monique Doyle Spencer is author of “The Courage Muscle: A Chicken’s Guide to Living With Breast Cancer.’’

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