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What's with all the bike bitterness?

The Seattle Times: What's with all the bike bitterness?

Friday morning, if some people are to be believed, a horde of pests is to descend on the city and continue a plot to suck the marrow from our lives and liberties.

Danny Westneat
Seattle Times staff columnist

Friday morning, if some people are to be believed, a horde of pests is to descend on the city and continue a plot to suck the marrow from our lives and liberties.

In other words, it's National Bike to Work Day!

It could be even worse than a plague of locusts. In the past week, bicyclists and people who try to encourage the riding of bikes have been called everything from a disgrace to insane to full-on nazis — all prompted by the Seattle mayor's hiring of a bike advocate as a lobbyist.

"For those of us who daily attempt to 'share the trail' with aggressive bicyclers, our lives are in danger," read an apparently serious letter-to-the-editor that we published this week. "The mandate from their mayor gives them power over our streets, sidewalks and all trails.... When is this going to stop?"

Not until all of Seattle is wearing spandex shorts, that's when!

Seriously, folks — does it say something about the mayor that the TV stations staked out his house over the hiring of a bike advocate? Or something about us?

What's with all the bitterness about bicyclists?

Yes, the mayor is one. He's not so popular, and I guess he can be kind of precious about bikes, like when he waxes amorously about his electric pedal-assist. Plus his PR handlers should come up with a new name for that "road diet" program, because nobody likes to be told to go on a diet. Especially if it's what you need.

But did you know his totalitarian plot for turning us into a velocipede paradise consists of spending 3 percent of the city's transportation budget on bike lanes and bike paths?

That would be $10 million out of $313 million. The other 97 percent is going to paving roads, fixing bridges and overhauling arterials such as Spokane and Mercer streets — all stuff for those forgotten cars he's said to be waging war on.

"If there was a big shift away from spending on cars, toward bicycles, I could at least understand this backlash," says Tom Fucoloro, 25, who tracks the local biking scene on seattlebikeblog.com. "But there isn't."

Yet people insist on being hacked off about it anyway.

Yes, bikes sometimes get in the way when we're trying to speed across town. They can veer crazily, hog the lane or run stop signs.

Of course cars do all that, too.

Fucoloro says he's had times when he's following the standard rules of the road — waiting, say, to turn left across traffic — when somebody in the line of cars behind him will start honking wildly and screaming for him to get out of the way.

"If I was in a car doing that same left turn, I would be holding up the line just the same, but would I get that hostile reaction?" he asks. "I don't think so. I'm more annoying solely because I'm on a bike."

It's true, what he says. But why? It can't be because they're physically threatening. Sometimes a pedestrian gets hurt by a bike, but most all the risks of biking are to the cyclists themselves.

Maybe it's cultural. If you feel there's a war on cars, well in a war you tend to choose sides (unless you're Swiss). So if you drive a car, that would seem to make bikes, by default, the enemy.

Or maybe it's a more primal, dominance thing. You're in the saddle of a 2-ton machine, the other guy's on a prissy 25-pounder. It's hard to resist the urge to throw your weight around.

"I don't know what it is," Fucoloro said. "I think maybe some people feel they're ceding turf to some sort of countercultural movement, right there on the road.

"But most of us are not riding bikes to make a statement or to be negative or to wage war.

"We're just doing it to ride our bikes."

Whoa, now that is subversive. You can see how dangerous these people are.

The good news is, if bikes and bike policy are our big problem around here, then maybe we don't really have any.