Sunday, January 25, 2009

Going The Opposite Way

On Saturday afternoon while I biked on the Gandy Bridge shoulder from St. Pete to the Tampa side, a bicyclist was pedaling against traffic and heading straight for me on the same shoulder.

I stopped and wanted to chat. I wanted to find out why he prefers to bike against traffic.

If you bike on a lot of roads around here, you've encountered them -- people on rag-tag bicycles coming right at you. They almost never wear a helmet. They're often poorly fitted on the bicycle.

Like the guy I met Saturday afternoon. He had a metal basket on the handlebar and a floor pump attached to his frame via black electrical tape. He wore stylish black dress pants with pleats, and gray wool gloves. Weatherbeaten face, no helmet of course. Several leather pouches carrying pocketknives also dangled from his belt.

He explains he bikes against traffic because that's the way he learned while growing up in Nebraska. He said he wants to see cars coming at him so he can avoid them if they veer right into him. He didn't want to hear about biking with traffic.

He then took off and continued biking west as the cars whizzed by him in the opposite direction.


GhostRider said...

These folks are colloquially known as "bike salmon"...get it? You know, like swimming upstream against the current?

Denis A. Baldwin said...

Not that I was ever much of a bike rider, but when I did commute by bike it was always against traffic (for the same reason). Where I grew up, there were a lot of people who didn't pay attention while driving and you'd always hear about cars hitting bikes going with traffic. I can count atleast twice my life and bike were spared because I saw something coming and was able to react.

GhostRider said...

Strangely enough, statistics don't back up the "riding against traffic" phenomenon. Overtaking collisions only account for something less than 5% of bike-motor vehicle crashes.

When I learned to ride a bike 30-odd years ago, the rule was "bike WITH traffic, walk against it." I wonder if riding against was a regional thing or something?