There was a day when, to me, you were just another feature of the hip city vibe; You, the countless citizens, young and old, trudging through the busy streets and musty alleyways of Tel Aviv by foot. But now… now that I live in this Mediterranean metropolis, you have complicated my daily bicycle travels with your casual stroll; You who scowl at me when I whizz by at three times your speed, ’cause guess what– I’m on a friggen bike! And you are in my lane.
The average width of a sidewalk in Tel Aviv is 3.62 meters. Calculated from casual observation on Ibn Gvirol and Arlozorov, I think you’ll find this figure fairly accurate and, at worst, an underestimate. The average bike lane is one meter wide (and this figure is real). This one meter of narrow thoroughfare is what helps bikers like me avoid being hit by cars or disturbing traffic. Have you ever ridden in the Tel Aviv streets? You become an immediate target for honking horns and discourteous drivers who are reluctant to share their road space… So they gave us one meter, and you have to go and stand in it.
For the most part, I must admit, these iniquitous pedestrians are ignorant of the fact they they are forcing riders to experience a phenomenon that is as naturally obtrusive to the human psyche as the lack of oxygen: stopping forward progress. Some pedestrians are more disturbing than others, however, and I have begun to categorize three types of bike lane blockers who get in the way of my point A and point B:
The first is the benevolent trespasser. With their head down and their iPod volume up, this lackadaisical traveler has no idea what a bike lane is. Blue asphalt, gray asphalt, it’s all the same to this one, because their old age or young angst (whichever it may be, and it is always one or the other) has blinded them to others’ concerns. My message to the benevolent trespasser: please, just look around every once in a while, gain an awareness of your surroundings, then continue on your way. Awareness is the beginning of… [fill in the blank].
The second type of bike-lane-blocker is the handlebar humper. I call them this because undoubtably I will clip part of their body with my handlebars. Handlebar humpers are deceptive. They are most often spotted by bikers standing casually to the left or right of the bike lane. Outside of our lane is none of our concern, so we keep on riding. Then, at the last moment before we pass them (a window of about .35 seconds) they jut a limb or an elbow or more into the lane and feel the burn. I’ve stopped turning around to check on the poor handlebar humpers… it’s usually just enough contact to redden the skin, give cause for a grimace, and no more.
The third and final type of bike blocker has the most malice. Let’s just call those that fit into this type “Shimons” (as in the plural of the Israeli first name “Shimon”), because let’s be honest… the guy’s name is probably Shimon. Shimons are typically Israeli, middle-aged men. First, if you don’t know much about Israeli, middle-aged men, they are incredibly social, seem to never be at work, and love both being social and not being at work in the middle of my bike lane. Oh, and let’s not forget: Middle-aged Israeli men named Shimon are convinced that they are right… always.
Shimons are ascribed to their their own category of lane-blockers, because the context of their disturbance to bikers is very unique. See, Shimons will stand right in the middle of the bike lane without a care in the world. You can spot them because one of their arms is usually extended with an open and expressive palm dancing about as they emphatically exaggerate the details of some unknown story to a submissive listener or two. They turn, they see you biking towards them– sometimes they will even look at their feet and notice they are standing in the bike lane– but their machismo is entirely too much. The need to rule the spot of land upon which they stand overtakes them, and they look to their feet, they look to you, they look to their feet again… and then they continue telling their story, open palm and all; not one fuck released from their fortified grasp.
And there you have it. The various categorizations of the Bike Lane Blockers of Israel. I do not hold the crimes of the first two against them. But Shimon… Shimon is another story.
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