I suffered a relapse of CS today, which is a shame because Mother Nature is finally beginning to cooperate and toss us some decent riding weather. Plus, it’s April 2nd and day two of Thirty Days of Biking.
CS is a particularly insidious condition, creeping up on sufferers with little or no warning. I, in particular, experience bouts of CS with especial regularity and – huh? You’ve never heard of CS? CS, as any of my students will readily inform you, is the acronym for Congenital Stupidity. It’s the condition motorists have when they attempt to text, chew gum, sing and dance along with Bobby Brown, and drive all at the same time. Or when they signal right and then cut across three lanes to turn left.
But CS is not limited merely to those of us with a drivers license and a cell phone – no indeed! Many two-wheeled denizens of the road exhibit alarming signs of CS as well. I know. I’m one of them.
The first sign of CS began around 3.30 pm. I’d just left school and inexplicably pulled into the drive through lane at McDonalds. Even more inexplicably, I ordered a MacDouble and fries – even though I planned to enjoy a couple hours of cycling in the 53 degree afternoon sun. I must have looked quite dapper astride my Boulder today, my solid black top and legs harmoniously complimenting my cycling cap. When I picked up my helmet I was chagrined to discover that the plastic strap that tightens around my head didn’t. I couldn’t get a snug fit because it had broken. I must have only been casually chagrined, or simply growing used to things breaking on me today (smashed iPad, brown lens on my Tifosi frames snapped in half, broken spoke on the rear wheel of the International… yeesh!) I’ve been known to ride off wearing nothing atop my noggin other than a cycling cap in the past and today was one of those times, even though I have an extra helmet hanging from a nail in the garage. In any event and as I now reflect upon it, heading out for a longish ride, dodging two ton, four-wheeled, CO2 stink machines with naught but a cotton covering on my skull might very well be another presenting symptom of CS.
So might be tearing a great speed to the bottom of the hill with that tiny bit of fabric protection. I recall checking my mirror. I recall coming up to an intersection. I even recall checking to ensure that there was no traffic coming before making the turn.
What I don’t recall is blowing through the stop sign. And I don’t recall seeing a motorcycle cop at all. So it was with great surprise that I found myself topping a short hill and hearing a voice, seemingly from nowhere:
“Stop signs apply to bicycles too!”
Who – ? What the hell?!?
I glanced to my left, and there was the cop, slowed to match my speed. I stammered nonsensically, I stammered – and then I did something dumb: riding along beside the man, I argued.
“I thought cyclists could proceed unabated if they were not impeding oncoming traffic,” I said. Now I don’t know this to be a categorical fact but this is what I understand about the law in Missouri. It was a stupid thing to say and I realized as the words left my mouth. As a normal course of riding, I stop at all lights and stop signs. Why I did not today is beyond me. Why I argued with a cop, knowing I was in the wrong, is also beyond me. I’ve read all the stories about cops who treat cyclists with more contempt than motorists. But he just looked at me and shrugged.
“It’s your safety, man.” Then he zoomed off.
What the hell was I thinking? Besides the stories about cops being dicks to riders, I’ve also read all about the psychotic drivers – but I’m really blessed to be in a great community. Motorists regularly stop and wave me on to cross the road, even when they have the right of way. They drive around me leaving a pretty wide berth, seldom acting with anything remotely resembling aggression and, in fact, are really quite courteous. In the past decade I can count the run ins I’ve had with nutty people on two fingers. And here was this incredibly reasonable guy doing his job with grace and dignity.
And me, dressed like an aging hipster, arguing with him.
Well, the good thing about CS is that the cure is pretty simple. The police station is located a block and a half further down the road. I kicked my revs up a notch and caught up to him as he was parking his bike.
“Hey, that was a really stupid thing for me to say. What I should’ve told you was what I really feel: Thanks. I appreciate your warning.”
“No problem.” He looked at me and continued: “I wasn’t yelling at you, you know.”
I paused for a second before riding off. Maybe he should’ve, I thought.