I took advantage of the gorgeous evening in Philadelphia last night with a long-ish bike ride through the city and along the Schuylkill River Trail and Kelly Drive. Not too many cities offer 30+ miles of prime riverside trail, and Philadelphia residents are generally quick to take advantage. Lots of residents. Lots and lots of residents. I know, because I nearly hit damn near every one of them.
Like those out for an evening stroll with the family, walking four abreast on a crowded recreational trail – holding hands. Heavy ladies, side by side with ample room in between for arm swinging. Inline skaters, most of them inexperienced, legs kicking wildly like newborn deer. Then there are the serious cyclists – of which I am not one – who tear through the crowd at approximately seven hundred miles per hour, a barely perceptible streak of neon lycra and entitlement.
How one’s perception changes with their station in this melee! When I have been a pedestrian, I curse the reckless bicyclists who warn me with a staccato “onyourleft!” a split second before nearly bisecting me. When I run or ride my bike, it’s the pedestrians who are the assholes, utterly oblivious to everything happening around them. When they aren’t head-down in their personal electronic devices, they’re caught up in conversation, or staring mindlessly at the clouds like a hapless cow heading for the bolt gun.
Move from the trail and into the streets, and the introduction of motor vehicles adds yet another dimension. When you’re a driver in the city, everyone else is an idiot. Pedestrians wander blindly into the street just a moment before you make your turn, and bicyclists crash off the sidewalk into your path, as if skintight corduroy culottes, neon plastic eyeglasses and clever pork pie hats afford some protection against collision. When you’re not the driver, though, it becomes clear that the people in the big steel-and-glass boxes are entirely to blame.
The only people I will give credit to for being generally courteous and aware of their surroundings, both on the trail and in the city, are the runners. Why this is I’m not sure. Perhaps all those endorphins just put people in the right mind set to be conscientious and polite. Or maybe it’s just self-defense – I know when I’m the runner, every other person on the street is an asshole.
I’ll leave you with a little video I discovered last week that reveals why we just can’t get along on city streets: because no one is doing what they’re supposed to do, and everyone is out for themselves. It’s a Libertarian paradise.