Jim Dowd humorous bike response

Hey Joe n’ Gang!
Here is an amusing response to Joey’s rant at the Lycra weenies the
other day. It’s about being a cyclist in Gloucester and how
challenging that can be as well.
I also included a photo of myself to be used as admissible evidence at
my commitment hearing.
Have a good one! -Jim

I’m enormously glad that Joey has decided to expose the yawning divide between cyclists and drivers in our fair city. A few days ago he gave the motorists’ side, from the perspective of being stuck behind recreational bikers riding three abreast preventing anyone from passing. Annoying? Yes. But I think we can all agree people in cars are prone to some fantastically stupid behavior as well. Yesterday I was stuck behind a shirtless dude in a K-Car with an unbelted toddler and throwing lit cigs and used scratch tickets out the window. A couple of years back I watched guy doing fishtails at Lanes Cove who wound up careening sideways, right over the edge. When he climbed out into the low tide muck I was treated to the most gloriously feathered mullet I have seen on a man since the 80’s. Oh if they only gave MacArthur Genius Awards for maintaining outdated hairstyles, he would have been a shoe-in (otherwise, not so much).

As far as cycling goes, allow me to provide the perspective from the other side. Not from the lycra-wearing sport cyclist, but from a guy who uses his bike to get to and from the train station most days as part of my commute. I’m a utility cyclist, just trying to get somewhere like everybody else and let me tell ya, friends, it ain’t no picnic neither.

Riding a bike in Gloucester is as close as most of us will hopefully ever come to surviving in a post-apocalyptic hellscape. We have narrow, crowded streets that are constantly being torn up. There are innumerable jacked-up diesel work trucks racing to and from jobs, tinted-window Hondas thumping around to lethal levels of bass, stressed-out minivan moms late for the game with murder in their eyes and befuddled tourists in rental cars trying to find the Starbucks. Add to that the zombie-like pedestrians who shamble blindly into the road, blitzed-out from whatever mind-altering chemicals they have on board and there you have my afternoon commute from Gloucester Station to East Gloucester via Prospect and Rogers Streets. Oh, and everyone mentioned above is on a cell phone.  Don’t get me wrong- this is all exactly what makes riding in Gloucester pure unadulterated awesome. The most physically demanding part of my workday at present is pretty much faxing, so I welcome the rides to and from the train as my twice daily chance to crank up my pulse and stare death a few times in the face before I get home and do some laundry. Typically I try to see the others moving around the city as fellow participants in an elaborate dance but I, like Joe, have a few grievances to air since we’re on the topic:

1.     I am not the enemy. I am on a bike. You are in a car. Let’s think of each other as mutual beneficiaries of incredible advances in transportation technology that would have made our foot-bound ancestors weep with envy. Rest assured I’m doing my best to keep out of your way, but I’m highly averse to drawing my last breath while being ground under the wheels of a Kia. I’m therefore going to deploy all means at my disposal to prevent this even if it means slightly inconveniencing a few drivers along the way.

2.     I will occasionally take up the middle of the road. You know why I’m doing this? To block you from passing me. Yes, I’m deliberately in your way. Am I just a massive dickweed? No (I’m so much more than just a massive dickweed). I’m doing this because if I don’t you’ll inadvertently squeeze me between your Nissan and the DPW truck that’s pulled up in front of Destino’s just as the driver opens his door. You see, I’m trying to maintain the highest possible speed to be less of an annoyance, but that also means I’m at greater risk to others and myself if people don’t see me. Greater risk to myself means I’m taking commensurate precautions against becoming an impromptu Jackson Pollock on the back of a FedEx van. And that’s why I’m taking up the lane for all of ninety seconds all the while pedaling as fast as I can to get somewhere safer. Like my couch.

3.     I can’t stop as quickly as you can in your heavy car with its  four large tires. My bike and I may not seem like much, but we can  generate over two thousand pounds of forward momentum (F=MA) and yet  have only a total of six square inches of tire area skidding along the  greasy street. The only way I’m stopping short is if I slam into  something (see above). So I’m bellowing like a Spartan when you  blindly step out into the street, I’m maneuvering onto sidewalks when  I get cut off and subsequently into yards and/or oncoming lanes of  traffic when left no other choice. As Captain Sully Sullenberger said  when he realized his stricken Airbus was not going to make it back to  a paved runway: “Looks like it’s going to be the Hudson.” Hey, It’s  not pretty, but you do the best you can with the options you have.

4.     To add insult to potential grievous injury, the bicycling  infrastructure here is a joke. Go to our two closest economic  competitors in the global economy, China and Germany and there are  bikes. Lots and lots of bikes. Bike lanes, bike shelters, bike  parking, busses equipped to carry bikes, specialty cargo bikes, all  kinds of bikes. I was on the amazing magnetic levitation train from  Shanghai Airport a couple of years ago and I looked out the window to  see what other technological wonders the Chinese were up to in their  flagship city and what I saw were delivery guys on bikes with what  appeared to be queen-sized mattresses strapped to their backs. I don’t  want to confuse correlation and causation, but every high-tech hub in  the world is lousy with bikes: Palo Alto, Cambridge, Seoul, Helsinki  and bikes have become chic in Mumbai as well. In Gloucester we have  the one faded bike lane on Rogers street everyone ignores, the train  station has the bike parking on the wrong side of the tracks with no  shelter and there is zero security (I’ve had one locked bike stolen  there already).

You’d think what with the childhood obesity epidemic morphing our  young people into enormous flesh-barges, our primary energy sources  controlled by hostile lunatics and our love of all things mechanical  that cyclists would be treated as American heroes. Instead people  racing across town in SUVs on their way to get a Big Gulp honk at us. Oh, the irony.

If you experience bike rage, try and think that every bike you see is  one fewer GI sent to some godforsaken country with an oil reserve or  one less shady deal with a despotic foreign government. As you start  to wind up because the cyclist in font of you moving marginally slower  than the motorized traffic, think instead of that one fewer sketchy  off shore drilling rig poised to annihilate an entire ecosystem.  And  when you see me puffing along up Highland Street, know that I’m one  less case of chronic cardiac disease tacked onto the growing shared  cost of health care. The other possibility is that I’m a soon-to-be  fatal heart attack that will end my cost to the system once and for  all. There, that feels better, right?

I’m a cyclist. You’re welcome.

27 thoughts on “Jim Dowd humorous bike response

  1. Do cyclists pay excise tax? no. do most cyclists obey the rules of the road? yes.
    Are the weekend cyclists “dickweeds”? YES! PLEASE OBEY THE ROAD RULES, STOP SIGNS, REDLIGHTS ETC. ETC. and you won’t be considered “DICKWEEDS”. which currently you are.


    1. How do I not pay excise tax? I have a car too- is that it, you can only use the vehicle you pay the excise tax on? My bike causes much less damage to the road than the car, so in the end I’m being short-changed on my tax contribution.


  2. I’ve heard from the last several city administrations (in Gloucester) of their “Green” initiatives, such as lessening car emissions . Biking is still not supported here. Who wants to fight off cars, SUVs, pickups, and large trucks? Accommodating bicyclists on the city’s roads would enable local people to ride to work and elsewhere, and also encourage visitors to come and enjoy bike riding, perhaps with their children. This is a low cost and missed opportunity.


  3. Since I can’t afford a car right now, my bike is my primary vehicle, but it gets more difficult every day to be safe on the roads. I do stay on the right as much as possible and I do follow the “rules of the road”. I have one request: when driving behind a cyclist, PLEASE don’t blow the horn! I am as far to the right as I can be (cyclists in the middle of the road are too inconsiderate and/or stupid to get out of your way anyhow) and I KNOW YOU’RE THERE so you have no need to honk at me! To the driver who honked at me when I was riding inches from the curb and my grandson was in his seat on the back of my bike: you frightened my grandson, he jumped and spun around to see what was going on and that’s why I almost lost control of the bike. Throwing me the finger and screaming “Get out of the f*^^% road, Grandma!” and speeding past me says a lot more about your ignorance than it does about me! My grandson said,”Boy, Grammie! That guy is a real jerk!” Just thought you should know.


    1. I agree with you about not laying on the horn but what is so confusing is when I was patiently waiting for that group of bikers to allow me to pass, the same people said I SHOULD blow the horn. Oy vei!

      BTW, nice piece Jim. I welcome your contributions any time!




  5. Fantastic piece! I’ve been biking in Gloucester for years, and spent the last one commuting to the high school almost every day. Back when I raced cyclocross (an offroad cycling event) for Harborside Cycles, one of my teammates told me that we had a great advantage in training because we didn’t have to leave the roads to get experience in the kind of conditions otherwise found in a packed, intense offroad race.
    The timing of this is funny for me as I actually just got into an accident this afternoon on Rogers Street, just past Latitude 43. The driver’s right taillight was broken (as she explained afterwards) and they made a sudden turn into a parking space, cutting me off. You put it very well in your third point: I stopped short by slamming into something – their back door.
    This is the second time something like that has happened to me in a month – a similar thing happened to me going down Main Street – I was biking on the right of the street and the car in front of me made a sudden right turn.
    I’ve just got a bruise, but the fact that I’ve noticed is that many cars don’t notice bikes here. I don’t say all, because some people really are considerate. Likewise, I’ve done stupid things out there on the roads. We can’t be righteous and we can’t generalize – we all occasionally lose focus. The difference is that when I do, someone beeps at me and we all move on. When someone driving a car does, I get hurt. Or worse. The son of one of my Dad’s friends, 18 like me, died a few days ago after getting hit by a van.
    Gloucester has the potential to be a fantastic city for biking. The roads around here have incredible views and are… engaging, but still make for a great ride. I think one of the first steps is just giving us a little slack. Slim to no shoulders, choppy, pot-hole filled roads: It’s hard to bike here. We don’t always mean to be “dickweeds.” We’re just trying to get from A to B too. Give us some space when you can, try to understand when we make sudden turns and all that. For one thing: when I wave my left arm out, that means I’m going left. And vice versa.
    This city may not be bike friendly, but cars and bikes are just vehicles for people, and people can be friendly.


    1. If I could change one thing about my post, I would add your last sentence. It actually sums up so much about Gloucester for me- it may not be X (insert pet issue) friendly per se, but the people here make all the difference. I’ve had people I don’t know bend over backwards to help me during hard times, and I’d do the same for anybody. I’ll take that over neatly groomed bike trails any day.


  6. dowd, you da man. i promise not to splat you as i roar by in my suv on the way to nothing much. keep writing sentences that have a beginning, middle, and end and actually mean something. if you get any spare time, maybe you cd start a local newspaper. we need one.


  7. It’s nice to know GMG fans never disappoint. Thanks for my chuckle of the day. And yes, there’s two sides to every story. Whether it’s car vs bike, courtesy and common sense should rule. Unfortunately, that’s rarely the case. Meanwhile, Jim, my prayers are with you during your daily commute. You’ll probably need them.


  8. This guy can write! I’d like to see more of his posts. He has a wonderful sense of humor and a very deft way of expressing himself. Love to hear more from him!


  9. Great contribution! As others have said, if everyone on the road – in cars, on bikes, or on foot – would just make the effort to be aware of those around them, and to be considerate, courteous and respectful, things would be better for everyone!
    A great place to start would be making the proper use of turn signals… especially when exiting our Gloucester traffic circles (as indicated by law). Of course, that might mean you have to put down your cell phone!
    But I digress…


  10. I agree with Leslie DeVaney! Great piece and glad to hear it from the other side as well. Also – absolutely hilarious and not getting crazy defensive as a lot of cyclist tend to get about topics such as these.


  11. Funny column. Well written.
    When will the scientists get the transporter technology done so we can just beam to places?
    Or at the very least some jet packs.


  12. hilarious and well-written, i can see the bikers’ perspective now. well, i can see both perspectives, but it’s something.


  13. Jim Dowd you are awesome! Well done! Add a baby chariot with two wee ones in the back and I think that ramping the road rage against bicyclists could promote irresponsible endangerment of lives. (No, cars don’t seem to care that children ride bikes too – hell they will throw their trash out the window at us.) Road rage doesn’t need to be ramped. The rules should be like on the water, a sailboat can’t adjust course with the same speed as a motorboat, so the motorboat gives way. You want the road to yourself – you’ve got to sweat and earn it. You ain’t working as hard as the person pedaling while you enjoy your AC and butt warmers – they earn their spandex, all the glittery neon stretchy bits of it! The side of the road is filled with gravel, rocks, debris, and dead bloated animals, but motorists don’t notice that when they gripe at bicyclists delaying them for a whole 45-seconds. We pay taxes too and the highly subsidized, pedestrian unfriendly strip of pavement is to be shared.


  14. Great description of what goes on in a rider’s head. Motorists need to understand that the choices I make as I ride to and from work are intentional and reasoned and not whims. If I–190 lbs and protected only by a plastic hat–decide to get in front of you–encased in a ton of steel–I have a VERY good reason for it, and I’ll be out of your way just as soon as possible.


  15. From one dickweed to another – well said. In N Minnesota my nemeses are old norwegian guys in pickup trucks. We don’t have many stop lights, but we got guys wearing camo hunting hats year-round who spit out the window of their ’73 F150’s. And I do wear lycra – which makes me an almost irresistable target to people who’s morning wardrobe choices all say DICKIES. [though I am partial to Dickies pin stripe bibs] So I take the lane and take my chances.


Leave a Reply to jamesdowd Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s