Laird: Bicyclists and motorists, there's no need to get snippy

By John Laird, Columbian Editorial Page Editor

Published:

 

Anyone who knows me very well knows I love to drive -- the farther, the better. And through the years, I've learned to treat bicyclists like truckers. I go out of my way to help both groups. A bicyclist is too slow and working too hard for me -- the monstrous motorist -- not to adopt a cooperative attitude. And a trucker's rig is too big and too unwieldy for me -- the skittering car-driver -- not to help clear a wide berth and flash my lights to encourage a lane change.

Occasionally, a bicyclist or a trucker behaves in a way that betrays my generosity, but my altruism remains steadfast. Best of all, my sweeping benevolence toward bicyclists and truckers compensates for all the wrath, spite and orneriness that guides my conduct in other endeavors.

These days, I am content living in bike-friendly Clark County and near Portland, home to a huge, active and vocal bicycling populace. But I remain frustrated by militant factions in both the motoring and bicycling communities. Neither cars nor bikes are ever going away, yet zealots on both sides seem to live for such a day. I know some drivers and bicyclists who turn angry at the mere mention of each other.

Share the road? Forget it! These folks look for any incident, no matter how minor, to explode into a ferocious "See! I told you so!" denunciation of the enemy.

Count me out, please. I don't have the time or the patience to take a side in this feud. Besides, I'm too busy dealing with double-bogey rage to be messin' with bike rage.

Both groups of road radicals are relatively small and, though rude and loud, mostly harmless. For the great majority of the motoring and bicycling public, courtesy prevails. That should make us all feel better when we see a driver shout an obscenity at a bicyclist, or when the two-wheeled antagonist pounds on the hood of his four-wheeled foe.

Showing the right attitude

Fortunately, we have role models who show us the proper attitude. One such exemplar is Mark Mansell of La Center, except right now he's far from La Center. Last I heard, Mansell was pedaling across northern Michigan, more than two-thirds into his 3,500-mile bike ride from Portland, Ore., to Portland, Maine.

Friday morning, Mansell was scheduled to ride 45 miles into Lapeer, Mich. You can follow his adventures at http://facebook.com/CyclingForLeaderDogs where daily updates are posted. The superintendent of schools in La Center is riding across America to raise money for Leader Dogs for the Blind.

If anyone has earned the right to take offense at discourteous drivers, it's Mansell, who has pedaled more than 2,300 miles since June 16. Just imagine the boorish behavior he's witnessed. And yet Mansell eagerly unfurls his compassionate spirit to anyone who asks, especially to media types. Last week, in an interview with WWTV of Cadillac, Mich., Mansell said: "The kindness of people and the generosity of people have been just amazing. It's heartwarming to know that America really is a caring place."

That's a good lesson for the rest of us. Whether you're a bicyclist or a motorist, the next time you get angry at the supposed enemy, pause long enough to remember Mansell. Emulate his attitude of acceptance and appreciation.

And if you'd like to help Mark, visit his Facebook page or http://leaderdog.org and make a donation. He's already surpassed his goal of $35,000 and is headed for $50,000 or more.

Mark is not doing this alone. He's active in the La Center Lions Club, and he's staying with Lions along the way on his epic journey.

Mansell is an inspiration in more ways than just attitude. He's also a motivation for anyone thinking about becoming more active. In fact, I'm starting to get the bicycling fever, and there's only one cure. Don't doubt my ability on this. Hey, I've seen Royce Pollard and Steve Stuart on bikes and, trust me, next to those guys, I'm Lance Armstrong.

Maybe it's time to oil up the old 10-speed and ride to Portland.

The one in Oregon.