Seven Bike Commuting Annoyances

While bike commuting has been very enjoyable to me in the last year plus, it’s not without its occasional annoyances.  Here are seven irritations that I’ve had to deal with since I’ve started bike commuting.

Flat Tires

<a href="http://flickr.com/photos/drewbsaunders/2546959594/"><img class="alignnone" src="http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3184/2546959594_fe97b3e7b8.jpg?v=0" alt="Photo by Drew Saunders" width="400" height="266" /></a>

<small>Photo by Drew Saunders</small>

Getting a flat tire is probably the single most common mechanical issue you will run into while commuting on your bike.  Last year I was completely unprepared the first time it happened to me.  I had a pump, but no spare when I picked up a stray shard of glass on the way into work.  No problem, I thought, I'm downtown and there's a local bike shop a couple blocks away.  Turns out almost all the bike shops in our area open at 10AM- not very helpful during typical morning commute hours.

Since that day last summer I've started carrying a spare tube and a patch kit. I've also practiced changing my tires enough that I can do it fairly quickly and easily.  I'm still not very good at patching tires, so when I get a flat I usually just replace it with a working tube and then patch the problem tube when I get back home or to my office.  
<h3>Last Minute Passers</h3>  
This is probably my single most irritating ongoing issue with cars.  I generally try to give cars plenty of room to pass while riding, but at a certain point when approaching stop signs and lights at intersections there is no longer enough distance for anyone to safely pass me.  Depending on the circumstances and intersection I usually try to take the lane in some fashion and assert my right to my space, but there are still far too many drivers that can't stand to wait behind a bike at a stop and insist on trying to pass.

The ironic thing is my acceleration from a stop is comparable to most cars starting normally in first gear.  I regularly beat cars off the line when starting from a stop on four lane roads and I generally get out of the way once I'm past the intersection.  Waiting behind a bike at a stop isn't going to cost a car any significant time, but unfortunately this type of driver never sees it that way.  
<h3>Honkers</h3>  
I never like getting honked at by cars, that's almost a sure fired way to get me annoyed when I'm riding my bike.  It's one thing if I'm actually at fault and cut you off, but when you're a last minute passer telling me to get out of the way that's not cool.  The driver that insists on alerting me to their presence with repeated taps of a horn when passing on a street with plenty of room or even an extra lane of their own is also a particular favorite.  You're driving a loud stinky car and I don't have headphones in my ears- I can tell you're there without looking and I'm not actually in your way so pass already.  
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<h3>Screamers and Yellers</h3>  
Getting buzzed by a car with the passenger screaming or yelling at you out there window is always a fun one.  This seems to be a particularly favorite among the teenage crowd, so it's less of a problem during the morning commute once school is out for the summer.  That hasn't happened to me in a while (knock on wood), but last month I had two different motorcyclists rev their engines loudly right as they passed me and I found that even more rude and disconcerting.  Generally I just try to pretend I'm deaf and ignore these sonic intrusions.  
<h3>Sidewalk Riders</h3>  
<a href="bikebend.wordpress.com"><img class="alignnone" src="http://img.skitch.com/20080804-prn3tmt2q4a1rheyki2uxcf83u.jpg" alt="Sidewalk Not Sideride" width="264" height="333" /></a>

There's a certain type of bike commuter that insists on riding on the sidewalk most of the time.  I don't know if it's because they feel that the roads are completely unsafe or what, but it's irritating, especially when I'm standing in traffic downtown waiting for a light and they blissfully weave in and out of pedestrian traffic right next to me. It's one thing if it's a kid that instructed by his parents to ride on the sidewalk or just doesn't know better, but as an adult you're supposed to have some kind of clue.

Incidentally, the worst mishap that I've been involved since I started commuting happened this spring when I made the foolish decision to try to avoid some stalled traffic on the way into work by bunny hopping up onto the sidewalk without slowing down.  The resulting face plant was a blow to my ego and a reminder that the sidewalk is generally not the place for me to be riding.  Since then I've made an effort to eliminate a route back home that briefly required me to ride on the sidewalk against traffic and I haven't missed it at all.  There's almost always a better and safer way.  
<h3>Red Light Runners</h3>  
It's one thing to roll through a stop sign when there's no one around, but my rule of thumb is to always slow down for stop signs and if any car car traffic is about come to a complete stop. It's kind of a respect thing.  I want cars to respect my right to be on the road so I try to act in a manner that respects the rules we're all supposed to follow when we use it.  If I come to a red light at an empty intersection downtown I stop and wait it out just like I would if I was driving.  Needless to say, I get irritated when I see fellow cyclists that ride like stops are optional obstacles to be overcome, especially when they're doing it around me and car traffic someplace like downtown Spokane.  
<h3>Weather</h3>  
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I don't mind rain too much when it's not a downpour, as fenders and a decent rain jacket make a great deal of difference.  High winds are probably my single least favorite weather related occurrence as there's not much you can do to deal with it than hunker down and shift to a lower gear.  Snow is actually pretty fun I've found, especially if you have a fat tire bike to negotiate the deeper stuff.  During winter my regular commuter bike still works pretty well once the roads gets cleared thanks to some studded tires to handle the icy spots.

Once temperatures get below 50° F I've discovered that full fingered gloves become a definite must for me and are probably my most important piece of clothing.  My hands are the one part of my body that I can't really tolerate being too cold- nothing makes riding a blike as unpleasant as frozen hands do. The key to most cold weather cycling is proper attire and layering.  Once we get into snow and freezing temperatures I find a couple layers in conjunction with my usual rain jacket is usually plenty thanks to the additional work pedaling in those conditions requires.  
<h3>Conclusion</h3>  
Ultimately while you can be prepared for certain commuting irritants like flat tires or bad weather with proper planning and preparation, some things you just have to be willing to let go.  Riding your bike is too fun of an activity to let the occasional annoying car, cyclist or pedestrian's actions drag you down.  More good times are always just a couple more pedals away.