Recently, I had the opportunity to interview Fontaine Syer, the director of the Indiana Repertory Theater's upcoming An Iliad. In her program notes, she talks of irrationality and rage as key causes to the never ending cycle of war. But it is her analogy to "road rage" that got me thinking.
She writes: "Most of the time, as we live in the world, we proceed through our days believing and behaving as though we are rational beings...Then along comes an event, a remark, a situation that drives all that rationality right out the window. We shoot the finger at the driver who cuts us off; we mutter, or yell, 'Up yours' as the driver accelerates in front of us... there's a reason it's called road rage."
In her estimation, "War is complete irrationality, giving us opportunities to express the best and the worst of our fundamental natures."
And I have to say not only do I agree, but I am guilty of the same.
Two weeks ago, I waged a war of my own against a total stranger. After a near fatal experience with an IndyGo bus, irrationality sparked inside of me. I chased the bus down by bike, putting myself in perhaps an even more dangerous situation.
My battle continued as I contacted IndyGo and spoke to several very nice people about what happened. But it was in this column that my combat strategy culminated. Rage surged through me as I wrote, aggressively, to the bus driver in question. And while I've been assured that the driver encountered repercussions, which I truly believe he deserved, nothing about my actions or words has done anything to ease the unending battle between cars and bikes unfolding daily on our streets.
I believe that the treatment bicycles receive in traffic is an equal rights issue. Many Indianapolis drivers simply don't know or care to abide by the law that gives bicycles equal rights to and responsibilities on the road. But it's impossible to overcome inequality without allies.
The LGBT community needs straight allies; African-Americans needed white allies during the Civil Rights struggle of the 1960s; and feminists of the 1970s and 80s could not have broken through their glass ceilings without male allies.
Now is a good time for a DISCLAIMER: I am in no way comparing the intensity of violence and discrimination faced by any of the above listed groups with the obstacles bicycles encounter on roadways.
I simply want to make the point that in order for bicyclists to receive equal treatment on the road, we too need allies. We need drivers of cars and buses that are willing to stand in solidarity with bicyclists, to break the "us and them" mentality of the current relationship.
In that vein, I'd like to say merci to the yellow school bus that drove patiently behind me as I took the lane last week on St. Clair Street. Gracias to the ice blue sedan that left plenty of space between their front bumper and my bike tire as I pedaled down Central Avenue yesterday morning. And danke to the big black pick-up truck that yielded to me at the Cultural Trail crosswalk on Senate Avenue.
And to all the motorists on the road who are allies to bicycles every day, thank you.