Cycling is healthy, until I run up against angry drivers

Cycling in a group or with a partner is a great motivator

I rode my bicycle to work today, as I do more days than not. For some reason, this seems to anger a lot of people.

This day I seemed to anger one person in particular. As I was crossing Walnut Avenue off of Franklin Road in Roanoke, Va., a car passed me. I didn't think much of this, at least not until I saw that car pull over to the side of the road shortly after it passed.

When I got near, the driver stepped out so that I had to lock my brakes to avoid slamming into his door. He screamed at me, with spit flying from his mouth.

"Did you flip me up?"

"What?" I asked, not sure what he had said.

"Did you flip me up?" he yelled once again. I assumed he meant to ask if I had made the all-too-common hand gesture for when one is angered on the road. I had not.

"No, I did not."

"Well, then forget it," he yelled as he jumped back in his car and took off.

Events similar to this happen to me at least a few times each week.

Usually it's something more insidious, such as being swerved at, honked at, yelled at you get the picture. Rarely do I get to come face to face with the anger that my bicycle seems to invoke. When I do, it's never pretty.

Even the world's best cyclist isn't immune to the tension of car-vs.-bike. Lance Armstrong recently was hit by a car as he and U.S. Postal teammate Tyler Hamilton were riding in France.

Why do so many noncyclists hate bicycle riders so much? Granted, too many cyclists pretend that they're immune to the rules of the road. I can't count the number of times each week that I see folks ignore stop signs and red lights. Still, that's not me, and it's not most of us. Even if it were, it's no excuse to endanger our lives by assaulting us with words, a car or worse.

I've come to the conclusion that many people are angry that I've found a fun way to start my workday and to spend my nonworking hours.

I don't spend a lot of money on upkeep, and it only takes me a few minutes more to ride to work than it does to drive. I don't have a car payment, and the only insurance I need is hospitalization insurance so I can deal with traffic. I'm healthy and I have a great way to enjoy beautiful weekends in the mountains.

And when the sun is shining and the day's going just right, I feel like a kid again. I can't think of a better way to start the day.

Bicycles are not bad. Most bicyclists aren't bad. It's not wrong or childish to ride a bike on the roads. Cycling is a fun, economical and healthy way to get from point A to point B.

Share the roads. Please.

Wesley Best is store manager of East Coasters Cycling and Fitness in Roanoke, Va.

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