Douglas McIntire

Douglas McIntire

It happens all the time in town. I’m driving through the college area and someone coasts their vintage Schwinn up to the flashy pedestrian cross thingy, slaps it and without skipping a beat, rolls across the cross walk to the next sidewalk and merrily on their way.

I understand the confusion, I really do. As little kids, our well-intended parents wanted us to keep to such things as sidewalks, driveways or playgrounds. Even pre-bike helmet parents were concerned for our survival.

Fast forward a few years and now you’re being told that you are riding, in fact, a vehicle and not a bike and now the rules of the road apply to you. Sorry Bobby, you’re five years out from your learner’s permit but it’s time to start being a responsible driver.

There was one young man I used to see a lot who quite frankly amazed me. He rode his bike down the sidewalk while texting with both hands, only briefly putting one hand to his handlebars as he peddled across the sidewalk and there he was, back with both hands firmly on his Twitterverse.

I was annoyed and blown away at the same time — I mean, this guy was smooth!

I don’t think I would care about this kind of thing if we didn’t live in a time of militant cyclists. We’ve all dealt with them — the ones who scream “Three feet!” at you after an oncoming vehicle inexplicably swerved into your lane, causing you to take evasive maneuvers.

Better yet, many of us have been behind other contraptions, like the grown-up Big Wheel or roaming elliptical machine often seen in town. In moments of insecurity, cyclists are even allowed to block an entire lane for themselves.

I understand you fancy yourself a vehicle right now, so never mind that $2,500 clutch I’m going to have to put in riding my own peddles while you set that blistering 7mph pace. But hey, you be you, Lance Armstrong!

For that matter, where do those guys with the lawnmower engines rigged to their bikes fit in?

I’m tooling down the street and suddenly it’s like a Mad Max movie and someone’s going nuts crossing traffic, bumping up over the curb, spewing exhaust and somewhere, faintly, Tina Turner is delivering a sultry rendition of We Don’t Need Another Hero.

I guess I just need some clarification is all. I mean, can you legally have it both ways? If so, can I barrel down the Maine Street Sidewalk in my Toyota Echo — chaining it dutifully against a street light as I pop in and grab some gelato?

I would ask Brunswick’s finest but just a few weeks ago, I saw a guy with a “Police” emblazoned yellow vest riding on the sidewalk outside Harriet Beecher Stowe Elementary. Knowing my inspection sticker was past ripe, I decided not to engage the fine fellow on the legalities of sidewalk cycling in the line of duty.

If you’re a cyclist, have heart and take all this with a grain of salt. I am, after all, a guy who got pulled over on my bike for blowing through the stop sign at Spring Street and McKeen back in ‘87. Then I got in trouble for passing traffic on Maine Street. There may or may not have even been an incident where I buzzed a female officer on the sidewalk, grazing her at Mach two when I was 16.

Douglas McIntire is a writer and educator in the Midcoast and only rides stationary bikes these days. He can be reached at [email protected]

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