On a recent Sunday, I went for my first long bike ride of the year, eventually putting in 18 miles before I had the sense to head home. During this trip, I got to experience all of the things that make biking such a joy to me.
- A strong headwind made me feel like I was going to die.
- A gradual uphill portion of the route felt like a hors catégorie climb in the Tour De France.
- Somebody ran a stop sign, despite looking right at me as I approached.
- Some kind fellow in a white pickup offered me advice: “Get on the sidewalk!”
How do we respond to when some knucklehead demands something of us that clearly we’re not obligated to do? In case you’re not clear on that, cyclists are drivers. The Bike League of America makes this all clear:
In all 50 states, people on bikes are required to follow the same laws as other drivers. Drive your bike as you would any vehicle. Everyone on the road is entitled to the lane width they need. This includes the space behind, to each side and the space in front. If you want to use someone elses space you must yield to whoever is using it.
Clearly that driver of the pickup would not be driving on the sidewalk; neither should I be doing so on my bike. (And by the way, I probably delayed his drive by a good 15-20 seconds at most.)
So I did not hang my head and scoot over to the sidewalk when this character yelled out his open window. But what should I have done? Clearly, while wearing my “Cycling for Jesus” t-shirt, which I don’t own and which may not exist, I am not going to make obscene gestures or rush to catch up and hit his truck.
I did, in a moment of irritation, shout, “I will not! I am a vehicle!” This made me think about the Elephant Man’s “I am not an animal. I am a human being,” for a few blocks, which, I have to confess, disrupted the clarity of the encounter. But as I went on, I questioned whether shouting at a motorist–who probably couldn’t hear me anyway–was a proper response.
What is the correct Christian response to being criticized for doing the right thing, whether that be on a bicycle, in the workplace, or at home? I’m thinking that Jesus, although not a cyclist, might have had me in mind when He said, not only “Blessed are the peacemakers” but also, “Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness.” Granted, the righteousness that I exhibited in riding on the right side of the proper lane of traffic was not profound in the great scheme of things, but it was righteousness. The persecution hardly rose to a level that justified the word, but it was persecution of sorts. My peacemaking, on the other hand, did not impress God or me.